Member spotlight: Suzanne (Suz) Frances
Interview by: Samantha McKeough, Board Member
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with the seasoned Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) member, Suzanne (Suz) Frances. You will likely recognize Suz from past events, as she has been actively involved in WEN since the beginning.
You went to one of the very first Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) events. Could you share with us what that event was like?
I went to one of the events during the first year of WEN’s existence, which was actually originally named the Forum of Women in the Environmental Field. I remember that Kate Kleiter, who was one of the pioneers of women in the environmental field, gathered a couple of us from the office to go. This was back when the board would send out postcards to share event information and invite people to come. It was at the University of Minnesota in the Carlson School of Management. I vividly remember walking into this huge room and seeing a table full of food, including an overwhelming amount of fruit. The main speaker was a man, but what I remember the most is how many women there were. Tons of women, who like me, worked in the environmental field. At that time, I was very shy and didn’t really know how to network or approach people to introduce myself. I remember thinking to myself, that I have never seen that many women in the same room at one time before. It was exhilarating and humbling!
When did you become a member of WEN?
I became a member of WEN back in the 1990s and then joined the board in 2004. I was attending an event at Macalester College and Suzy Mellem (now Bergstrom), the chair at the time, approached me and asked if i wanted to run for a board position. To which I responded, “Bloody hell, why not?” I served on the board for several years.
What has been your favorite thing about being a member?
Two things immediately come to mind. The first is the life-long friendships that blossomed with people I met through WEN. This includes friendships between board members and friendships between attendees.
Second is seeing people initially connect at events. That is the main reason I helped create the annual networking event with Shannon Pinc and Jennifer Schmitt (pictured). We wanted people to connect with other in the environmental field in a non-job event way and we wanted people to think about different industries/agencies which hire people with environmental backgrounds.
Do you have a most memorable event or favorite WEN moment?
There are many to choose from! The annual events are the most fun and invigorating. I am humbled when people walk up to me and recall us meeting at previous WEN events. The connections are so very important, even if those connections are short lived. They lead to other connections which eventually build a future.
What advice would you give to a young professional fresh out of college just starting his/her career?
Attend events, meet people, become involved and nurture your network. Don’t be afraid to reach out so someone in your network or someone else’s network to ask to connect.
In addition to attending events, it is even better to be involved on the planning side because you will develop new skills and learn about yourself, all while making great professional as well as personal connections.
Negotiate your salary when starting a new job. An astronomically low rate of women feel confident enough to make that ask for higher compensation.
What I found and still find valuable about WEN and attending WEN events (which I still do to this day) is they incorporate a wide variety of topics across the environmental field.
We are now accepting applications for both Professional and Student Board Members! View more details here. Applications due October 5, 2018. You can also learn more about becoming a board member and WEN in general at our next event.