Who We Are:

First, here’s the business side of things:

Mary Dingee Fillmore helps people and organizations change through neutral facilitation of reflective retreats and strategic planning, fruitful meetings, mentoring for adults, and training. Before establishing her business, CHANGINGWORK, in 1981, she initiated innovative training and career development programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and earlier was editor of three science and society newsletters.

After 15 years of assisting clients throughout the U.S. and overseas, Ms. Fillmore moved to Vermont in 1994, and splits her practice between work in her own community, and clients elsewhere in the public sector, nonprofits, and socially responsible businesses. She builds strategies on the conditions prevalent in an organization, rather than imposing a formula and trying to fit the client’s needs within it.

While she has been involved in a broad range of organizational strategies, Ms. Fillmore pioneered mentoring programs to meet a wide range of needs. No organization is too small to benefit from helping its employees help each other become more productive and successful. In l986. Ms. Fillmore was the outside consultant to develop the U.S. Department of Labor Pilot Mentoring Program which was the model for many others in the U.S. and overseas.

Ms. Fillmore's study of the career impact of the MBA degree for women was published by G.K. Hall (part of Macmillan, l987). In commenting on Women MBAs: A Foot in the Door, Betty Harragan, author of Games Mother Never Taught You, said it is "one of the few absolute MUST books for today's serious career women." Ms. Fillmore is also editor of Connecting Women in the Community: A Handbook for Programs (Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, 1983). She is a contributor to Ourselves Growing Older (Simon and Schuster, 1991), and Mentoring Means Future Scientists (Association for Women in Science, 1993). Her most recent article is “The Usefulness of Crying over Spilt Milk,” from the Organization Development Practitioner (Summer 2001).

For those of you who like stories better,

I began my career in Washington in 1971 as an “editorial assistant (typing). You can imagine what I did all day. Thanks to a mentor who took an interest in me, I got out, and spent the next five years as the editor of several science-and-society newsletters – quite a leap, and a very enjoyable one. When I came back into the Federal government, it was to EPA, and my three years there gave me a chance to work for, and ultimately manage, the Federal Women’s Program to create strategies to improve the status of EPA’s 4,000 women. We began an informal mentoring program there – my first experience with what has become a major specialty – and created the first-ever Secretarial Advisory Council to be a professional organization and address management issues that affected administrative support people. (It still exists under a new name, more than 20 years later.)

In 1981, I took a big leap and set up my own consulting business, after traveling in England and Europe and meeting others who were also interested in women’s work and status in the workplace. My first jobs were very much outgrowths of my EPA years, and I still love work that benefits women directly. To my amazement, I got to work considerably on career development programs in England for the Greater London Council among others, as well as speaking at several Common Market conferences and functions. In the mid-eighties, I created one of the first mentoring programs for U.S. government employees, at the U.S. Department of Labor. It was a prototype that many have followed. In my spare time, I wrote a book called Women MBAs: A Foot in the Door, published by G.K. Hall (part of Macmillan), to puncture the myth that all women need to succeed is qualifications.

From 1985-95, most of my work was in large public sector organizations – EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (in various parts), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example. About half of my practice was establishing mentoring programs and training the participants, often for a number of years. The other half grew in different directions: facilitator training has been a strong interest, as well as more and more strategic planning.

After moving from Washington to Boston in 1981, I made another move in 1994 to Vermont. It has been a marvelous place for someone like me who values community and connection, and wants to preserve the environment that has attracted me and many other winter-lovers. Since moving here, I have split my time between local work in this extraordinary community, and work in large cities and large organizations. By and large, the New England work is planning and facilitation, and the national (and occasional international) work is more focused on mentoring. It’s been fun to develop some creative approaches, like “The Usefulness of Crying Over Spilt Milk,” an article I published in the Organization Development Practitioner (Summer 2001).

Community service has been part of my life wherever I’ve been, usually in coaching executive directors as a volunteer, or providing facilitation services pro bono to organizations with low budgets who serve low income people. Among other projects, I helped set up a mentoring program for young people in Burlington, where I live.

Like many people in their fifties, I did some serious reflecting as that milestone approached. It’s very satisfying to look back at much of my working life, but there was one dream unfulfilled: creative writing. For the last year and a half, I’ve participated in a low residency MFA program which has been a complete joy – and have begun to incorporate creative writing into my business as part of facilitation and reflection. It’s been fun, and no doubt will give rise to other possibilities, too.

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© Mary Dingee Fillmore, 2004. Copy with permission from mfillmor@together.net