Womentum panelists address the 2017 Women in Leadership Summit in Jackson. Womentum’s programs encourage Wyoming women to develop leadership skills and build connections in their lives, careers and communities. (COURTESY PHOTO / Womentum)
Editor’s note: This is part of a Gazette series for Women’s History Month that highlights the contributions of Wyoming women and also the challenges faced by women in the Equality State.
Women in Wyoming are strong, and when these smart, savvy women in the Equality State assume leadership roles, they build strong communities and encourage others to do the same — thanks to organizations like Womentum.
Womentum is a women’s organization based out of Jackson that started in 2006. Womentoring is a mentoring program created by the organization that encourages leadership skills and career development for women in the community.
According to Caryn Flanagan, the program director for Womentum, more than 270 women have gone through the mentoring program since its start.
“The women that have gone through the program have gone on to serve in leadership roles in public office, in business, and on boards,” Flanagan said. “The program encourages women to step up into leadership roles that they might not have otherwise pursued.”
The nine-month program consists of workshops, group dinners, and one-on-one interaction with mentors. The goal is to learn leadership skills and connect women in the community.
“The mentor pairs aren’t actually chosen based on similar career paths,” Flanagan said. “It’s all about finding similar strengths and helping create a life and career around those strengths.”
Flanagan said Womentum addresses a lot of educated women who come from other places and end up in Jackson. She said a lot of these women get caught up in seasonal work, then want to make Jackson their permanent home and want something more out of their careers.
“Womentum enables these women to get back to what they dreamed of when they were younger,” Flangagan said, “Back to what makes them tick and what enriches their lives.”
Flanagan said mentoring programs like Womentum offer incentives for women to stay in their Wyoming communities and pursue leadership roles there.
“The program allows women to be rooted in their community and use their ambition to make a difference,” Flanagan said. “You don’t want the people who run your organizations to leave after a few years just because they’re not connected to the community, so this offers networking and support.”
The presence of a mentor-mentee relationship is what really makes the program successful, according to Flanagan.
“A mentor really provides accountability,” Flanagan said. “When someone else is holding up the mirror and asking ‘What do you want to get out of life, and how can we help you get there?’ it’s really effective.”
Flanagan said the Womentum program has a positive effect on both mentors and mentees.
“When you ask someone to look within, it’s only natural that you come out of that experience a better person and leader yourself,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan said the principles of a program like Womentum can benefit the entire state of Wyoming, not just Jackson.
“Wyoming has always attracted women who like to run things,” Flanagan said. “But the higher paying jobs are in physical labor fields that women may not be interested in, so they’re already looking for leadership roles in non-profits, schools, businesses. We help them learn the skills to be successful in that.”
Womentoring is a personalized program that addresses each woman’s desire to be better leaders in their own lives and communities.
“When people are operating from a place of joy, they do better work, and it’s a ripple effect,” Flanagan said. “When they love what they’re doing they make the workplace better. They’re more effective and innovative.”
Flanagan discussed Womentum’s annual Women in Leadership Summit that aims to bring the women of Wyoming together to learn from each other and develop leadership skills. This year’s summit is in November, and includes a keynote speaker, panel discussion, activities and networking opportunities.
“Thirty percent of our attendees last year were from outside Teton County,” Flanagan said, “so we really are trying to reach outside our own community.”
Flanagan said that Lander has started their own women mentoring program based on the Jackson Womentum program, and groups in Cheyenne, Laramie and Casper have all expressed interest in doing the same.
“Lots of people from neighboring communities come to us and say ‘we love what you offer for the women of Jackson, so how can we bring that to our own communities,’” Flanagan said. “We offer a free toolkit resource, which includes a step-by-step guide to building a mentoring program, based off of the specific needs of that community.”
Visit womentumwyo.org for more information about the organization’s mission, and to download the free toolkit to help create a community women’s mentoring program.
“Womentum has really grown from our beginning,” Flanagan said. “It’s exciting to see the trajectory that we’re on.”
Keep reading the Gazette this month as we celebrate Women’s History Month and explore the uniqueness of Wyoming women.