[Image: Word cloud from the recent CWN Virtual Networking event on September 30, in response to "how are you feeling today."]

This post was written by OFN Blog guest author Vicky Stein, co-founder of the CWN and Vice President of Policy & Strategic Partnerships, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA

The CDFI Women’s Network (CWN) was founded in 2016 on a simple concept—women in our industry are looking for ways to connect, share, and learn from each other. With the onset of the coronavirus, this need has only increased and the CWN is stepping up to meet the need. However, our mission remains the same. We seek to promote the role of women in the CDFI industry, foster their professional success, and mentor emerging practitioners. 

Since our launch four years ago, 15 local chapters have been formed and held close to 40 in-person and 4 virtual networking events across the country. Additionally, we have convened twice annually for the CDFI Women’s Network Breakfast—each June at OFN’s Small Business Finance Forum in Chicago and again in the fall at the OFN Conference. When the country locked down in March, CWN’s Professional Development and Operations Committees collaborated to help our network pivot to online meetings, providing new resources to help members meet the challenges of the “new normal.” The Programming Committee conducted a survey to understand what priorities were most important to our membership. Our findings led to the first virtual networking event on September 30 with more than 100 women participating from across the country. This event brought us back together again and reminded us we are still a powerful support system. Women were able to meet, share, and encourage each other in a new virtual community. 

We also followed the lead of the Philadelphia CWN chapter and a recent event they organized to respond to the current moment. In July, they had offered a virtual workshop on “extreme self-care” which received strong interest, even beyond Philadelphia! Knowing how much CWN members are juggling in this new environment, we decided to offer this workshop to our national CWN community. On October 30, more than 90 women participated in a virtual workshop on “Needs, Values and Boundaries” to help us take better care of ourselves in the unprecedented time. Why is this so important? The answer is because women who work for and with CDFIs are on the front lines, juggling their families, their jobs, and their unwavering commitment to underserved communities and people. We know the pandemic is hitting the most vulnerable communities and populations the hardest. This is the time we need to look to each other to keep us strong, positive, and productive.

While we will miss seeing you in person at the annual OFN Conference, please join us for a virtual gathering on Tuesday, November 10, from 5:30–7:00 PM ET for The CDFI Women's Network: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!

This special event is open to all women and non-binary people attending the virtual OFN Conference 2020: Finance Justice, November 9-12. Learn more on the OFN Conference site agenda and register here.


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