President finds inspiration in organization by Adam Parker - Hamilton County Herald

Friday, November 09, 2007 1:35 PM | Anonymous
Since the original chapter of Executive Women International (EWI) was established in California in 1938, the nonprofit organization, now composed of 75 chapters spread across the United States, has given career-minded women the chance to help each other attain their personal and professional goals.

Tanya English, president of Executive Women International credits the organization for many of her personal and professional accomplishments

“The benefit is to connect with other professionals, develop your career and support your community undefined that's what EWI is all about,” says EWI's Chattanooga Chapter President Tanya English, also a paralegal at Miller & Martin PLLC.

Membership is given on an invitation-only basis, and each member organization can designate up to three of its staff, known as representatives, to participate in EWI functions.

Chattanooga EWI members include organizations such Miller & Martin PLLC., The Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Krystal and Chattanooga State Technical Community College, and representatives can be business owners, CEOs, paralegals or secretaries (among other positions) from member organizations.

EWI holds an auction in the fall, donating the proceeds to a scholarship fund for underprivileged women, namely young mothers who have proven their potential to become successful businesswomen, but are financially unable to pursue higher education.

Each December, EWI organizes a meeting to recognize the beneficiaries of the scholarship, which English always finds memorable. “It's such a touching experience, and it gives you a chance to see what you've done with all your time, money and effort and whom you're doing it for,” says English. “You just can't walk away without tears in your eyes because you've helped usually three or four women per year go back to school.”

Additionally, representatives from EWI are connected to an instant network of fellow representatives from across the U.S. They not only share valuable information with them, but also, if an EWI representative, for example, is looking to do business with a member organization, the representative may be able to take advantage of special services or discounts.

“Also, if you're looking for a place to develop your career or to work in the same field in a different city, you have a list of contacts who can help you do so,” says English.

For EWI members whose line of work requires them to earn CLE (continuing legal education) credits to keep their certification, they can attend EWI functions to earn these credits to help fulfill their requirements.

EWI helps support local communities by hosting fundraisers to benefit charitable causes. In the midst of Hurricane Katrina's destruction, for example, EWI dedicated some of its funds to the victims.

And, as English can tell you from experience, EWI offers its representative tremendous potential for personal growth. Miller & Martin had been a member organization of EWI for 10 years, and English joined at the recommendation of a Miller & Martin representative who was about to leave the law firm.

At first, English was tentative about joining EWI because she didn't particularly feel comfortable participating in group functions, and shuddered at the thought of public speaking.

But the former Miller & Martin representative encouraged her to become a representative, so she gave it a shot.

However, English still found herself apprehensive in the presence of crowds. “I still didn't want to speak in public,” says English. “In fact, I didn't like going to the meetings by myself. I always wanted to go with a friend.”

But I started growing a little bit,” she adds.

Within six months of joining, English became secretary for the Chattanooga EWI, and then a treasurer undefined a position she found comfortable since her educational background was in accounting. Two years ago, she reached a major turning point, not only as a member of EWI, but more importantly, as a person.
When she attended the EWI Leadership Conference and Annual Meeting (LCAM), she found herself in a seminar where representatives were asked to nswer various questions related o the organization's mission. For the representatives, answering these questions meant raising their hands and speaking before a crowd of 200 representatives. And English, who was nominated and installed as vice president just in time for the LCAM, would rise to the occasion.

“My friend Nancy Harrison who was last year's president and now my advisor, told me, ‘Do it Tanya, this is something you'll be comfortable talking about,' because it was my dream – my desire to pursue a business venture on my own,” says English. “I finally decided to speak out in public and it was okay. I was really nervous but when I started talking, it came across very well.”

“I thought, ‘Wow, I just said that?'” says English. “And that was the first time I had spoken in front of such a large crowd.

“I knew then, that it was a turning point - that my personal and professional development had really started to grow through being a member of Executive Women International,” says English.

“I knew, as vice president, I would have to overcome this fear of public speaking,” English adds. Since then, she's delivered public speeches in front of hundreds of EWI representatives and will be giving even more public speeches since becoming president of Chattanooga EWI this September.

English has been very impressed with Chattanooga EWI's recent activities, which prove its representatives' determination to fulfill EWI's goals. For example, last year, the population of Chattanooga EWI member firms increased 49 percent.

“This year, through more professional development speakers at our monthly meetings, outreach programs with the community and career development events, it is my goal as president to increase the membership even further and to retain every member firm we have.

“Executive Women International has given me an outlet I really didn't know I had a strength for until now and it's really dear to my heart,” says English. “If you are interested in learning more about our organization, you can visit our website and see why I am so passionate about it.”

By Adam Parker

EWI of Chattanooga | P.O. Box 11522 | Chattanooga, TN  37401 | Contact
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