Inforum was founded in 1962. Today, it is the only professional organization in Michigan—and one of a few in the country—that focuses on two things: accelerating careers for women and boosting talent initiatives for companies.
Inforum’s new member engagement manager, Melissa Birnie, is an enthusiastic promoter of Inforum’s mission who has experienced firsthand how enriching membership can be.
Before coming to work for Inforum, Birnie’s career included sixteen years with Verizon Wireless, in roles including customer service supervisor, corporate account executive, and business sales representative. Volunteering has played a big role in her life, and she is active in the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM), Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence (GRAPE), Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), and Career Transition Center West Michigan (CTCwm).
Birnie learned about Inforum’s inGAGE ™ program while attending an Inforum signature event. The inGAGE™ initiative helps women bring technology ventures to the marketplace. Birnie completed the program in June 2014, in the development stage of a business software application. “My involvement with this program and Inforum was life-changing, actually, so I decided to join the organization and share this positive experience with as many women as possible.”
Networking and training opportunities are two major benefits of membership. Birnie notes that Inforum’s networking opportunities help members make strategic and lasting connections. “Inforum members are professionals from all walks of life and in different life stages—from college students and young professionals, to corporate executives and retired business leaders. We foster relationships between individuals, small businesses, and corporate icons, and reach across companies, industries, and communities throughout the lower half of Michigan.”
Inforum Center for Leadership (ICL) is the education and research arm of Inforum, with programs that serve a broad range of professional women at different stages and types of careers—from emerging leaders, to high-potential executives, entrepreneurs, veterans, and corporate board leaders.
“Research shows that there is no difference in the leadership abilities of men and women, but there is a discernable difference when it comes to leadership development. Simply put, women can get farther, faster in a learning environment where participants have relatable experiences," Birnie said. "We are research-driven and always want to know the why and how, so our initiatives and programs spring from data—not opinions. Inforum Center for Leadership programs are aimed squarely at various inflection points in women’s careers where advancement stalls.”
The Inforum Center for Leadership, Birnie said, is developing a custom leadership program for returning women veterans, transitioning from active duty to the workplace. “Next4Vets will be designed to support companies and other organizations in the hiring and retention of women veterans. Additionally, Inforum’s extensive network of members and corporate investors across Michigan enables extraordinary connections for returning women veterans that can change one’s work—and influence one’s life.”
Birnie describes Inforum’s networking and training events as “engaging and welcoming,” offering the opportunity to establish connections, make job contacts, and train for readiness to serve on boards of directors and other leadership roles, all in a nonthreatening environment. “It absolutely changes your life."
In 2015, Inforum will mark a special milestone with its tenth anniversary in the West Michigan region and a yearlong celebration. Stay tuned!
To learn more about Inforum membership, click here.
Upcoming Inforum Event
“The Evolving Role of Philanthropy: Inspiring Stories, Real Impact,” will explore the meaning and long-term impact of philanthropy, from corporate strategy and social enterprises to next-generation giving. The event will feature Mike Jandernoa, past CEO of Perrigo Company; Eva Aguirre Cooper, community affairs director at WOOD TV8; Rob Collier, president of the Council of Michigan Foundations; Romy Gingras Kochan, founder and president of Gingras Global, LLC; Dr. Michael Moody, Frey Foundation chair for Family Foundations and Philanthropy at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at GVSU; Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation; and Carolyn Yarina, CEO and co-founder of Sisu Global Health. This event will be held Tuesday, September 16, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids. Click here for more information.