W.net Brings Women in Payments Together 

By D.J. Murphy, Editor-in-Chief, CardNotPresent.com

Only a few days after a massive blizzard blanketed the northeast United States with up to three feet of snow, a group of professionals navigated the partially plowed streets of Boston to mark the expansion of an organization dedicated to supporting women working in the electronic payments industry. W.net (Women Networking in Electronic Transactions) was founded in 2005 to give women working in the male-dominated payments workforce access to and support from highly successful trailblazing women who had come before them.

W.net The networking group runs what it calls LINC (Local Interest Network Circle) events in seven geographical regions where payments professionals can gather in person to socialize, network and inspire each other in an environment they might not experience on a daily basis. Since the organization’s genesis, W.net LINCs have sprung up in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Northern California, Phoenix and Texas.

The Boston chapter has been operating for only a month or so, but its recent kickoff event, which drew several dozen women to a local nightspot to network with one another and hear how they could benefit by membership in W.net, suggests the group can take root in that city as deeply as it has elsewhere, according to Savannah Helgeson, manager of strategic partnerships for PCI compliance solutions provider ControlScan and chair of W.net’s Boston LINC.

The group provides educational and networking events around the country, career assistance and a formal mentoring program. But, Helgeson said, the main thing is just to bring women in the payments industry together to share experiences and support one another when they might not have women at the executive level in their company they can aspire to imitate.

“The primary purpose is bringing women together to network, meet other successful women and be empowered by them,” said Helgeson, who first became involved with W.net living in Atlanta and wanted to help expand the organization when she relocated to Boston. “It’s such a male dominated industry. There are very successful women, but only a few compared to the number of men. From my perspective, the group gives women access to the very successful women already in the industry, giving them role models to emulate.”

Helgeson singled out the mentoring program as a W.net benefit that directly affected her own personal development. Regular conversations with a woman who experienced the same working environment Helgeson had gave her insight into things like how to approach a boss for a raise or how to handle office politics.

According to Shawn Zelman, W.net’s national executive director, the group’s members span the entire gamut of electronics payments including companies specializing in merchant acquiring, card issuing, processing, stored value, loyalty, check and ACH.

W.net holds two annual national events: its Career & Leadership Summit, which the group calls the premier business conference dedicated solely to women professionals in the electronic payments industry, usually held in September, and the W.net Super LINC, a networking event gathering women from all the LINCs, usually held in conjunction with a larger payments conference in the spring.

For more information about W.net events, benefits or membership, visit www.wnetonline.org .

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