Really Smart Women Mix Pleasure and Business

by Heather Cassell (San Francisco)

Women lined the bar three rows deep and enjoyed hors d’œuvres strategically placed in the narrow walkway created by a five-foot wood wall that separated the restaurant from the bar. We were all there for Smart Women Get Together, a traveling monthly social business networking event for San Francisco Bay Area businesswomen.

“It’s great to be a part of a program that creates great dialogue and discussion with the attendees,” Katz said.

The forum is a hit. Smart Women Get Together draws an estimated 50 to 70 women to each event which has been hosted in Marin, the Silicon Valley area, the San Francisco peninsula, and San Francisco, according to Catherine Pinkas, business financial advisor of Sage Financial Network, and Betty Sullivan of Betty’s List, an e-mail and online information service of Sullivan Communications, Inc., who organize the event. The event is usually hosted at a women-owned restaurant with a featured female business or community leader. That night the featured leader was former San Francisco supervisor and political consultant Leslie Katz, who was there to speak about the importance of mentoring.

“The format is simple, but the message that it sends is powerful and inspires,” said Annie Kretowicz, former board president of San Jose Pride, who hosted an event after attending several gatherings.

Smart Women Get Together started six years ago after Pinkas, who also teaches at the University of California Extension, noticed that her female students liked meeting each other and expressed that they wanted to continue to meet. This sparked her thinking about ways to bring smart, educated businesswomen together.

“These people had done a lot of social groups,” Pinkas said, “but not a lot of networking together…and they were such wonderful resources together.”

Pinkas approached Sullivan about hosting social networking events for businesswomen that went beyond socializing and networking, but presented female “model mentors” from the business and political world who would speak briefly on a focused topic, she said. Sullivan added that another goal was to host the events at women-owned or managed restaurants and bars. The networking event quickly blossomed adding in a unique way to the handful of professional women’s networking events in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Women like to work with other women in the world of business,” Sullivan said, “Sometimes they just need an opportunity to find each other.”

Encouraged by Smart Women Get Together’s success, Pinkas hopes to take the event to a new level by experimenting with themed topics, lectures, and what she calls power partner groups that will bring teams of five or six people together as an alliance.

“What I want to teach women to do is [be] strategic,” Pinkas said, explaining that women often focus on what is important in the moment while men are more strategic.

Sullivan added that she would like to expand the event to locations in the East Bay, which include Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, among other industrious cities.

Smart Women Get Together events are free for Betty’s List members. Non-members are charged a $10 entry fee. Events usually start around 5:30 p.m. and the optional RSVP dinner starts at 7:30 p.m.