Robin Newcomb, an administrative assistant in the School of Nursing's Development/Alumni Relations Office, says one should never underestimate the importance of networking. The more contacts you have, Newcomb says, the better off you are, whether you're looking for a new job or just looking for a piece of advice on office do's and dont's.
As chair of the steering committee of the Johns Hopkins University Women's Network, Newcomb has seen firsthand the benefits of networking and sharing information.
The Women's Network, formerly known as the JHU Women's Forum, is a university-wide organization established to improve the status of women by fostering professional development and providing networking opportunities through educational and cultural activities. Currently, the organization has more than 600 active members among its four chapters: APL, Bayview, Homewood/Peabody and JHMI. Plans are in the works to reactivate a chapter at SAIS.
In 1998, the organization went through a name and structural change to better represent its mission.
"People were a little put off by the term Women's Forum, thinking it was a political venue," Newcomb says. "What we do for our members is provide them with opportunities to network and to move up the ladder."
These opportunities include anything from full-day conferences featuring keynote speeches by women in leadership roles to informal get-togethers on personal improvement. For career development, the Women's Network throughout the year hosts a number of information sessions on job-related issues, whether it be the interviewing process or management training.
Upcoming on the Women's Network calendar is its annual Spring Luncheon, the location of which is rotated among participating campuses. This year's luncheon will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 18, at the School of Nursing. The event's keynote speaker is Barbara Talley, author and president of Business Support Training, who will give a lecture titled "Super Woman Doesn't Live Here Anymore," which deals with workplace/family issues facing women.
Presented at the luncheon will be the first annual Women's Leadership Award, intended to recognize those who have demonstrated leadership ability in both the workplace and the community.
Newcomb describes the Hopkins Women's Network as an advocate on women's issues, both big and small. In addition to career development, the organization hosts "woman-friendly" programs on basic life issues.
"Recently we provided a session for people to learn about staying on top of their finances. It was presented by a woman and specifically geared for a woman," Newcomb says. "We also have hosted sessions on investing, holistic health, acupuncture, a whole array of women's concerns. There is enough variety that you can be involved at any level. You pick and choose what you want to do. We can do almost anything that you want to do."
Newcomb says the sessions are well-received and popular, even those she thought would be a hard sell. She cites as an example one recent program on self-defense, taught by one of the group's members.
"I didn't think anyone would give up a Saturday and come to campus for this, but we had more than 25 people there. And we already have a wait list for the next self-defense session," Newcomb says
The woman who taught the session, Newcomb says, thought many women could benefit from her expertise.
"For no fee she is willing to pass on what she knows to other members, or whoever is interested. That, I think, is our strongest suit, that we are out there to help everyone else. It is not about just us; it is about the overall general women's population at Johns Hopkins."
Newcomb says the Women's Network also has become very involved in community outreach programs and in supporting women's interest groups outside the organization. Last year it collected needed items for the House of Ruth, a center for victims of domestic violence. This year the organization is campaigning for Sarah's House, a residential facility for homeless families in Anne Arundel County. Sarah's House works to develop constructive behaviors and attitudes enabling clients to leave as a functioning, economically independent family unit.
Items the Women's Network are looking for to donate to Sarah's House include towels, washcloths, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medications and baby items such as powder and bottles.
For more information on the Johns Hopkins University Women's Network, contact Robin Newcomb at 410-955-4284 or go to www.jhu.edu/~wforum.
For campus contacts or drop-off locations involving the Sarah's House campaign, contact Christine Spangler at 410-502-9734 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A representative for Sarah's House will be at the May 18 Spring Luncheon to collect donations.