“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s the power of using your voice.” — Michelle Obama
In honor of Women’s History Month, we thought we would reflect back on the history and voices of WIPN. Who better to hear from than three of the earliest members ─ Founder Ann Schleck, First President Ami Tully Lotka and Founding Chapter member Amy Glynn. Their stories shared below are our collective histories as WIPN moves forward supported by our new proprietary research to change the status quo and make room for all women in the retirement industry.
It should come as no surprise that the genesis of WIPN began by a conversation amongst colleagues and longtime friends in the retirement industry who found themselves at another conference in a sea of men. It was 2008 and the economy was not doing well with lay-offs and providers facing staffing challenges. According to Ann Schleck, “Several colleagues were unemployed, underemployed and needed connections. The idea was simple… let’s find a way to share connections and contribute to the industry we all love so much. So, we decided to form a networking group.” Ann is credited with launching the idea of a forum for women in the retirement plan industry. She decided not to be the first President as she felt that getting the organization off the ground was her best contribution. And, she did it!
Ami Tully Lotka adds more details. “It was an idea that started while we were all together at Ann’s house. An idea that grew quickly. Women stepped up to form committees, get organized, develop a mission statement, a brand, a logo, and a membership strategy. We formed a small working launch team. As a grassroots organization, I negotiated with Phil Cirocotti to get our first WIPN meeting during his annual fall CFDD conference in Scottsdale. He gave us an opportunity to spread the word.”
The WIPN launch happened easily because there was a demand for this shared experience and so many amazing women pitched in to make it happen. Other founding members included industry leaders Sue Kelley, Donna Wong, Laura Moskwa, Barb Cantello, Sheri Fitts, Mary Jo Baumann, Marcia Wagner and Denise Diana.
“We knew one thing for sure. There was a big desire to create a Women’s Network to provide the kind of benefits that the “Boys Club” provided,” continued Ami. “We said from the very beginning, we had nothing against men. In fact, we love men and most of us had been fully supported in our careers by male mentors. It was not about them. It was about US. Women wanted to feel more connected to other professional women. We wanted the understanding, empathy and power that comes from being linked professionally and personally in a place where we could learn and grow. Over the years with WIPN, we have shared solutions to business issues, recommended thought-provoking reading material, and even shared recipes…all in one phone call!”
Amy Glynn adds, “I am most proud of the respect, recognition and support we have received from the industry as well as the advocacy from men in our business. In the early years, it was important for WIPN to strike a strong open-minded and inclusive position in our industry and we do! Our national presence and Local Chapters continue to bloom and the rest is HERSTORY!”
Ami Tully Lotka said it best, “WIPN is a forum not just to be heard but to be with the women who could read between the lines and get you, support you, cheer for you, and give you a hand. With joy. And grace. That’s WIPN!”