Guest Column

‘Chicks in charge’ are major contributors to Grand Rapids

April 1, 2016
TAGS leaders / Women
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When my business partner and I put our toes in the water in Grand Rapids nearly five years ago, we discovered an amazing attribute that many seem to take for granted: Women leaders permeate the landscape.

These “chicks in charge” — a descriptive phrase I use with great respect and admiration — are everywhere: from top elected officials such as Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and East Grand Rapids Mayor Amna Seibold, to nonprofit leaders like Grand Rapids Community Foundation President Diana Sieger and Kids’ Food Basket Executive Director Bridget Clark Whitney, to some of the top corporate officers in West Michigan including OST President and CEO Meredith Bronk and Meijer Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Stacie Behler, to educational and community leaders such as Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall-Neal and Right Place Inc. President and CEO Birgit Klohs.

Carole Valade and the Grand Rapids Business Journal started recognizing this talent pool several years ago and instituted an annual event to showcase these powerful women. Called “The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan,” this event brings together inspirational leaders of all ages and all walks of life. The strong connections, leadership and commitment to community these women bring to the table — not just the honorees, but their friends, colleagues, mentors and protégées — are nothing short of amazing.

When we decided to open Truscott Rossman’s Grand Rapids office in 2011, we immediately recognized this unique energy. We met with dozens and dozens of business and community leaders, but the people who really stepped up to open doors, make introductions and help us become part of the community were women.

So, like GRBJ, we do our best to recognize and thank them by hosting an annual “Wonderful Women” event. It started out small, with about a dozen committed women who braved a snowstorm to join us at Mangiamo’s. But our fourth annual Wonderful Women event this month in the atrium of the Ledyard Building, which we call home, brought together more than 140 women from every corner of the community. 

We don’t have an agenda or program, and no ticket or contribution is required. We just have two simple rules that guarantee the women who attend — and we — will expand our network of friends: 1) Guests are asked to meet at least one new woman at the event, and 2) Invitees are asked to bring at least one friend who hasn’t attended in the past, and then they are added to the invitation list for the next event.

Truscott Rossman has had the good fortune to do work throughout the state, and it is clear there is something very special about this community of women. Their leadership and perspective have been major factors in shaping a city that is the envy of city leaders across the state of Michigan.

As we invest and build our business in this community, we’ll continue to look to, call upon, learn from and support the wonderful women of Grand Rapid because we know those “chicks in charge” are major contributors to Grand Rapids’ success.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney is CEO and principal at public relations firm Truscott Rossman.

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