In celebration of International Women’s Day, Adler University hosted a panel of eight influential women from the Chicago area who are working to promote inclusion and advance social justice. The event was held on March 4 on the Chicago Campus and brought together around 80 students, alumni, faculty, and staff.
International Women’s Day (March 8), is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The goal of the panel was to inspire students, and help them connect with and learn from the panelists. Students heard from the panelists about their guiding philosophies on achieving success, building better communities, and advocating for important social justice issues.
Panelists and attendees also discussed the unwritten rules assigned to women in the workplace, how women can support one another instead of competing for success, and how we move from inclusion to integration.
“We can’t create policies without talking to the people who are affected by those policies,” said public policy expert Amara Enyia, who writes extensively on issues of education, economic development, and fiscal policy. “It’s my responsibility to create space for my neighbors so they can speak for themselves.”
Tracy Baim, owner and co-founder of the Windy City Times and acclaimed LGBTQ author, talked about how she strives to hire “people who represent the city they cover.” Baim encouraged more media outlets to do this as well.
Talking about the responsibility of white feminists to demand inclusivity of women of color, Enyia explained that “millions of people are already uncomfortable because of the systems we live in.” So, to be an effective ally for these communities, “you have to be willing to also get uncomfortable.”
Jessyca Dudley, Associate Director at Arabella Advisors, which works with philanthropic organizations on program strategy, offered additional advice for creating the support necessary to make space for those who are not at the table. “Build a tribe,” she said. “You need an intentional community to do racial equity work.”
Other panelists included:
- Shannon Downey, Director of Development for Asian Americans Advancing Justice and owner of Badass Cross Stitch, which combines activism with art
- Cadmona Hall, Ph.D. LMFT, Core Faculty for Adler University’s Couple and Family Therapy department in Chicago, whose research focuses on social justice issues with an emphasis on how African Americans utilize therapeutic services
- Johanna Rahal, Executive Director for The Bobby Rahal Foundation, which supports causes dedicated to helping children in the areas of health and education
- Rebecca Shi, Executive Director of American Business Immigration Coalition, which builds bipartisan support for federal and state immigration reform
- Unmi Song is President of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, a private foundation that supports nonprofits serving low-income communities in Chicago.
Each panelist offered insights from the work they have done to promote social justice in their careers and inspired the students to find their paths as socially responsible practitioners. “We all have the potential to be change agents,” Hall told the crowd.