History of CWI
The CWI Story
It all started with “why not?” In June, 2008, Michelle Bergquist and Jaimee Pittman invited a few close peers together comprised of b2b women owners, executives and professionals, and asked a powerful question, “How important are relationships to the success of what you do?” After some conversation and nods, Bergquist then asked, “Why isn’t there a powerhouse community of women in business who seek to support each other professionally, act as supreme advocates on behalf of each other, and who engage and converge to share resources, advice and ideas among a diverse group of like-minded women from business and industry?”
The answer became Connected Women of Influence (CWI).
CWI launched with 17 charter members at the University of San Diego in the Manchester Executive Conference Center. According to Michelle Bergquist, Connected Women of Influence CEO & Co-Founder, “The business conversation is so different among a group of b2b women. Our focus as professional women is to support one another and build partnerships among each other and be advocates on behalf of each other.”
At the beginning of 2009, CWI launched the Executive Roundtable Groups. Since the pilot program began in 2009, the Executive Roundtable Groups have grown to over 13 groups meeting monthly with no more than 10 professionals placed in each group. According to one Executive Roundtable Group member, “Every business woman should be in an Executive Roundtable Group. It’s such a safe space. I feel like I’ve got the best advice team and resources on earth!”
The first CEO/Executive Panel Forum launched as a unique platform where women CEO’s and Executives were invited to share their business experiences and advice in an open panel format. Since inception in 2010, the panel forums have grown to monthly programs and have featured some of the most respected women CEO’s and Executives throughout Southern California. The most infamous panel forum was in February, 2012 when the first “man panel” came about. With over 100 attendees and 5 CEO’s and Executives, a panel of men were asked the question, “What do you think women do that sabotage their success in business?” The answers were authentic, real, sometimes eye-opening, spot-on honest and very sincere in advice. The man panel has become an annual recurring event for CWI and has featured men CEO’s and Executives from diverse companies, industries, positions and roles in business. Rave reviews still come from the man panel and history was made for CWI. Additionally, a book is forthcoming in 2015, from hundreds of interviews with men about what women do that sabotage their success in business.
Expansion plans started for Connected Women of Influence. New markets in Southern California were chartered with intentions to grow nationally throughout the United States in major metropolitan areas. CWI growth exceeded 100 members.
The Orange County Connected Women of Influence launched with 11 charter members. According to one of our charter members, “I went to visit a CWI panel forum in San Diego and just HAD to make sure we had a CWI represented in the OC!”
CWI membership tipped over 200 members.
CWI brings the first annual Women of Influence Awards to San Diego with over 300 attendees and 9 award winners!
CWI publishes Women Lead Magazine, a leadership publication for women who lead in business
The Future of CWI
National expansion. Stay tuned! A CWI community will be coming to your area soon!