It’s been 50 years since a group of Colorado Springs women met for their first American Business Women’s Association meeting.
They were looking for professional support, camaraderie and friendship. Five decades later, the group still attracts business women looking for the same things, said Patrice Christian, president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.
The group will celebrate its 50th anniversary Dec. 13 with dinner, awards and a retro fashion show.
The ABWA, a national nonprofit organization, was founded in 1949 by Hilary A. Bufton Jr., a Kansas City, Mo., businessman. Women had stepped up to support the war effort and he wanted to help them gain equal footing in the workplace.
“When the war was over, women said, ‘OK, we like being in the workforce,’” Christian said. “There was a need for support and education.”
In 1961, a group of Colorado Springs women started an ABWA chapter. Back then, it was one of a few networking groups in town for business women, said Alice Adamscheck, who has been a member since it launched.
“It was about meeting new people from different employment,” she said. “It’s about getting to know different women, and helping them out if they have questions.”
The organization provides business training and networking opportunities for women of diverse occupations and backgrounds. Colorado Springs has two local ABWA Chapters, the Pikes Peak and the CS Women’s Express Network that meet monthly.
“We pride ourselves in having an education program every month – that people leave the meeting with something,” Christian said.
Education plays a big role in the ABWA. The Colorado Springs branch has raised about $90,000 over the years for scholarships for local women and works with the University of Kansas online program for members’ continued education.
The 50th Anniversary is an opportunity to gather together current and former members with other women in the community to celebrate the progress of women in business in the Pikes Peak region, Christian said. She’s also looking to increase the group’s membership, which has declined in recent years.
“We are looking for women who want to become better business women and better individuals to make better contributions to family and businesses,” Christian said.