After two years of canceled events due to COVID-19, NAWBO’s Phoenix chapter hit the ground running with a return to in-person. While in years past, the chapter typically concluded the fiscal year with a gala to celebrate accomplishments and conduct a board transition, this year was different. This year was about advocacy.
With a gubernatorial election approaching in Arizona, NAWBO Phoenix wanted to ensure women business owners were being represented and informed about the future of their state. “We thought this was a unique opportunity to go to NAWBO National’s Advocacy Days, hear from other chapters what national issues are playing out on their state levels and see what we’re feeling in Arizona,” says NAWBO Phoenix President Ania Kubicki. “Then, to be able to ask the gubernatorial candidates their thoughts on where these issues will play out in Arizona.”
With the critical goal of securing bipartisan participation, the chapter featured all but one (though everyone was invited) of the gubernatorial candidates for a forum to discuss issues important to women business owners. To keep candidates on topic and within time limits, a third-party moderator (and professional lawyer) was used. “He really went at it as if he was representing the voice of businesswomen, not just letting candidates use the time to campaign,” Ania says. “Regardless of party lines, he brought the focus back to what’s really good for women in business.”
The result? “We made history,” Ania says. “No other organization had managed to bring both sides to the table. It was incredible. The candidates were so respectful of each other. Everyone noticed that they learned so much about the candidates because of the way we framed the questions. People loved the opportunity to drill down the answers and that we had both sides represented.”
The event also was a great symbol of what’s possible when we come together. NAWBO Phoenix has encouraged members to ask questions about issues affecting them and to reach out to other networks (including NAWBO’s Tucson chapter) for support in advocating for women. In fact, the Phoenix chapter began holding regular outreach sessions with local legislators to find out how politicians are incentivizing women to be in business in Arizona. That outreach has since expanded to the governor’s office.
“It’s so important to know: There are more people willing to help than we realize,” Ania says. “We just have to ask them. We have made such progress in letting people know how important the voice of women business owners is to the health and economy of our state. We’re building a wave in NAWBO and if you say you’re with NAWBO, people will listen.”
While “advocacy” can be an intimidating word, Ania hopes that more NAWBO members realize how critical it is to everyone. “Advocacy is incredibly important because it provides a more active role in shaping our livelihoods,” she says. “It impacts our funding, our businesses and the wellbeing of our families. We need to know that when we advocate for change, it will happen. We live in a day and age where policies are changing and women are impacted. It’s on us to challenge and make change.”
Ania’s Tips for Improving Chapter Advocacy
- Attend NAWBO National’s monthly Advocacy calls and find an issue that is relevant to business owners in your state.
- Understand your state’s election cycles.
- Get to know all political candidates.
- Make sure to hear from all perspectives in a diplomatic way (i.e. a forum).
- Keep it bipartisan and address differences of opinion to smooth out advocacy efforts.