Richmond native Dougie Bowman launched the group in April 2010 after she met Birute Regine, a psychologist, life coach, and author of the book, Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World.
The award winning book, Regine’s second, is about women who have experienced injustices but have never become victims. Instead they have transformed the injustices into strengths. Regine described them as having wills of iron and the touch of a butterfly.
Bowman, a retired securities consultant, said she met Regine and immediately bonded with her. The gatherings, called Iron Butterflies(IB) Circles, grew from there.
“The exchange of experiences on difficult issues became much deeper than anyone expected,” Bowman said. “There were tears and laughter and a new awareness of a sisterhood that we didn’t know existed. We had such a wonderful evening. We’ve been meeting ever since.”
Richmond’s IB circle, usually held at Bowman’s condominium, starts with dinner often prepared by her husband, Bob Scudder. Some of the participants also bring wine to share.
At one recent circle, women clustered around the condo’s kitchen island enjoying Scudder’s homemade gourmet pizza. The evening sky seen through floor to ceiling windows exploded with a spring lightning show. After pizza, the women relaxed and chatted in the living room on a leather sofa and comfortable chairs gathered in a casual circle.
The discussions focus on issues in the workplace and in day-to-day life. The evenings often evolve into sharing sessions about how each woman would handle or rectify difficult situations. Whatever the topic, the conversation is always supportive.
“There are no worries of offending each other because everyone is open and honest about their feelings and all egos are left at the door,” Bowman said.
Bowman and Regine said the IB circles may help create change in communities and beyond. The corporate offices around Richmond could be one place where the impact will likely be felt, Bowman said, because most of the women in the group are decision makers within their organizations.
“We want our common sense collaborative leadership style respected and encouraged in the workplace,” she said. “The transformation may be slow but it will make a difference and, hopefully, reduce some of the bad decisions made by dominating and controlling techniques used in the workplace today.”
Since that first gathering, the Richmond IB circle continues to expand. During the past year, approximately 50 women have come to one or more gatherings.
“It has developed into a very diverse group. We have business owners, senior managers in large organizations, several lawyers, non-profit managers, HR directors, financial advisors, coaches, writers and even a professional singer. Our growth has resulted from word of mouth,” Bowman said.
Other circles have developed in cities including Washington, New York and Chicago.
“We don’t plan to start circles as much as circles organically come into being, started by women who hear the calling to gather the women,” Regine said.
However, Regine does plan to offer help to women who want to start circles but need some coaching on how to do so. She is developing a guide for women interested in creating IB circles and an online training program for facilitators.
Meanwhile, Bowman and the other Richmond Iron Butterflies continue to gather each month to promote leadership styles that can make the workplace more cohesive and productive. And they are having fun.
“Although Iron Butterfly circles have a serious intent of making a difference in the world,” Regine said. “They are also a lot of fun. Humor and wit go a long way in this often difficult work of social transformation. It’s that great girlfriend feeling that keeps us all taking that next step forward.”
Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Sundra Hominik, has attended several Iron Butterflies meetings.
For more information about Iron Butterflies go to www.ironbutterflies.com