THE CHANGING FACE OF CHAMBERS
By Sergio Chapa – Reporter, San Antonio Business Journal
Dec 8, 2017, 6:46am
Editor's Note: The following Q&A is an online companion to the San Antonio Business Journal's Dec. 8 cover story about the women who will lead local chambers of commerce in 2018.
Sarah Becher, an engineer and audiovisual designer at Alterman Technologies, will continue her two-year term as board chairwoman leading the San Antonio Women's Chamber of Commerce in January. Her top priority for the New Year will be ensuring that the organization continues to shine as a center of knowledge, networking and camaraderie for its 200 members.
How does the Women’s Chamber view and approach diversity? We have already become an organization which celebrates what each person brings to the table. Our members are from all walks of life, such as entrepreneurs, engineers, former educators and superintendents, corporate staff, nonprofit staff and students, to name a few. We have male members also who periodically bring their daughters and/or wives to our events. Students and members can network in a friendly, helpful and fun environment regardless of what their vocation or gender is.
What changes will you make to the chamber as chair? With our creation of the SA Women's Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we are going to be able to increase our donation to our annual charity of choice, enhance our mentorship outreach program and create scholarships for students and women re-entering the workforce. Our foundation is just getting started, so keep tuned for more to come.
What leadership roles do you see women taking in San Antonio’s business community? There are not enough women in upper leadership roles in our nation in general. That's a shame because women have always been very good at promoting and supporting people in their businesses and in the community. We believe that there is enough business in the San Antonio metro area for everyone. The more successful our women are, the happier and productive they are in their home life and work life. The more happy and productive they are, the more people they can hire and support in our community. That is a win-win for everyone.
How will you and the chamber empower more women to step into leadership roles? Our board members are volunteers. Because most women already have a full plate with a full-time job, family, taking care of parents, we stress that if everyone does a little, the chance that someone will become overwhelmed is minimized. Many of our board members are leaders in their work or volunteer life and typically already have experience of the format and expectations of being on a board. Our entry-level board position, director at large, allows someone to participate in board meetings and assist any of our committees who need an extra hand on an upcoming event. When they are ready, they become the leader of a committee.
In what areas of San Antonio’s business community do women need to make more progress? Your question is very relevant. Believe it or not, there are still some women who just need the confidence to grab the opportunity. I think there is still gender bias in some industries. My career as an engineer was not a smooth one. When I began, I was not supposed to want to be an engineer. Luckily, my parents told all five of us children to pick what we were passionate about, what we could make a living at, and then be the best. What is a relief is that many of our leaders, regardless of their gender, grew up with working mothers. They are less biased toward gender, religion and ethnicity, and that is a great way to be.
How will you and the chamber facilitate that progress? We celebrate that we are the leader when it comes to providing quality leadership programs for the members of our community. Our programs feature prominent members of our community, and focus on their stories of success and tricks of the trade for getting ahead. We match that speaker up with training for business skills such as managing people [and] teams; project management; recognizing, rewarding and supporting fellow employees’ best attributes; and coping with difficult situations and challenges that we come across as a worker, leader, parent, as well as the special nuances as a woman in the workforce.
What are your thoughts when you see the numbers from all the chambers? We are not in competition with any of the chambers. People can join multiple chambers if they desire. Our focus is to provide the best possible chamber for our members. We are an extremely great value. Our small business, nonprofit and student membership fee is very low. Members and event sponsors quickly receive a return on their investment through the amenities and quality of programs that we provide as an organization. Corporate members use our leadership programs as awards for their managers and those they are grooming for leadership positions with great success.
In 10 words or less, what are your top priorities for 2018? To be the best chamber for knowledge, networking and camaraderie.