By Kienan Briscoe, For the Valley Record
Snoqualmie Valley Women in Leadership (SVWL) will be holding its first ever annual Women’s Leadership Retreat on Oct. 14 at Cherry Creek Falls Event Center in Duvall.
The retreat will offer workshops, round-table discussions, and presentations exploring how resiliency can center a leader’s journey and help make a deeper impact on a leader’s workplace and community.
SVWL launched in January and serves women living in the Snoqualmie Valley who are in (or aspire to be in) positions of influence and leadership. The group helps women leaders connect, grow and be supported in their leadership journey through its local Connection Gatherings, workshops, book clubs, and virtual meet-ups.
The upcoming retreat’s theme is resilience, something founder Wendy Parslow has demonstrated firsthand this year alone, enduring two back-to-back layoffs. Parslow was let go from her position at REI back in January, just one of 167 employees the outdoor recreation company laid off at the beginning of the year.
Three months later, she secured a job at a travel startup, but that company decided to scale back just eight weeks later, eliminating about 50% of its team, which included Parslow’s position.
Completely by happenstance, each of these layoffs fell on a scheduled Women in Leadership meeting, which allowed Parslow to have both community and support.
“It just goes to show how important it is to have that community outside of your workplace to help support your professional — it was powerful,” said Parslow.
During both of these meetings, many of the women in Parslow’s group approached her with the word “resilience,” which gave her the idea of centering the upcoming retreat on that theme.
“That kind of hit home to me and I realized how important building a pact of resilience really is,” said Parslow. “Resilience is a fundamental tool that we need in our toolbox, as leaders, to be able to operate in this world.”
Parslow has wanted to do a one-day retreat for a while now, believing there is power in spending more time than just a single hour with her fellow leaders, to really carve yourself out from the demands of every day life and being completely focused on connecting, hearing stories, and being heard.
The retreat will be a mixture of different things but at its forefront: fun. The day will be filled with laughter, deep conversations, and insights from accomplished women leaders who’ve triumphed over challenges, Parslow said.
Since its founding SVWL has held seven events which include two networking events, now called “Connection Gatherings” — one on January 31, and another on May 17, two book clubs, and a series of virtual coffee chats.
Each Connection Gathering had about 50 attendees, half of which had never attended a Women in Leadership meeting before, Wendy Parslow said, which goes to show how the group has been picking up steam since founding in January.
The group also began introducing book clubs first reading Melinda Gates’ “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” then “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection” by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. The latter book asserts there exists an epidemic of loneliness that was only exacerbated by the pandemic, a perfect book to read in her group, Parslow noted, because the group strives to offer a sense of community for women in the area.
Women in Leadership will be continuing these book clubs throughout the year with Adam Grant’s “Think Again” in October and Brenne Brown’s “Dare to Lead” in November. Parslow noted that those interested in participating in these monthly book club discussion are not required to have had read the book, focusing less about conversation driven by the book itself and more on the book’s elements that are worthy of note.
“One of the things I discovered about this group is, getting a group of leaders together, you’re going to have smart people and motivated people,” said Parslow. “I had a handful of women reach out about really stepping in and facilitating a book club concept.”
Parslow has been listening attentively to the advice of attendees and applying their feedback to the structure of her gatherings. The event in May, for example, had what she calls “structured networking” which included various tables with different conversation topics hosted by a facilitator leading discussions.
At the group’s Fall Connection Gathering at the Meadowbrook Farm on Sept. 20, Parslow implemented a panel discussion with local leaders, from solo entrepreneurs; to local business owners; to employees at corporate offices, speaking on the topic of “leadership presence.”
Parslow, a North Bend resident, has committed to the ambitious goal of helping one million women be better leaders in the next 15 years. In addition to founding the Snoqualmie Valley Women in Leadership group, she is a member of the North Bend Economic Development Commission, which she joined feeling she needed to give back to her community. Her work with the Economic Development Commission works in tandem with her Women in Leadership group, she said, because inspiring women to pursue leadership roles, to open their own business for example, can help the Snoqualmie Valley’s overall economic growth.
Registration is now open for SVWL’s upcoming annual retreat. To register for it, or any other SVWL event, visit visit www.snovalleywomeninleadership.com or contact Wendy Parslow at firstname.lastname@example.org.