Business and Professional Women: A History, A Movement

BPW Documentary Screening and Panel, October 2013, Raleigh

BPW Documentary Screening and Panel, October 2013, Raleigh

How much do you know about our member Business and Professional Women of North Carolina?  Did you know they are celebrating the 95th anniversary of their founding? How about that one of their first orders of business at their inaugural state convention in June 1919 was an endorsement of ratification of the 19th amendment to the US constitution (which happened later that summer)?  First conceived nationally in 1917 in response to the potential need for more women in the workforce as the United States entered war with Germany (and began sending all eligible men to the war effort), the BPW National Federation was eventually founded right after the war, in 1919. Once women started entering the nation’s offices as secretaries, librarians, educators, attorneys and physicians, they were ready to stay and build professional careers, and BPW was founded to be an advocate for their needs as business and professional women.  Prior to WWII, this including calling for stricter child labor laws, the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and an end to the practice of not hiring married women.   Post-war, their efforts have focused on equal pay legislation, policies to end sex discrimination and sexual harassment on the job and in education, work-life balance (such as the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act) and….passage of the ERA.

This history has been documented in a short film, “Business and Professional Women: A History,  A Movement”. See a trailer for the film, which was premiered in Raleigh last fall and has made its way to BPW conferences around the country and the state; including a screening at last month’s BPW/NC annual convention.

Michelle Evans, 2013-2014 BPW/NC Parliamentarian, Past-President of BPW/NC and former NCWU board secretary, provided a brief description of last month’s agenda:

“On June 20 and 21, 2014, Business and Professional Women/NC held its 95th Anniversary State Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Members from across the state participated in dynamic workshops and amazing presentations.  BPW/NC President Mimi Zelman and her committee assembled nationally-recognized speakers to generate, motivate and elevate our members.

Speakers included:

  • Patti Mercer (Professional Spokesperson, Media Personality, Motivational Speaker and Mrs. South Carolina);
  • Judy Rose (UNC Charlotte Director of Athletics);
  • Christy Uffleman (Leadership Coach and Multi-Generational Specialist); and
  • Denise Cooper (Reinvention Strategist, Speaker, Coach, Blogger, and Talk Show Commentator).

Recognized nationally for its work with women veterans, BPW/NC held a special session to honor two deserving female veterans with grants.  Women Joining Forces (WJF) Chair Crystal Williams presented the WJF grants to assist the recipients with their projects for their personal businesses.

The BPW/NC Foundation Chair Varnell Kinnin held the Foundations’ annual meeting at which Scholarship Chair Marsha Riibner-Cady honored the deserving scholarship recipients.”

This is just some of what BPW/NC does to advocate for professional women. Recognizing that issues affecting women in the workplace overlap greatly with issues affecting women outside of the workplace, BPW changed its membership some time ago to include all women who see value in networking and advocating with other women, whether or not they were employed outside of the home. We thank them for their work on behalf of the women and girls of North Carolina!