By Leeann Stamper

Metropolitan Bank attracted 100 influential women leaders from the Jackson area to their first Women’s Forum Breakfast this past April. Metropolitan is a seven-year-old bank that recently reached $1 billion in assets, and boasts a very strong core of women leaders. With this in mind, a few of Metropolitan’s leaders, Pam Ware, Chief Operations and Information Technology Officer, and Leanne Stamper, Group Administrative Officer, conceived the plan to host the first Metropolitan Women’s Forum.

“When Pam and I started brainstorming about the event, we envisioned a small group of 12 to 15 women,” said Stamper. “We thought we would hold an intimate breakfast in the board room at our Highland Colony office in Ridgeland. As we shared our idea with others it quickly became clear that we wanted to do this for more than just a small group. There are so many wonderful women leaders in our community that there was no way to reach them all with one event, but with the incredible response to the initial event, this forum certainly won’t be the last.”

“At Metropolitan Bank, we are so blessed to have such a nurturing culture where our associates are encouraged to work together as a team and ultimately make a positive difference in our organization. Our leadership team has always allowed us to make a positive difference to others in the community, more than just being someone’s banker,” said Stamper.

Olivia Martin, keynote speaker and Curt Gabardi, CEO of Metropolitan greeted the overflowing crowd of enthusiastic business women.

Guests enjoyed a presentation from organization training consultant and leadership coach, Olivia Martin, President of LivMore. Martin’s presentation, “Transitions—Learn How to Live in the Rain,” and her discussion touched on topics such as empowering others, time management, mentoring, negotiating, and succession planning. The ladies were welcomed by a theme designed by Stamper with help from Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Catering. The theme was consistent with Olivia’s topic including parasols in bright colors suspended from the Duling Hall ceiling, and abundant flowers while being served a “high-tea” style breakfast.

“This was such a fun event,” said Martin. “I am drawn to Metropolitan’s culture. The launch of this program speaks to Metropolitan’s innovative and empowering spirit. The added bonus is that these folks are delightful to work with. They hosted a tremendous event which I was happy to be a part of.”

“The more Leanne and I talked about this idea and brought other ideas in, we realized we shared a passion for bringing together a group of influential women together to energize and empower each other through a sharing of information,” said Ware. “Women today are so busy managing family, careers, and busy social calendars. I know I always need help managing my time—and knowing how to better respond when things don’t fall into place according to my plan! Olivia’s presentation was exactly what we had envisioned when this idea began.”

Table-SettingAttendee Lauren McGraw, businesswoman and owner of Gotta Go said of the morning, “Metropolitan Bank knows how to put on a first-class event. Their first Women’s Forum was educational and informative. Duling Hall was packed with powerful women and high energy.”

Metropolitan believes this is the start of something with a lasting impact. At the event, guests were provided with a response card to indicate interest in participating in small groups to further the conversation started at the forum. “We had a tremendous response,” added Ware. “In September 2015, we had our first small group meetings.”

During three separate meetings, the attendees focused on continuing on the path that was originally discussed in the April meeting, with the topic being “Defining Life’s Purpose.” Olivia opened the group with the William Barkley quote “There are two great days in a person’s life. The day we are born and the day we discover why.” She then asked the attendees to answer the simple question, “What makes you smile?”

Table-SettingWith a great deal of discussion, the group focused on topics of self-awareness, motivation, dreams, and life time experiences, and discussed what each of our natural gifts and talents are—as well as what each of us struggle with the most. The group also discussed where we spend the majority of energy, and what additional things we would like to learn about and ultimately create.

During this process of the discussion, the ladies began building their own personal mission statement. Penni Cooper of Canizaro Cathon Davis said, “Women today are busier and wear more hats than ever before! Metropolitan Women’s Forum has allowed me to be enlightened by other women who are just as busy as I am. The women who are part of the group know how to manage their work, family, and spiritual lives with ease—and that has been such an encouragement to me.”

Ware said, “No doubt our first small group session was a success. At Metropolitan Bank, we want to be a part of developing even stronger women leaders as well as helping to build great places to work in our community—and we believe that the Women’s Forum is the perfect forum to accomplish our goal.”

The series of events was such a success the group of Metropolitan associates decided to form a steering committee of ladies that were not affiliated with the Bank. The committee consists of Susan Frazier, Community Foundation of Greater Jackson; Padra Reeves, Mississippi Health Partners; Misti Preziosi, Mississippi State Treasurer, Lynn Fitch’s Office; and Penni Cooper, Canizaro Cawthon Davis Architects.

Of the events, Preziosi says, “Metropolitan Women’s Forum provides an opportunity for women leaders to learn about themselves, learn from each, and empower one another. I look forward to every event with these amazing women, and leave feeling energized and excited for the next time we get together. I have formed many wonderful new relationships, both personal and professional, and feel so blessed to be a part of this group.”

Leeann is a Group Administrative Officer with Metropolitan Bank. She lives in Madison with her husband, Nathan, and son, Rush.

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