Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum Focuses on Engagement through Education, Events

Increasing member engagement is a primary focus of the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum as it transitions to a new executive leadership team for 2019 and 2020.

Carolyn Hardwick, newly elected president of WWLF, said the organization wants to provide support, mentorship, networking and educational opportunities to women at all stages of their careers in the wireless industry. Increasing engagement and participation among its members is important for building connections among women and helping them grow both professionally and personally, she said.

One of Hardwick’s goals is to increase participation on WWLF’s committees and initiatives by assigning co-directors to each committee to share the workload and recruiting new and existing members to committees that align with their interests and abilities. WWLF has seven committees led by directors appointed by the leadership team. Committees focus on WWLF programs, brand management, industry relations, events, ways and means, education and membership.

“It’s not enough to just say we have 1,000 members,” said Hardwick. “Those are just numbers. For me it’s about the depth of membership.”

That focus on depth and engagement means WWLF is meeting members where they are by hosting and participating in both national, regional and local events.

Last year, WWLF hosted or participated in 45 events, an increase from 17 the year before, said Hardwick. The organization hosts a networking reception at WIA’s Connectivity Expo in May. Last year’s well-attended reception during Connect (X) at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte was a popular event filled with great food, fun activities and networking. The organization also holds a networking reception at Mobile World Congress Americas.

WWLF leadership also attends regional events, such as the South Wireless Summit in March, to promote its programs and participate on panel discussions. This year, WWLF representatives will discuss inclusion, mentorship and development of leaders at SWS.

On the local level, WWLF holds networking events across several regions and participates in state wireless association educational and networking events. And in cities across the country, WWLF organizes IMPACT events designed to go beyond traditional education and networking events to bring women together on a more social level for discussion and support around work-life topics.

“I don’t want to just check a list saying they are a member,” said Hardwick. “I want them to be involved, be on a committee, be involved in their area or region, attend IMPACT groups, sign up to do a service project with other WWLF members in their territory. We want them growing professionally, as a person, in leadership, and as a well-rounded member,” said Hardwick.

Hardwick also wants WWLF to continue its focus on helping young women who are new to the industry develop into leaders, not only within in the organization but in their careers in the wireless industry. A newly imagined education portal will soon include educational webinars designed to help women navigate various career issues. In addition, women with less than five years in the industry can apply for WWLF’s mentorship program as well as a Fellowship Award, which provides a variety of related benefits including discounts on membership and events.

Two of WWLF’s new executive leaders credit the mentorship program with motivating them to seek offices with the organization. Debra Mercier, a wireless industry veteran and five-year member of WWLF with a passion for helping other people, signed up to be a mentor last year and was paired with Ashli Fuselier, who was just starting out in her wireless industry career. Mercier said mentorship includes planning areas of interest for the mentee and then holding monthly one-on-one sessions to address topics ranging from public speaking to managing a diverse team. At one point during the year-long mentorship, Mercier and Fuselier decided that they should both run for WWLF offices. That idea became a reality when both were elected to the executive leadership team for 2019-2020 – Mercier as Vice President and Fuselier as Secretary.

Mercier said one of her goals is to expand and bolster the mentorship program, which annually pairs five to 10 mentees with mentors. In addition to one-on-one mentoring, Mercier hopes to create periodic mentorship groups where participants can share ideas and talk about what they’ve learned.

Ashli Fuselier and Debra Mercier participated in WWLF’s mentorship program in 2018.

Hardwick has first-hand experience with the value of mentorship and support, especially for those who are new to the wireless industry. She joined the wireless industry as a project coordinator while she was on summer break from her job as a school teacher nearly twenty years ago. Thanks to people she encountered during that summer who provided guidance and support, Hardwick elected to continue her career in the wireless industry.

Especially for women in an industry that tips heavily in favor of men in terms of numbers, having an organization that provides this type of support and mentorship to women is invaluable.

“It’s easy to get discouraged if you feel like you’re alone, and we don’t want women to feel alone in this industry,” said Hardwick. “WWLF proudly proclaims that one of its missions is ‘Keeping Women Connected.’ As members’ involvement with WWLF increases, we know that their commitment to the industry, the organization, and to each other will grow proportionately.”

For more information, visit www.wwlf.org.