Brauds 2.0 engaged in next-generation networking
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How do women advance in fields still dominated by men? Part of the answer lies in supporting one another.
That’s exactly what a true braud (aka broad) would do, and in taking a page from the original networking brauds who don’t view the term as a pejorative put down — quite the opposite, in fact — Rebecca Prochaska, head of marketing and business development with the Madison architectural firm Potter Lawson, has formed Brauds 2.0.
Prochaska’s interest in “braudening” her horizons was influenced by her mother Beth, who is Potter Lawson’s executive vice president and a member of the original Brauds group along with real estate executive Joanna Burish and Carole Schaeffer, formerly of Smart Growth Greater Madison and now vice president of business development for Miron Construction.
However, her interest was organically sparked by a budding friendship with Jeannie Cullen Schultz, health care construction director for JP Cullen, a family-owned construction firm. As the two women started meeting three years ago, simply as a function of their jobs, they realized how much they had in common. As they discussed a formal group, there was an important takeaway from their exposure to Brauds 1.0.
“The consensus was that the key to the group is that it’s a smaller group,” Prochaska explains. “We watched what they had built and we wanted to start our own group.”
In Brauds 2.0, Prochaska and Cullen Schultz are joined by a group of professional women who work in commercial development. They include Elizabeth Breitlow, development associate, Hammes Company Sports Development Inc.; Kris Cotharn, project executive, KJWW Engineering; Melissa Fellows, vice president of commercial deposits and treasury management, Associated Bank; Gretchen Lins, an associate with the retail and office brokerage group of CBRE; Anne Neujahr Morrison, who works in commercial leasing and development at Urban Land Interests; Deana Porter, an associate with Broadwing Advisors; and Summer Strand of Payne & Dolan.
Prochaska did not know everyone in the group before cold-calling them and inviting them to join. She made a list of people she’d heard good things about with the idea of forming a group of women who are at similar stages of their lives and careers. None of the Brauds 2.0 group is as established as the members of the original Brauds, but most of them have been at it for roughly a decade, so they have built the foundation for their careers.
“These were blind calls,” Prochaska says. “I said I’ve heard about you and I think you’re amazing, so let’s meet. That was a little intimidating, like a first date when you ask someone out, but I wanted the group to be made of up of women I admired.”
Now it’s time to help one another climb higher. Their get-togethers cover both personal and professional topics. They might start out with discussions of family and children and segue into professional experiences such as deal making, but they offer group members the comfort of knowing they are not alone.
“I would say we’re strong, driven, eager women in the development and design industry,” Prochaska states. “We’re looking to empower our network.”