By Special Guest Writer Sara Weston, ENP, PMP
If I’ve learned one thing in the past year, and what a year it’s been, it’s this: if you can find your voice, you can use it to make a difference in this world. I’m Sara Weston and I founded the 911der Women Community (pronounced nine-one-wonder women). Our mission is to equip women with the tools to foster professional and personal growth. 911der Women is a community where women are empowered to contribute significantly to the public-safety industry and push through roadblocks in pursuit of their goals.
This month we celebrate our first anniversary, though I prefer to call it our “birthday” because… who doesn’t love a birthday cake? 911der Women is an online community for women who want to learn from and inspire one another. We have built a community to support and empower each other to grow, to reach outside our comfort zones and take one brave step at a time in the direction of our goals.
We envision an industry where women in 9-1-1 have expanded pathways to career advancement, leadership, and personal growth. An organization built from experience, 911der Women creates the opportunity for every woman to achieve her fullest potential through networking, peer support, mentoring, and education. Confident women in 9-1-1 benefit the public-safety community by showcasing their unique talents, professionalism and experiences. When women in 9-1-1 find their voice, they find their power.
I have been beyond fortunate in my 15 year career in 9-1-1 to meet some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known. Early in my career, I did not have access to many women mentors. I started 911der Women because I wanted to connect the dots between the incredible women that I know and women who do not have the opportunity to make the same connections. I wanted to provide women access to women mentors because I felt we were all struggling with the same issues. But what I didn’t anticipate was how all of the women in this community would change me. I couldn’t have imagined all of the support that pours from this amazing squad on a daily basis. I believe in the importance of women having a “squad” because women look out for other women. This is our code. This is how we draw more strength. This is what 911der Women has become, an amazing squad.
The women I have met through 911der Women have taught me more than I could ever teach them. I thought I understood what the need was, to build a community where we can talk to each other and learn from each other; what I didn’t realize is how much we needed this community. Our little Facebook group has opened up the floodgates for women, helping them realize what they want, but most importantly giving them courage to say what they want out loud and to take up the space they’ve earned in their workplace. Women sharing their stories are helping other women overcome similar obstacles. Every day I watch before my eyes connections being made, women celebrating victories big and small and getting answers to questions they didn’t know who to ask. I watch women gaining confidence by realizing they were always qualified. I see women realizing that other women believe in them, that they can do hard things. Women are learning that they are not alone – not in their struggles, not in their victories.
In its first year, 911der Women has evolved, and I too with it. We are both stronger, we both have more momentum; we both have deeper support. Yes, it’s a Facebook Group, but what is it really? It is a movement. Since last June, we have grown to over 4,550 members. We feature women in our “Spotlight Wonder Women of the Month”. We have a program called “Friday Liveday” where women sign up to go live on our Facebook group every Friday for about 15 minutes to share what’s on their hearts. This pushes women out of their comfort zones and allows them to share their valuable perspectives. We started Instagram and Twitter accounts but have also made huge strides to move beyond social media.
Our monthly Zoom calls allow us to learn from each other’s experiences in real time. We have swag, which is more than merchandise; it’s a symbol of our community. We have done in-person meet-ups and are planning for more. I recently started a program called “Listen and Learn” where we give black women in our group the mic to share their perspectives and answer questions from the group. We are committed to providing a platform where women are supported in their pursuit of education in an environment where they feel safe to do so.
To celebrate our first birthday, we unveiled a new logo and launched our very own website: 911derWomen.com. The website will allow men and women to learn more about our mission and support us, even if they aren’t on social media. It will be a place to grow and keep up to date on what’s happening in our community.
Women can join our community by finding our 911der Women Facebook Group by searching our name and requesting to join. Men and women can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @911derWomen, or go to 911derWomen.com for more information.
Join us as we sing Happy Birthday to 911der Women, loud and proud!
About the Author Sara Weston, ENP, PMP, is a Senior Project Consultant for 911 Authority, LLC, and the Founder of 911der Women. She has worked in the 9-1-1 community for 15 years. It is through her work across the country in and around 9-1-1 centers, state programs and federal projects that has revealed the need for stronger connections and mentorship within 9-1-1. Her work, and people she's met along the way, inspired this movement for uplifting and empowering women in 9-1-1.