Women support each other in new business, leadership groups

Throughout Jeanne Porter’s professional career, she discovered that the one thing that kept resonating with her was the need for women to seek out meaningful relationships with other women and help one another succeed, both in business and in life.

“I worked for the Green County Juvenile Court and started the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program,” Porter said. “And after 12 years there, I planned to join a friend in a furniture company business.”

Though Porter officially “retired” from Greene County in 2007, she continued to develop a deep interest in professional connections and in 2008, she attended a leadership conference in Columbus that became the inspiration for a new endeavor. Designed to encourage more women to enter the political arena, the conference also focused on women in business and how they could support one another.

“I loved the camaraderie among women and thought it would be awesome to bring a women’s group to Dayton focused on business,” Porter said.

Porter researched other networks across the country and in Canada. The best advice she received was to find something that would set her group apart.

“I allowed that one thing to lead me,” Porter said.

In 2008, she founded Women in Business Networking (WiBN) a group that would grow considerably over the years. From just 35 attendees at the first conference in May of 2008, today WiBN not only hosts an annual conference, but also 150 events all across the local area and an annual Top 25 Women to Watch awards event, recognizing women who have made an impact on others and in business.

“Dayton has several events that recognize high profile women doing great things,” Porter said. “But I thought there are so many other women doing great things who aren’t high profile. They should be recognized too.”

“The growth of WiBN was amazing,” Porter said. “We had more than 50 women volunteering, and I didn’t want it to go away when I moved on, so we talked to the Better Business Bureau to see if we could merge together.”

Porter remained founder and president of WiBN for two years after the merger but in 2016, she and her husband, Mike, decided move to Sarasota, Florida.

“WiBN was an intensive part of my life for six years and I missed it terribly,” Porter said. “I began praying and asking God to show me what was next for my life.”

Porter said her life, like the lives of many who retire, became very quiet. And she found it difficult to sit still and listen. But that’s what she knew she most needed to do.

“I spent a lot of time in prayer, and I studied and read,” Porter said. “I hadn’t seen anyone I knew from Dayton except on Facebook for more than four years.”

Then Porter’s friend Pam Cone asked her if she would do a webinar promoting a new program. After discussing the webinar, Cone advised Porter that it was “time to do something with your gifts and talents.”

“I felt like God was speaking through her,” Porter said.

That was in 2020, when the world of personal relationships was forever changed. Porter at first believed that she needed to start a Christian Women’s group in Sarasota. She began by researching churches in the area and sending letters to ministry directors.

“I woke up one morning and knew that God wanted me to do this across the nation and the world, not just in Sarasota,” Porter said.

Porter founded Women in Christian Leadership (WiCL) in 2020 but didn’t make it official until it became an LLC in January of 2021.

And similar to her previous undertakings, WiCL started growing quickly. At the same time, Porter and her husband, who raised five children together — Michelle, Kim, James, Michael and Steve —decided to return to Ohio to be closer to family and friends.

The Porters consider themselves lifelong Daytonians and over the years had lived around the country from Casa Grande in Arizona to San Diego to Sarasota, Florida .

Today, WiCL has an 11-person advisory board with members hailing from as far away as New Zealand and is hosting virtual events monthly and a weekly in-person breakfast. A new mentorship program ran a pilot last fall. There is also a podcast – “It’s Her Story.”

Porter said everyone, but women in particular, has been conditioned over the years not to discuss religion or faith in the workplace. Her goal is to encourage, educate and elevate women to help them live authentically through the love of Christ.

“I have always believed that women need to support other women,” Porter said. “We have come a long way from the pandemic and women are hungry for sisterhood and for a safe place to talk about their faith and their businesses.”

For more information, log on to https://womeninchristianleadership.wildapricot.org/

About the Author