LIVINGSTON, NJ — In October of 2018, a few South Asian women under the leadership of Livingston resident Khyati Dutt decided to start meeting regularly to talk about their career goals and aspirations, while trying to balance not just work but familial commitments and an active social life.
As one of the early members of LeanIn NYC, which started in 2013, Dutt served as Editor-in-Chief for the circle’s monthly newsletter. After she moved to Livingston in 2014, Dutt was actively looking to form a local chapter of LeanIn Circle.
When Dutt met a few Indian women via a local sports group, she proposed the idea of starting a circle for professional women. Right off the bat, many women showed interest to get involved, and shortly thereafter held their first meeting at the Livingston Senior and Community Center.
“The goal was to form a support group for south Asian women who face similar family and social challenges, while trying to focus on a successful career,” said Dutt. “I knew that if I was struggling with these challenges that many other women were as well.”
This circle that started with about 10 members, based loosely on Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn principals, has greatly evolved over the last eight months.
The group has grown more than three times in size and includes professional, multi-faceted women who have brought their personal experience and insight to each monthly meeting. The group’s development has caused the environment of each meeting to be motivational and supportive, where the women can learn new skills and help each other find career and personal growth together.
The participation within the first few months was so overwhelming that Dutt formed a steering committee to respond to the enthusiasm that new and existing members brought every month and to strategically manage the circle’s monthly events and activities.
Steering committee members now consist of Sakshi Agarwal, Rupali Bansal, Jassi Kalra, Sonal Batra and Khyati Dutt. The members-only circle meets monthly and opens up meetings every quarter to allow guests and new members to experience the meetings.
Each meeting has a specific topic, skillset or issue that is relevant to members’ needs. Members provide constant input on what topics they would like to discuss, and then the steering committee develops a calendar to strategically organize the topics for six months at a time.
Members, however, are extremely passionate and actively involved in each meeting, taking on various roles from meeting lead, to facilitator and providing refreshments.
During the circle's April meeting, Livingston resident Carrie Parikh, (COO/chief data privacy officer for the State of New Jersey) spoke to members about the importance of being proactive in achieving their goals.
The theme of this month’s meeting was “networking,” where the team conducted a panel discussion with networking experts that included Livingston Mayor Al Anthony; Sejal Lakhani-Bhatt, chief executive officer of Techwerxe; and Jennifer Q. Rafford, group vice president and head of talent at Huge NY.
“Networking is a topic that has come up so many times in our meetings over the course of the last several months,” said Sonal Batra, who acted as moderator. “It is something that is critical to your ultimate success, but so many of us find it to be arduous and daunting.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert who can easily join in on conversations, or an introvert who finds it difficult to find that conversation starter, networking requires time and a well thought out strategy. By bringing together three different professionals who do networking really, really well and share their experience and expert tips, we all walked away energized and motivated to grow our network and put our new found skills to the test.”
The circle leaders are looking to line up more events and guest speakers in the coming months that circle members can benefit from and all keeping in line with circle's goals to “connect, share, learn from each other's experiences and grow together.”
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