Women's Connection chair Heidi Parkhurst greets supporter gathered Thursday for the announcement of the alignment of the Quad-City-based Women's Connection and the statewide Iowa Women Lead Change organizations.


The Quad-Cities' 20-year-old Women's Connection is joining forces with Iowa Women Lead Change, a statewide women's leadership organization, the groups jointly announced Thursday. 

At a news conference in downtown Davenport, the organizations unveiled a new alignment between Iowa Women Lead Change, or IWLC, and Women's Connection.

"IWLC and Women's Connection are now one organization," said Tiffany O'Donnell, the state organization's chief operating officer. The organization will be known as IWLC-The Women's Connection locally.

"This organization stands on your shoulders,'' she said during the announcement at the Quad-Cities Chamber office. "IWLC has long admired the work and mission of the Women’s Connection. We are proud to align with an organization with such a rich tradition and legacy of women’s personal and professional development."

O'Donnell, a Bettendorf native, was particularly proud to have her hometown organization join IWLC, headquartered in Cedar Rapids. The state organization has regional offices in Des Moines, Sioux City, Dubuque and now the Quad-Cities, where it will hire a regional manager. In addition to Iowans, it serves the border states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska and now Illinois.

Diane Ramsey, IWLC's chief executive officer, said it began 10 years ago when a group of women formed the Iowa Women's Leadership Conference. Since it began, the conference has served more than 17,000 people.

"We are entirely focused on women's leadership," she said. "We are dedicated to the advancement, promotion and development of women and their organizations, and impacting the greater regional economy."

By aligning, IWLC-The Women's Connection can expand the scope and reach of development programming for Quad-City women leaders and their organizations.

O'Donnell said the organization will continue to host the Women's Connection signature events, including the upcoming Athena Awards, an International Author event and the new Seat At The Table dinners. In 2018, the Quad-Cities will host a leadership conference.

Women's Connection chair Heidi Parkhurst, also a member of the IWLC board, said Women's Connection had strengths as a networking and development organization but "we recognized we could not do it all.''

Now, she said, Quad-City women will have access more leadership development opportunities. "This is truly a collaboration. We are taking the best of both organizations." She suggested that some of the Women's Connection's "winning events" could expand statewide, including Seat At The Table mentoring events.

Unlike Women's Connection, IWLC is not a membership organization. Participants do pay to attend its events, and for 2017 members will continue to receive member discounts.

Applauding the work of the Women's Connection, Pat Shouse, UnityPoint Health Trinity's vice president of patient and community advocacy, said, "It is important to UnityPoint's values to provide opportunities to our current and emerging female leaders that will inspire and engage them to continue to grow both professionally and personally."

UnityPoint, a Women's Connection sponsor since 1998, has been aligned with IWLC statewide.