Women’s group takes advantage of momentum

New association incorporates other groups to reach out to more women.

Members of the newly-formed Martha's Vineyard Women's Association board. From left, Diane Carr, Grace Robinson, Alison Wilson, Ellen Gaskill, Mary Jean Connelly and Rachel Ben-David.

In an effort to capitalize on movements over the past year through like #metoo and the women’s march, the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Association is looking to empower the next generation of Island women.

The new association, announced Tuesday night at the Grill on Main in Edgartown, builds upon other groups like Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network, CEO, and Women Empowered, association president Rachel BenDavid told The Times. “We’ve rebranded,” she said. “We want to be more inclusive.”

To that end, there will not be a fee to be a part of the association. “It deterred people from joining,” Ms. BenDavid said about the donations suggested for organizations like CEO. “It’s about all women reaching out. You don’t just have to be a business owner.”

There was no conscious effort to exclude women from those other groups, but people looked at them as being only for entrepreneurs or business owners. “That’s still a part of who we are,” Ms. BenDavid said.

But the nonprofit wants to help with other things, like Saturday’s women’s march, for example.

Other members of the association’s board include vice president Grace Robinson, clerk Alison Wilson, treasurer Ellen Gaskill, Diane Carr, and Mary Jean Connelly.

The hope is to reach women 18 to 26 years old find their place by being mentors to them and supporting them. “We want to help them throughout their lives,” Ms. BenDavid said.

But there’s also a whole retirement community to tap into for women with experiences to share, she said. “They have so much to offer, so much insight,” she said. “We have so much diversity on this Island, we want to make sure people have access to that.”

The women’s movement over the past year has definitely served as an inspiration for the association, Ms. BenDavid said. While some women have shattered the glass ceiling, there is still room to grow, she said. There is also a feeling with the #metoo movement that other women won’t have to face the sexual harassment so prevalent in the business world. “That’s exciting,” Ms. BenDavid said.

In the spirit of being inclusive, Ms. BenDavid wants people to know the M.V. Women’s Association is not just for women. “It’s not closed to men,” she said. “Anyone who wants to be a part of it can be a part of it.”

The group plans to hold monthly morning meetings at places like Hob Knob, but will also be holding evening meetings at restaurants across the Island. There will be conferences and workshops planned throughout the year, as well.

The best place to keep up with what’s happening is on the association’s Facebook page, Ms. BenDavid said.