“What Women Want” was the title of the YWCA National Conference held at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C., from June 5 to 8, and it was an exciting meeting with close to 400 in attendance from forty-six states. Ten World Service Council members were among those who arrived on a Wednesday, lobbied their representatives on Capitol Hill on Thursday, were educated at key workshops on Friday and then attended and voted in the new slate of Board members at the Business meeting on Saturday. It was the first annual meeting under the new leadership of Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, who gave a positive and encouraging picture of changes and developments during her first six months on the job.
Dara talked about improved communications, webinar trainings already done (Social Media 101) and an upcoming six part series on fundraising. Affinity groups were identified: EDs and CEOs and Millennial and Gen-Xers; and the first mission impact group will focus on domestic violence and sexual assault with a second on racial justice in the works. A persimmon handbook is being published and a power by purchasing point plan to provide savings to locals of 15 to 20% on supplies is available. Included in the conference material was an Advocacy toolkit. In addition, a new intranet will be launched in August that will contain a wealth of resource material for easy access.
Workshop presenters covered a variety of issues such as how to attain reproductive justice, get more women’s voices in the media, and break the cycle of domestic violence. We got advice on how to increase nonprofit giving, engage more young women in our work and develop partnerships with corporations. We also heard some realistic views of how the fiscal showdown and political impasse are hurting chances for immigration reform and curtailing the federal grants so important to our YWCA associations and members. The Friday luncheon speaker was a remarkable Boston Councilwoman, Ayanna Pressley, who told her graphic story of a life up from poverty and assault. She is the first black woman ever to serve on the Boston City Council.
The Women of Distinction Gala Friday night recognized the Gates Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer for her philanthropy and Retired Naval Commander Zoe Dunning for her courage fighting discrimination. We also thanked Allstate Insurance for their partnership in supporting our domestic violence programs and Sharon Love for starting the One Love Foundation. Recipient of the first-ever Dorothy Height Racial Justice Award was presented to Actress Eva Longoria for her work with farmworkers along with a variety of charities she has created. Three awards were also given to local associations who have done outstanding mission work. Winner of the Women’s Empowerment Award was YWCA Greater Cincinnati. YWCA Rockford was recognized for its work in Racial Justice and YWCA Minneapolis received an award for Advocacy.
Dara’s CEO report during Saturday’s business meeting was brief but focused on ideas for a long-range plan that would include a YWCA University, support for local associations and financial vitality for the YWCA. A new volunteer board of directors was voted upon. They are Sheila Carnicelli, managing director of UBS AG; Rachel Cheeks Given, Sr. Manager Global Diversity & Inclusion, PepsiCo; Katherine Emerich Compagni, Ass’t Professor (retired) Ithaca College; Tracey Gray-Walker, SVP & Chief Diversity Officer of AXA Equitable; Marsha Henderson, Ass’t for Women’s Health, US Food & Drug Admin.; Laura Jennings, private investor; Paula Green Johnson, community volunteer & advocate; Lesley Lopez, Communications Director, US House of Representatives; Kaydian Lyn, Ass’t VP-Program Manager, JP Morgan Chase; Aimee Meher-Homji, Client Partner & Leader of Int’l Development, Korn/Ferry International; Rhonda Mims, President ING Foundation; Ruth Oratz, MD FACP, Women’s Oncology & Wellness Practice; and Patricia Pearman, Exec. Director of Oncology & Disease Solutions, GE Corporate healthy imagination.
Returning Board members are: new chair Paula Penebaker, VP/Secretary Azuri Gonzalez, Treasurer Janet Marcotte and Immediate Past Chair Becky Hall, all affiliated with local YWCA associations. The Saturday luncheon speaker was columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Connie Schultz who has given repeated voice to the underprivileged. She spoke with humor about her mother and mother-in-law, both of whom impacted her life and made her stronger in very different ways.
The finale featured some of our world leaders with remarks by World YWCA President Debra Thomas-Austin, YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior and YWCA Canada President Lynn Kent, all of whom saluted the YWCA USA as it embarks on a new era under new leadership and its new organizational structure. The Canadians invited partnership efforts as a North American Region, and President Thomas commented on the work of the World YWCA and the YWCA USA’s significance as a member.
Connie Tate & Joelle Logue
For more information and many pictures of the honorees and award recipients, please visit the web site ywca.org or the WSC site ywcaworldservicecouncil.org