Like many of you, it is my practice to prepare for the day with quiet meditation and prayer. It was during such a time that I heard the words ‘you are a woman’ within my spirit. At the time, I had no idea of the relevance of that statement; but thought its interpretation must be a mystery well beyond female gender. Surely, there must be some deep meaning in those words. After all, they came during a time of meditation and prayer. But what could it be and why were those words given in the late summer of 2016? I had no idea, and tucked the words away in my memory to reflect on them at another time.
As we begin 2017, the results of the U.S. presidential election are rippling through the national consciousness. Not surprisingly, there is much discussion on the fate of diversity advocacy in the community and in business. The economics of diverse communities, particularly regarding race, gender, and generation have become a daily issue for news reporting. Debate over Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a natural extension of the discussion. Opinions range from D&I as a failure to D&I as more necessary than ever. Here are the vision and goals of diversity advocates followed by comments by D&I consultants. Together, they demonstrate a determination and renewed passion for both a diverse society and the diverse workplace.
The 2017 Million Women March on Washington approaches, along with about 30 sister marches around the country, including in New York City. It’s been forty-seven years since I marched down 5th Ave. for the Women’s Movement. Why did I go when my goal for that trip to Manhattan was to find a job? Entering an employment agency, I insisted on sitting at the men’s table rather than with the women who were required to take a typing test. When my persistence was met with a threat to call the police to eject me, I made my way to 5th Ave. and joined the March.
It’s 1959. I’m a Southern religious teenage girl raised on the fire and brimstone of the Baptist Church. My boyfriend is a second generation Italian Catholic. My mother, recently divorced from my step-father, transforms from a “Betty Crocker’ housewife into a bird set free from a gilded cage. This turn of events leads to her elopement with one of her many men friends to Elkton, Maryland. Butch and I go along as witnesses. After spending the night in her Buick at the A&P parking lot, waiting for the courthouse to open, we finally walk out of the wide court doors—married—all four of us. Mom and Sal drive off to Florida, I move in with a girlfriend and Butch goes back to his home, as if nothing stupendous happened.
How the very same decision that claims to liberate women actually oppresses them.
I was reporting on the Cannes Advertising Festival on behalf of ArabAd Magazine in 2004, not only as an Arab, but also as a Muslim woman and a veiled one. For a whole week I was following up on the Arab delegation, arranging interviews with winners and even scoring with the Festival’s highest rank and advertising celebrities. I was very proud of myself and thought I deserve a day off before traveling back to Lebanon.
Chattanooga’s 2016 women GroundBreakers Storytelling Series began with a session on immigrants. Introduced by entrepreneur Denise Reed, three women who immigrated to the US and Chattanooga shared their stories, followed by Dr. Lisa Clark Diller, Chair of History & Political Studies/ Southern Adventist University.
Diller explained, “Historians collect stories over time and then try to draw conclusions about them, so I hope to make some general observations here about women and immigration in Chattanooga—which are set in the larger U.S. historical context.”
Personal and inspiring stories by women groundbreakers are front and center for the 6th annual celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, in honor of the group becoming a member of the national Lean In movement founded by the CFO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Chattanooga’s Lean In Circle will host not one event, but a 4-part series. Humanities TN is the Presenting Sponsor of these storytellers as they put Hot Topics into historical perspective: Immigrants, Education, Civil Rights, & Veterans/ Military.
March 3: IMMIGRANTS – The Walden Club RSVP 3/3
Hear how women immigrants make a difference and inspire future change makers.
Dr. Mbakisya Onyango: Prof. of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science/ UTC (CECS)
Jessica Oliva-Calderin: Immigration lawyer & Managing attorney partner/ CALDERIN & OLIVA
Nasera Souidi-Johnson: Nasera Souidi-Johnson: Past Pres./ International Business Council (Chattanooga Area
Chamber of Commerce), Past Pres./VP of Membership French-American Chamber of Commerce, Director/ CBL Associates & Properties
Historical Context: Dr. Lisa Clark Diller – Chair of History & Political Studies/ Southern Adventist U.
