There’s a notion society teaches women from an early age: Keep your head down, work hard and you will be rewarded. If you study and get good grades, you will go to your dream school and onto a lucrative career — the yellow-brick road to success.
But Alexandra Elich, reporter and anchor at WCCB-TV, believes that narrative couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s so much more to professional advancement, Elich insists, and the key is networking. She’s hoping her new women’s networking group, NetworkQueen, will empower Charlotte women to grow their circle, ask for what they want, uplift others and move forward in their careers.
“We’re in this really cool age of women empowerment and women wanting to support women and that sort of shifting and now people are much more open to it and realize the benefits of it, that we are all in this together and everyone wants you to win,” Elich told Queen City Nerve.
NetworkQueen will host its first in-person mixer on Sept. 26 at Hattie’s Tap & Tavern. In addition to mingling and activities, attendees will hear from four panelists: WCCB-TV anchor Morgan Fogarty, Ebony Wine & Spirits owner Camillya Masunda, Finance Bar CEO and founder Marsha Barnes, and Black Wednesday founder Corri Smith.
Proceeds from Sunday’s ticket sales will benefit Safe Alliance, an organization providing resources to those impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. Although the event is sold out, Elich plans to organize more networking meetups, ideally quarterly, now that she knows people are interested.
“This gives me confidence that women in the Charlotte community felt there was a need for this,” she said.
NetworkQueen began as a passion project for 28-year-old Elich, who moved to the Queen City four years ago after working as a multimedia journalist in South Bend, Indiana.
No one is really taught how to network, yet Elich noticed after graduating college and entering the workforce that it seemed easier for men. She notes that the golf course tends to be a man’s natural networking place, or as she describes, “a space for professional empowerment and the opportunities to seek guidance and advice from others.”
Women don’t really have an environment like that, Elich said, so in May she decided to create one with NetworkQueen.
“Being a journalist, we’re always taught if you have a question, someone else does too,” Elich said. “So if I don’t know these networking skills or these career-advancement skills, I’m sure there’s so many other people who don’t.”
In talking to friends, coworkers and colleagues, Elich confirmed that many women felt the same way — like they had a disadvantage compared to their male colleagues in terms of knowing how to navigate the workplace.
While there are plenty of women’s networking groups in Charlotte, Elich said many of them are niche, like those that are just for women in business or women in tech, for example. NetworkQueen is an overarching group that’s inclusive for all women and femme-identifying folks, to serve as a place to vent and get advice.
“People can come in person and mingle and have that mentee-mentorship relationship, or a new transplant who’s here who just wants to meet girlfriends, or even a stay-at-home mom who may not be in the workforce right now but wants to feel supported and uplifted and have an advocate if they do decide to jump back into the workforce,” Elich said in August, before the Sept. 26 event sold out.
“You’ll probably meet people from all fields — finance, business, journalism, media – and because it’s so broad, you have no idea who maybe that person knows. That person could know someone who has your perfect job and could vouch for you in that way, too.”
Elich was originally going to make the Sept. 26 networking mixer free, but added the charitable component, Safe Alliance, to incentivize people to attend. She said Safe Alliance’s mission aligns with what NetworkQueen is all about.
“I want all women to be able to stand on their own two feet and be able to take care of themselves in whatever capacity, in whatever way that feels comfortable for them,” Elich said.
She also briefly considered turning NetworkQueen into a side hustle rather than a women’s networking group. She thought she’d offer career consulting, but it didn’t feel as rewarding — networking, career progression and resume building are skills that should be paid forward, not benefited off of, she said.
Elich believes all women can help someone else no matter where they are in their own careers, and every woman has something to offer, whether it’s wisdom, experience or just fresh and creative ideas.
“If one person who joins NetworkQueen just feels supported or one person who might feel a little lost in their career transition finds a path forward, or finds a connection that can help them find a path forward, that is enough payment for me,” Elich said.