Keisha Seals was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic when she realized she had never seen women working for the City of Sugar Land look or feel so overwhelmed. Seals, the City of Sugar Land’s Assistant Director for Environmental and Neighborhood Services, recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was unlike anything Sugar Land employees had ever seen (or the world for that matter).
COVID ramped up, and the duties of being a full-time parent and full-time employee were at odds.
“Women were losing themselves in the moment,” Seals said. “I decided that I wanted to create a safe space for dynamic, professional women to have meaningful conversations and address issues we are facing every day, with someone.” I wanted other women to know that, we see you and that you’re not alone in this.
With that, the Women’s Empowerment Network, a group aimed at empowering women through meaningful conversation, workshops, and relationship building, was born.
“We wanted women of the city to join,” Tia Moore, the City’s Information Process Technician and WEN planning team member, said. “Women are on the front line, especially women who are trailblazers and want to talk about certain topics that women go through that men perhaps don’t. Women aren’t just workers – we’re more than that.”
The group hosts events and activities for employees touching on aspects that look at women as a whole, such as health and wellness, financial stability, and reclaiming a vision for your life. The planning team brainstorms topics that allows employees to see how beneficial and needed women are in every aspect of the workforce from administration to women on the front line like fire, dispatchers and police.
The City currently employs 261 women. WEN, which opened its doors to members in January 2021, has seen quick growth throughout the organization with more than 80 members from across the city’s organization, joining the initiative.
“Me being young, I decided to join WEN to get advice and figure out how to succeed in the organization,” Moore said. “I wanted to be a part of a group who understands me as a person. We’ve had meetings where we talk, feelings come out one minute and then the next we’re all laughing together. It’s an unbreakable bond. I’ve learned so much in the past year just from all the discussions we’ve had.”
And while WEN is an internal group only for Sugar Land employees, its reach effects Sugar Land residents too.
“When women have an outlet, when they have something to gravitate to, it makes them better employees,” Seals said. “We want to make sure that Sugar Land residents know the City is stepping outside the box and having professional women doing all these things to better themselves on behalf of the residents.”
Moore said the goal is to try and expand the group to touch more than city employees.
“I think us having this platform to be able to reach out to women is super important and powerful,” Moore said. “We can really change some stuff here in Sugar Land. I think if we do community events and volunteering, other companies will be inspired by us and encouraged to start their own women’s empowerment network.”
Both Seals and Moore agree that while women, in the past have been silent voices in the room, they are continuing the work on building the necessary platforms to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future.
“There are plenty of women leaders inside and outside the organization,” Moore said. “One day, some of us will be gone, but our legacy will still be there.”