Eight professional women have formed a committee to establish a local chapter of the American Business Women’s Association. Before Hurricane Katrina, there were six active ABWA chapters in Greater New Orleans and another in Baton Rouge, which continued functioning.

One of the members originally from who was displaced by the storm, Christi Felder, comes over from the Baton Rouge LaCapitale chapter to assist in the reorganization.

The local chapter, the ABWA Crescent City Connections Express Network, will host its first official networking lunch meeting for interested women from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 10 at Ralph Brennan’s Heritage Grill, 111 Veterans Blvd.

“I’m really excited to be a part of ABWA because I’m passionate about supporting other women in business,” committee member Wendy Dolan said. “I know that I definitely have it easier than previous generations of working women, but there’s still a long way to go toward equality.

“For example, the wage gap in Louisiana is one of the worst in the nation, with women earning only 66.9 cents for every dollar men earn. I hope that encouraging women to get involved in well-organized, national groups such as ABWA can start to make a difference in that area.”

Chairwoman of the committee is Charlotte Piotrowski, who is director of development at Rent-A-Nerd, a computer network and repair company, and the co-chairwoman is Rachel Nunez, employed at Regions Bank. Other committee members are Felder, best practices chairwoman and formation committee advisor, with Ricoh USA, copiers and printers; Halley Yellin, financial committee, First Bank & Trust; Karyn Kinsbery-Grigsby, communications, Ericksen Krentel & LaPorte, CPAs; Daisy LaGrue, programs, Make it Right Foundation; Lyndsey Graham, membership, Heartland Payment Systems; and Dolan, marketing and public relations, Get Online NOLA, website design and hosting.

LaGrue said she joined ABWA “with the goal of connecting and building lasting relationships with other successful and powerful women in the surrounding area, not only for myself, but my organization. I believe, as a young professional woman, that connecting and training with the right group can make your opportunities endless.’’

ABWA was founded in 1949 to offer networking, support, recognition and training to professional women who had entered the business world during and after World War II to supplement the continuing shortage of working men. “Rosie the Riveter,” one of the most famous icons of the period, represented the women who were employed in factories and plants—some 6 million at one point—but many left these non-traditional if well-paying jobs when the war ended. On the other hand, women who had entered professions generally remained there and were joined by their counterparts in numerous companies all across the country. There are currently more than 5,000 ABWA chapters in 300 cities.

The costs for membership are $115 annual national dues, and $35 for local dues. Monthly lunch meetings cost $25 and are held on the second Thursday of each month. Programs cover a wide range of topics pertinent to professional women.

For information on the meeting or the chapter, email membership@abwaneworleans.org. For information on the national organization, visit www.abwa.org.