Leading Ladies

Womentoring assists valley women in becoming leaders.


Leading Ladies

Katharine Conover, left, was Melissa Turley’s mentor in the inaugural Womentoring class. Photo by Price Chambers

Elisabeth Rohrbach, Rendezvous Lands Conservancy’s managing park director, secured her first nonprofit leadership position before her thirtieth birthday. It was the first time she had been recruited to oversee an organization. It was also her first experience managing a flexible yet demanding schedule and negotiating the salary she wanted to earn. “We talked concretely about asking for whatever you feel you need,” Rohrbach says of a mentoring group she was involved with at the time she transitioned. “In addition to hearing success stories, I also felt like I had allies going forward. I felt like they were rooting for me.”

Womentoring launched with eight mentor/mentee pairs. Today, sixteen mentor/mentee pairs are chosen annually—the program runs from September to May—through a competitive application and thoughtful matchmaking process. For the past three years, only about half of the applicants have received a slot. Womentoring’s alumna network, including mentees and mentors, now numbers nearly two hundred, many of whom keep in contact via periodic, small group dinners.

Each mentoring term starts with a group dinner where the mentor/mentee pairs are announced. Tanya Mark, a personal trainer, nutritionist, and massage therapist, felt “nervous and excited” that September night in 2007 when she discovered Shelley Simonton, the then-executive director of the Jackson Hole Energy Sustainability Project, was her mentor. Despite their differing careers, the two were a perfect match. “I found it supervaluable to have an outside perspective,” says Mark, who in 2011 founded her own wellness coaching business, Body Nourishment Wisdom. Mark and Simonton met regularly over tea, lunch, or a walk and “discussed salary negotiations, self-worth, and designing my work hours around what I wanted my life to be like,” Mark says.

Womentoring is the professional mentoring component of Womentum, a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering women. Madelaine German, the soulful voice behind the band Maddy and the Groove Spots, reached a point in her life where, “I knew I wanted more from both myself and my relationships,” she says. That’s when she applied to be a Womentoring mentee. “I wanted to be surrounded by women who were leading the kind of life I envisioned,” says German, who was in the class of 2014.

County Commissioner Melissa Turley was not only one of the founders of Womentum, but was also in the inaugural class of mentees. She had recently taken over the board presidency at Girls Actively Participating! and wanted to learn how to chair a nonprofit board. Turley was paired with Katharine Conover, Community Foundation of Jackson Hole’s president. By the time her stint as a mentee was over, Turley had sharpened her management and budget skills, and also decided to run for public office. At Womentoring’s annual May wrap-up, Turley announced her candidacy for Town Council. “Wanting representation, but also knowing I was growing my network, helped me feel empowered,” she says.

When Turley was elected in 2006, she was the only woman out of the ten elected members of the Town Council and County Commission. Today, including Turley (a Teton County Commissioner since 2012), there are four women on these boards. Town Councilwoman Hailey Morton (since 2012) is also a Womentoring alumna. Beyond Turley and Morton, nearly one dozen Womentoring alumnae are civic leaders: Wyoming State Representative Ruth Ann Petroff, County Commissioners Barbara Allen and Smokey Rhea, and County Treasurer Donna Baur, to name a few.
Approximately ten Womentoring alumnae hold executive director positions in local nonprofits, including Grand Teton National Park Foundation (Leslie Mattson), Latino Resource Center (Sonia Capece), and Teton Raptor Center (Amy McCarthy). Alumnae also own local businesses. The Womentoring class of 2013 alone included two of them: While still mentees, Ali Cohane opened Persephone Bakery Boulangerie & Cafe, and Jessica Marlo founded Healthy Being Juicery. “To feel the overwhelming support and excitement from all the members of Womentum as we were opening the cafe was an incredible boost of confidence,” Cohane says. womentumwyo.org

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