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Building Personal Connections Through ITW Women's Network

“For me, IWN has brought another level of engagement with my colleagues and provided me an outlet to help develop fellow colleagues and create strong female leaders.” - Jennifer Perr, vice president & general manager

ITW’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) bring together diverse groups of people and their allies to share experiences, grow professionally and network. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting one of the many friendships that developed and has been nurtured through participation in the ITW Women’s Network (IWN), which supports the attraction, development and retention of female talent.

Jennifer Perr, vice president & general manager at ITW Graphics IDS, and Kelsey Vanagaitis, division controller at ITW Deltar Fasteners, serve as co-chairs of the Mid-Chicago chapter of IWN. The colleagues met at a chapter event in 2018 and quickly became friends. From there, the two have developed a mentoring relationship that extends beyond their professional roles.

“We’ve been through a lot with each other in the past year,” said Kelsey, who has not only sought professional guidance from Jennifer but also advice about growing a family, work-life balance and more.

“IWN was the core foundation of our relationship, but it has grown so much from there,” said Jennifer. “For me, IWN has brought another level of engagement with my colleagues and provided me an outlet to help develop fellow colleagues and create strong female leaders.”

With 45,000 global colleagues spread across 80+ divisions, Jennifer acknowledged it requires intentionality to engage with businesses outside of your own. She is a champion of how our ERGs help colleagues understand other parts of the company, gain a broader view of ITW’s culture and meet like-minded professionals.

“We have a decentralized, entrepreneurial culture, so it’s important to be intentional about connecting,” Jennifer said. “That’s why IWN is really impactful.”

Kelsey shared that connecting with IWN allies and fellow members has helped her grow her career. Jennifer added that through IWN, she witnessed Kelsey’s work ethic and commitment to succeed. Kelsey has also hired women in IWN and helped them make their desired career moves within the company.

Today, IWN has 30 global chapters. Since its inception in 2017, the Mid-Chicago chapter has grown to 92 members, and Jennifer and Kelsey have been instrumental in attracting more women to the chapter’s leadership team to broaden its reach. As members of the group’s leadership team, both have helped redefine the group’s impact and tailor programming to its participants through in-person and virtual events.

Each year, the group has a Chicagoland event where the three Chicago-based IWN chapters come together for a day of networking and professional development and learn from internal and external presenters. The Mid-Chicago IWN chapter also hosts an annual community outreach event in which members can donate their time and talent. Past events include making blankets for hospitalized children and stuffing backpacks with donated school supplies for local kids.

This year, both women are excited about one of the upcoming events the chapter will host, a Kentucky Derby-themed networking event, where members can dress up, learn to make the traditional mint julep and a charcuterie board and have fun outside of normal work activities.

“It’s fun and brings another level of engagement,” Jennifer said about her leadership role in the group. “Once you start building connections personally and professionally, you’ll start to see the benefits.”

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