A new nonprofit aimed at empowering and engaging local women got off to a resounding start earlier this spring.
Nearly 100 women came to the first gathering of She Unites at the end of April at The Smokestack in Dubuque. The organization aims to bring together women from across the tri-state area to engage in women-centric conversations and make new connections.
“I feel like when you bring women together to the table and have things like that available, I think ideas get moved,” said Natalie Finley, who co-founded the group with Adele Herman.
Attendees grabbed drinks and mingled before the event officially began. Later, Finley led a presentation titled, “Finding Your Why.” She encouraged the women at the venue to ask themselves to explore what makes them feel fulfilled and what factors guide their decisions.
“After 2020, I think a lot of people went through a lot of hardship,” Finley said ahead of the event. “It’s really challenging to ask yourself hard questions and ask why you’re getting out of bed in the morning.”
Finley and Herman told attendees they couldn’t believe the turnout for the group’s first event.
Amanda Sifuentes-Smith, one of those in attendance, said she recently moved back to Dubuque and decided to come after seeing the event on Facebook. While she lived in Dubuque when she was a student at Loras College, she said she was still new to living her adult life in there.
“I thought it was a neat concept to create a space for women to empower women,” Sifuentes-Smith said.
Finley said she came up with the idea for the organization because she wanted a better way to connect with women in the community. She and Herman — who met last year — both believed those connections were missing in their lives since they each moved to Dubuque several years ago, Finley said.
“I feel like it got started because both Adele and I were transplants, we didn’t work traditional 9-to-5 jobs,” Finley said. “She Unites was kind of born out of a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), to be honest with you.”
She Unites officially launched in January with a four-member board that plans monthly gatherings. People who want to attend events don’t have to pay any fees, though donations are accepted, Finley said.
She said she wanted to create an organic space where women can discuss their lives, successes and struggles.
“I do feel like there’s probably a lot of workplace scenarios where women don’t get to talk as much or speak up as much — that’s just the reality,” Finley said. “This is a place for women to speak and be educated.”
Sarah Jackman, of Dubuque, said before the event started that she wasn’t sure what exactly was planned, but she came because she wanted to meet new people.
“Some of my friends have moved away, I’ve got two young kids, I’m teaching,” she said. “I just wanted to get out of the house.”
Elise Eisbach, of Dubuque, heard about the event on Facebook and came with several friends.
“I just like the idea of meeting new people and being able to socialize without the pressure of networking,” Eisbach said.
Future gatherings for She Unites will be held on the third Wednesday of each month at The Smokestack, Finley said. Meetings will feature presentations by women in the community, touching on topics such as finding healthy habits and social skills after the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting one’s energy in stressful work atmospheres.
Looking ahead, Finley said She Unites leaders would love to give back to a local women’s organization and hold a workshop in 2022, though no official plans have been made.
For now, though, the focus lies in bringing women in the community together.
“I think people are just excited to be in a space together,” Finley said. “People are just so excited to be together.”
Kayli Reese writes for the Telegraph Herald.