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Minority career women gather to build and bond

Shanice Maxwell | 12/19/2012, 6:50 a.m.
Tyese Levon, 25, of Dorchester shares a heartfelt embrace with (L) Tahina Barlatier, 29, of Everett after she claims her second prize of the evening at the Professional Women of Color Network holiday event last Friday at the Sons of Italy in Quincy. Daniel Irvin

Media and entertainment often portray females as being caustic and catty towards one another. But contrary to popular stereotypes, many women work tirelessly to create a collaborative, nurturing atmosphere for other females.

One of those women is Alisa Hunter, founder of Boston’s own Professional Women of Color Network. The group seeks to unite minority females and help them achieve their personal and professional goals.

“I wanted to decrease some of the isolation women of color may feel in their careers and give them a safe place to talk, share and express some of these concerns and issues while also getting support and feedback from [others like them],” Hunter said.

“The resources for [us] in particular aren’t that bountiful in the community. Providing women with a place to really explore their passions and how they can best live out their dreams has always been important,” she said.

The network’s growth is a testament to the fact that Hunter isn’t alone in these sentiments. Since its inception in April of 2012, the group has gained over 80 members.

Bonded by a commitment to professional excellence and a desire to cultivate long-lasting connections and collective growth amongst minority women, the network hosted a “Girls Night Out Holiday Affair” last Friday.

Twenty-five vendors catered to over 60 females of all ages and career paths as laughter, positivity and candid stories filled the Quincy Sons of Italy. Vendors shared their secrets to success and gave advice to budding business owners.

Business cards weren’t the only thing exchanged — affection and hospitality were, too. New relationships were formed over hors d’oeuvres and attendees cheered for raffle gift winners.

The holiday event proved that contrary to popular belief, women can and do enjoy each other’s company, free of the name-calling and drama so often depicted on reality TV.

“[This] inspired me to do something of my own,” said Kelly Corona-Well of Cambridge. “When you find yourself being surrounded by women who are motivated to do something, you want to be a part of that.”

“Working with other women, especially women of color, trying to pursue their own dreams and their own businesses makes me feel good even though I’m brand new to this,” said Aishah Lambert, 24, a Dorchester resident and HAIRmeout natural hair care stylist.

There was an overwhelming desire among participants for more opportunities that uplift and fortify females. Many agreed the evening’s event was the start of something great.

“There are so many gems in Boston, however, folks don’t always connect with each other,” said Keyona Aviles, 30, a Dorchester resident and licensed mental health clinician. “So we have a lot of really powerful, professional ladies out there, particularly ladies of color, who are doing great work, but kind of on their own. Through the network we can slowly build a place and space for women to connect and share each other’s wisdom.”

9 Networking Tips

Networking simply means connecting with others and building relationships. Use these tips to help you acquire new professional contacts:

Before the event

• Research the speaker(s) of the hour.
• Prepare three to five insightful and open-ended questions.
• Pack your business cards and prepare or tweak your elevator pitch.

During the event

• Take good notes you can refer back to.
• Introduce yourself to at least five people and listen attentively when conversing.
• Exchange contact information and ask to connect at a later date.

After the event (within 48 hours)

• Write a thank you note or email the speaker.
• Send tailored emails to contacts you made; follow-up on things you discussed and ask genuine questions.
• Connect on social media with new contacts and keep in touch!