The Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio plans to merge its operations into the Greater Akron Chamber in a partnership to improve gender equity and inclusion across the region.

Women, and in particular women of color, are significantly underrepresented in public and private senior leadership positions in Summit County, according to a Women's Network study released last month. The county lags national figures in terms of gender leadership equity, the report says.

The report collected data on more than 5,000 leaders at 348 employers and 167 nonprofit boards, covering private, nonprofit and public sectors and publicly traded companies located in the county.

“Our collaboration is a strategic response to the chamber’s core strategy to advance economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion and the recent gender equity and women’s leadership study by Women’s Network," chamber President and CEO Steve Millard said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "Together, our team will be providing a unified set of leadership programs and opportunities to accelerate the growth and success of our region.” 

Dr. Jennifer Savitski, president of the Women’s Network board of directors and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, said the board unanimously approved the partnership plan this month, and it will be put up for a vote by the group's membership at its annual meeting next month.

“This partnership will allow Women’s Network to build capacity around our model of research, thought leadership and curriculum,” she said. “Women, organizations, and the community across our region will benefit from the combination of our assets and the Greater Akron Chamber’s deep strength of connection and network building.”

As part of the collaboration:

• The Women’s Network will be responsible for all research and programming of the Greater Akron Chamber related to gender equity and women in leadership.

• A Women’s Network Council will advise the Greater Akron Chamber on direction for research and programming consistent with its current dedication to providing expertise to individual women, companies, and the community.

• The Women’s Network 501(c)3 will remain in existence, with Jan Conrad continuing as its executive director as an employee of the Greater Akron Chamber.

• The Greater Akron Chamber will assume financial responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the Women’s Network.

The Women's Network annual meeting will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Signal Tree Event Space at Bounce Innovation Hub, 526 S. Main St. Members can go to https://womensnetworkneohio.com/event-3530004 to register to attend.