Ten years ago a group of businesswomen and women managers in West Lothian set up West Lothian Women in Business. At that time male businessmen tended to network at the golf club or in the bar and the notion that women needed a forum of their own was new.
The idea evolved from a year-long mentoring project, funded by the very imaginative Economic Development Department of West Lothian Council. Each of the women in the group was paired with a businesswomen who was either established, or just setting out. After training we were let loose on our mentees.
Good feedback from those taking part in this innovative project led us to look at a way of becoming a more permanent resource. West Lothian was, and still is, a diverse community and many of our members are sole traders working alone, often from home and without the usual office networks to back them up. Others were running larger operations and we quickly found that people were more than willing to help and advise each other.
The Council and the Chamber of Commerce were, and still are, partners in the project and with their backing we were able to keep the membership fee low – currently just Â£40 per year which includes all meetings and lunches with only the Annual Excellence Awards dinner coming as extra. Links with the largely male dominated Chamber ensure that when we have joint meetings our voices are also heard!
Members businesses range from IT, manufacturing, web design, tourism, personal coaching and fitness, public relations, nursery care and writing to those who work as managers in both public and private sectors. It’s a lively group ranging in ages from 20 to over 60.
Recently we celebrated our 10th birthday, complete with cake, at the Deer Park Country Club in Livingston with presentations from this year’s Excellence Award winners. So from a modest idea the forum has grown in strength and influence and we expect to prosper for many years to come.
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