Facilitator: Denise Reed – President & CEO/ The Concierge Office Suites
March 8: EDUCATION – Girls Preparatory School
Be inspired by women’s stories from the cutting edge of education in Chattanooga.
Welcome: Sheila Boyington
Introduction: Mayor Andy Berke
Stacy Goodwin Lightfoot, Vice Pres. of College & Career Success/ Public Education Foundation (PEF)
LuLu Copeland, Director of Workforce Development & Training/ Chattanooga State Community College
Historical Context: Linda Moss Mines: Chair of History & Social Sciences Dept./ GPS, Historian/ Hamilton County, Board Member/ Chattanooga History Center
Facilitator: Luronda Jennings – Founder & Exec. Director/ Journey Educational Services, Inc.
March 17: CIVIL RIGHTS – Ridgeview Baptist Church RSVP 3/17
Hear lessons learned from the very different paths to justice, inclusion, & equality.
Ardena Garth Hicks: TN’s 1st African American woman Public Defender
Dr. Eleanor McCallie Cooper: Co-Founder of Chattanooga Connected
Dollie Hamilton: Compensation Consultant CCP – Human Resources
Historical Context: Caroline Sunderland, Former Sr. Educator/ Chattanooga History Center
Facilitator: Maria Noel, Diversity & Inclusion/ Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
March 24: VETERANS/ MILITARY – The Gathering Place at The Crossing Church RSVP 3/24
Hear what these women veterans achieved in service to their country, where they are now, and their inspiring words of wisdom.
Patty Parks: U.S. Navy-retiree, TN State Director/ Military Women Across the Nation
Aubrey Williams: U.S. Army, United States Military Academy/ West Point
Lt. Tay Brymer: Public Affairs Officer/ Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Chattanooga
Historical Context: Major Paul Dean – MA History/ Vanderbilt U., Sr. Army Instructor JROTC / Ooltewah HS
Facilitator: Jessica Dumitru, J. D. (Texas A&M), MA International Affairs (New York U.), BA European History & International Politics (Sewanee)
Lean In – Women Ground Breakers is a community outreach project of the American Diversity Report. Created in 2001 as the Women’s Council on Diversity, we continue to provide public diversity programs onsite locally & online globally. We are now the Chattanooga Circle of the national Lean In movement begun by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Face Book. Members include: Deborah Levine (Chair), Leanne Barron, Cathryn Cohen, Erin Crane, Traci Day, Carrie Di Memmo, Laura Hessler, Ardena Garth Hicks, Luronda Jennings, Shawn Kurrelmeier Lee, Linda Moss Mines, Victoria Overholser, Tina Player, Denise Reed, Donna Roseberry, Brenda Freeman Short, Sue Stohlmann
Who among us has not been touched by success stories or by stories of daring adventures, altruistic sacrifices, or futuristic inventions? Whether it’s rags-to-riches or rising from the ashes, we’re moved and motivated by stories of overcoming life’s obstacles. How do these stories, often of people and places unknown to us personally, penetrate hearts and minds so deeply? Can we harness their inspirational power and apply it to women with unrealized potential? Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women GroundBreakers tackled the challenge using the Matrix Model Management System.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) is a global asset for women and girls. ITVS supports a dynamic field of independent media makers whose programs creatively engage audiences, expand cultural awareness and catalyze civic participation. Filmmakers from around the world came to ITVS with incredible stories about women and girls. Using a holistic approach, ITVS created Women and Girls Lead, a multi-year initiative with documentaries about women and girls. After launching the domestic initiative, the project went global. Combining the expertise in international broadcasting, storytelling, and on-the-ground knowledge of its partners: USAID, the Ford Foundation, and CARE, ITVS recently launched Women and Girls Lead Global.
How do Chattanooga’s women overcome obstacles to Think Big and help others do the same? Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women Groundbreakers tackled the question at their September Think Tank meeting. Their Success Stories and How-to Stories have inspired family members, colleagues, friends, community leaders, church youth groups, and former inmates. The Words of Wisdom from these groundbreakers will inspire you, too.