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June 14, 2017

Portland girls just wanna network: Regional Chamber launches forum

Courtesy / Quincy Hentzel
Courtesy / Quincy Hentzel
A group selfie at Monday’s women’s networking event taken by Quincy Hentzel, interim CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. The next networking event is planned for Sept. 18.

A new Portland women's networking forum is off to a running start after Monday's kickoff at the Press Hotel.

The gathering, hosted by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by People's United Bank, attracted more than 80 people, including about 10 walk-ins who registered on the spot, despite next to no promotion.

"This event has been several years in the making," Quincy Hentzel, the Chamber's interim CEO, told the crowd.

She later explained to Mainebiz that discussions to start a women's networking group go back to her time as president of the Portland Community Chamber, a volunteer position, with her counterparts in Falmouth/Cumberland, South Portland/Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough.

"We've got four women who are really strong leaders of the Chamber right now," she said, "so we thought, why don't we have a women's event? We just never got it off the ground … Once I stepped into this role as interim CEO of the [Portland] Chamber I took the opportunity to launch it."

Dori Lynn, a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine, said she appreciated meeting a number of "wonderful" women on Monday who have offered to help with her research into the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.

She said she plans to attend future events because she finds that having a network of women "is beneficial, both academically and professionally, as well as empowering."

'Good energy'

Though the soft launch was purely social, culminating with an O Bag raffle prize Hentzel said "is all the rage in Europe," future events would have a more formal agenda. The plan is to meet every quarter at a different venue with guest speakers on selected topics, based on a survey of Monday's attendees.

"I think there was some good energy," Hentzel said, adding that the next forum will take place on Sept. 18.

"It will be exciting to hear what is on people's minds for what they want specifically for this Chamber group to discuss and cover," said Katie Shorey, who works in business and community development at People's United.

Ann Marie Swenson, senior vice president at People's United and regional manager business banking as well as treasurer of the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, added that "there is great potential for synergy" between the new networking forum and the People's United Bank Women in Leadership program for professional, personal and career development.

"Along with internal programs and events, a strong component of our [Women in Leadership] group is to encourage volunteerism and foster community partnerships," she said.

Although the new networking forum does not yet have a formal name, it is informally being referred to as Women of the Chamber.

The chamber is taking creative name suggestions and says that future events are open to all, including non-members. "This could potentially be that value-added that drives them to join our organization," Hentzel said.

The initiative comes as the chamber nears the finish line on choosing ts next permanent CEO, with a decision promised by the end of June.

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