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CyDrinks Among Friends' empowers women across the Midwest.

Byline: Rich Steeves

The Women, Influence & Power in Law (WIPL) Network is dedicated to accelerating the economic empowerment of women. It includes the WIPL website and newsletter, as well as the WIPL Conference and Project 5/165 events. Not only has the WIPL Network been successful on its own, but it has inspired participants to start their own initiatives a little closer to home. One such initiative is "Drinks Among Friends," which began in Omaha, Neb., and has now expanded to three other states.

Last year, the founder of "Drinks Among Friends," Megan Belcher, vice president and chief employment counsel for ConAgra Foods, told InsideCounsel about the networking coalition and its aim of helping women advance their careers. In the year since that conversation, Drinks Among Friends has grown quite a bit.

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"We have been leveraging a lot of what I saw with Project 5/165 and WIPL," says Belcher. "We have a monthly education series of critical competencies for women lawyers, such as leadership skills and change management." The group also hosted an "MBA in a Day" event, which sought to teach business skills to attendees.

Drinks Among Friends started in Omaha, where Belcher is based, but word of its success spread, and the movement expanded about two-and-a-half hours south to Kansas City. "Those familiar with our network had seen some things we had done in Omaha, and there was a lot of interest in Kansas City. We did a launch event to test the waters, knowing that if we got around 40 women, that would be a nice show of interest. We had 101 women at the May 21st event," she says.

The programming provided by Drinks Among Friends covers a variety of topics, but Belcher says that she looks to see what is happening on a national level and takes those concepts back to her local group, also incorporating their feedback. The interactive nature of the group extends to materials that supplement the workshops. "A critical part of our crowdsourcing is bringing resources and experience to the table that would be beneficial to us--speakers, educational materials and places to host events. It's a way to bring materials accessible to the entire community of women. We did that in Kansas City and leveraged some great leaders there," Belcher explains.

Belcher notes that the organization focuses on certain key concepts, such as developing leadership skills, creating a personal brand as a leader, and identifying trouble spots and common derailers for women. The group relies a great deal on interaction among its members, discussing topics such as knowing the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and how to leverage those people in pursuit of career goals.

After the successful expansion into Kansas and Missouri, the next geographic target for Drinks Among Friends is the Twin Cities. Rebecca Bortolotti, vice president and chief technology counsel at ConAgra, hails from Minnesota and will be taking the reins of bringing Drinks Among Friends to the region, starting in September.

For more information on Drinks Among Friends, check out this informational video, or the organization's blog page.
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Publication:Inside Counsel Breaking News
Geographic Code:1U4NE
Date:Jun 2, 2015
Words:552
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