Chatham Business Professional Women offers scholarships to local women

Posted 4/21/21

Following a year of the pandemic that emphasized challenges facing women in the workforce, the Chatham County Business Professional Women organization is offering small scholarships to women looking …

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Chatham Business Professional Women offers scholarships to local women

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Following a year of the pandemic that emphasized challenges facing women in the workforce, the Chatham County Business Professional Women organization is offering small scholarships to women looking to enhance their education, career certification or business opportunities.

As the local chapter of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NFBPWC), Chatham County Professional Business Women is made of around 40 women and works to develop the business, professional and leadership potential of its members.

“Our local chapter is focused on lending support and networking for fellow business owners or business practitioners and professional women,” said Jessica Bryan, the organization’s vice president for membership. “What we are doing with the scholarship is to recognize that there are women who really need that little extra support in furthering themselves in their businesses.”

Doing so is often a matter of affordability, Bryan said, when it comes to the accruing costs of furthering education, attending conferences or taking licensing classes.

“Our group is excited to provide scholarships to women in business in Chatham,” President Jennifer Halloran said. “Any woman who lives in Chatham and wants to take her business to the next level, whether through taking a class, buying a piece of equipment or attending a workshop should apply.”

The group plans to offer scholarships of up to $500 each to three or four women, and will announce the recipients at their June meeting, following the May 31 deadline to apply. Submissions are accepted online only, Bryan said; potential applicants can receive more information and an application form by contacting former organization president Jean MacDonald at jeanconnects@gmail.com.

“We’re constantly raising money for the scholarship fund, and cognizant of the fact that it’s not to pay for tuition to an expensive school or something,” Bryan said, “but it is these kinds of little boosts that can help ... to get higher designations or to increase sheer knowledge.”

Promotion of the scholarship began in March and applications are coming in. Fundraising events and efforts between now and the application deadline will continue to enhance the group’s scholarship fund, Bryan said.

While applicants don’t have to be members of Professional Business Women, Bryan said the group offers additional assistance to women through its meetings and network support. The organization meets twice monthly, offering a variety of meeting formats online and in-person to adapt to the pandemic and members’ varying comfort levels.

“It’s not a networking group like some of the other groups are, but it’s more of a sisterhood,” she said. “What we have seen is that the variety of services and businesses that are represented among our members has really created a wonderful networking opportunity, because we just love each other and we want to help each other out.”

Throughout the pandemic, the group had to get creative in order to make the most of Zoom meetings. Bryan said one meeting featured pointers on learning to “go on vacation in your mind,” a strategy she learned as a caregiver for her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. As part of the meeting, Bryan displayed pictures of Hawaii over PowerPoint while the group exchanged pointers on making the most of small windows for self-care and quiet.

They’ve also held classes teaching CPR, hearing updates on COVID-19 from local health officials and partnered with local nonprofits like CORA Food Pantry.

“We know all businesses have had to adapt and so many found that we’ve had to really retreat and become more focused on working out of our homes,” Bryan said. “We really miss that camaraderie. ... Our board of directors, we talk about this a lot, and that it was really important for us to continue reaching out — and so we became very creative in what we were doing.”

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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