By Robin Doussard
Julie Harrelson, managing partner of technology consulting firm Ruby Communications in Southeast Portland, wished she’d had more mentoring when she was just starting out. That, and her desire to share what she has learned from 25 years in the business world, led her to join the board of NEW Leadership Oregon earlier this year.
“There’s a lot of core knowledge in being an entrepreneur that’s applicable in public service,” Harrelson says. “I want to help women build not only their leadership skills in the public and nonprofit world, but also in business entrepreneurship.”
Harrelson’s inclusion on the NEW Leadership board is no accident. As it enters its third year, the program is looking to broaden its scope to include business mentors for its attendees, according to Trish Hamilton, director of development and external relations for Portland State University. Hamilton is an ex-officio member of the board, and helps raise funds for the program, which is housed in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government.
This year the program is trying to broaden the appeal to women who are looking for leadership training — or mentoring — in business, in addition to the political and nonprofit realms. Hamilton says that along with that comes a call to businesswomen throughout the state to contact the program and learn more about becoming a mentor.
NEW (for National Education for Women’s) Leadership Oregon was created in 2003 as a way to find, mentor and train future women leaders. The program is meant to connect past and current women office holders with college women in order to educate and encourage them to become politically active and take on leadership roles on their campuses, and after they leave college.
Every summer, NEW Leadership hosts a six-day training program at PSU to introduce 30-35 college women — of all ages — to public leadership. Political leaders such as former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Multnomah County Commissioner Serena Cruz Walsh and state representative Carolyn Tomei currently sit on the advisory board, in addition to such business leaders as Carol Robinson of the Oregon Business Association, Lillian Tsai of Tsai Communications and Harrelson.
“Basic mentorship for women just isn’t happening now,” Harrelson says. “Women are just thrown into things and are expected to just have to figure it out.”
“The best thing this program does for women is that is shows them the possibilities,” says Hamilton, adding that the intersection of the political world and the business world needs to be strengthened. “They really work hand-in-hand,” she says.
This year’s program is set for June 22-27. For more information on the program, contact Melody Rose, executive director of NEW Leadership, at 503.725.3137. Any woman enrolled in an Oregon college or university is eligible, and there is an application fee. Deadline for application is April 14.
For more information, go to www.newleadershiporegon.org.