She's Got the Power 

The importance of women as role models, and two local groups at work to create them

Angela Hemingway, executive director of the Idaho STEM Action Center, had more than 60 slides of data at her disposal when she presented her argument for getting more girls into science, technology, engineering and mathematics to members of the Cosmos Coffee Club on April 2. Despite the jargon, the big takeaway was simple: To get more girls interested in STEM, there need to be more women in STEM they can look up to.

"From what the young women themselves say, they really need female role models," said Hemingway. "They need to talk to a woman computer scientist and have her [answer questions like], 'What do you do? How are you influencing people? How are you changing lives?'"

Although the two-year-old Action Center is a fairly new agency in the governor's office, it has pushed a host of new initiatives in an attempt to fill the gap in the Idaho economy created by unfilled STEM jobs. According to Hemingway, 6,000 jobs in STEM were left vacant in 2017 alone, leaving $355 million of personal income unclaimed. The solution, she said, is empowering young women to join STEM fields. According to survey-based Economics and Statistics Administration calculations, only 24 percent of STEM jobs are filled by women.

"[Young women] want to know that their career, their job, is going to make a difference. And sometimes they don't always connect on that same level with a man in that profession. So we need to continue in our role to provide mentors, role models for these young women, and just bring about awareness as to what these opportunities are," Hemingway said.

While the Action Center focuses on setting up virtual mentorship programs through its statewide virtual portal, the STEM Action Center Mentorship Portal, another local group is aiming to help women take charge of their personal power and leverage their skills to become leaders in all fields. The Next Level Women Leaders Conference, a two-day training program founded by a collaboration of four female professionals working to empower their peers, is their platform.

One of the co-founders, Boise-based wardrobe stylist Laura Tully, focuses on image. Fashion is as much about current trends as it is about building wardrobes that help women meet their personal or professional objectives—at least, that's what Tully tells her clients. Tully started off in management at J.Crew, then left to pursue her own styling consultancy. As her day job, she goes to clients' homes, into their closets, and helps them curate a wardrobe that best represents them.

"One of the things that I tell my clients is, 'I don't think your clothing is supposed to show up before you,'" said Tully. "I want you to have a presence where you to show up, and your clothing is this awesome wingman that has your back."

Joining Tully for each training session are co-founders Stacy Ennis, a creative consultant and content strategist; Nancy Buffington, a public speaking trainer and coach; and Abbey Louie, a leadership coach and talent management strategist. The four of them bring different expertise to the conference and touch on all aspects female leadership.

"I lead our final training on redefining the power wardrobe," said Tully. "[I want attendees] to come away with the confidence and knowledge to create styles fitted to their body, personalities and leadership roles."

On the first day of each conference, Buffington leads sessions on public speaking and, through a series of exercises, shows attendees how to present themselves as leaders through tactics like body language and voice. Louie leads a session on identifying core values and a mission that can be used as a blueprint for future leadership, and Ennis focuses on messaging strategies to show attendees how to write a professional story or bio. On the second day, the founders join forces for a panel discussion on leadership branding through digital communication.

"We're willing to have the conversation about hard topics and things that are really challenging," said Tully. "Being a female leader is very different. We understand that there are challenges and opportunities and we want to highlight those and use our strength as females to play the game in our own way."

The four founders met professionally through referrals. Tully once styled Ennis for a TEDx Boise event, and Buffington coached Tully for speaking workshops. Once together, the group began brainstorming ideas to merge their services into a comprehensive training program.

"There was nothing like what we were offering, and we wanted to add that dynamic element, which is the variety of what the four of us do. That didn't exist in any type of female leadership training," said Tully. "We realized the four of us together could create something bigger than what each of us were individually doing."

The first Next Level Women Leaders Conference training session took place in January at JUMP and was attended by 20 people. Tully, Ennis, Buffington and Louie are already planning a second JUMP session for Thursday, May 17, and Friday, May 18, as well as a September training in Seattle. In the future, the founders hope to expand their reach to more states.

"We have the opportunity to meet some incredible women," said Tully. "It fills our hearts to be amongst these women and go through a path and journey together. We want women leaders to be armed with actionable strategies and skills fueled by meaningful and transformative insight."

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