Fifth Annual Women & Transformational Leadership Symposium

The Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program presented RMU’s Fifth Annual Women and Transformational Leadership Symposium on March 26, 2021. This full day event featured women leaders in our region and topics that impact the region's move toward gender equity and the advancement of women. 

This event was free and open to the public.

2021 Keynote Speaker

RanaBandana Rana from Nepal is a passionate lifelong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.  Her experience spans more than three decades of active engagement in the area of violence against women, gendered conflict transformation, peace building and engendered media through the different organizations and networks she has founded and led. 

She is a member of the UN CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) Committee since 2017 the first Nepali woman to be elected to this position. She has recently been nominated as a member of the UNFPA High Level Commission on ICPD+25 for three years. She was also a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group (2012/2015).

Ms. Rana has received numerous national and international awards for her contribution and leadership in the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality including the NGO CSW Committee’s Woman of Distinction Award, Zonta International Centennial Award and Social Service Award from the President of Nepal. Ms. Rana is the chair of the board of directors of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and former Chair of the Global Network of Women Shelters.

This keynote event was sponsored in part by the RMU Center for Global Engagement.

 

2021 Event Schedule

10:00 - 10:45 am

WLMP Student Speaker Series
Hosted by Kristen Davis, speaker series founder, WLMP Cohort 5 member

Presenters:

Julia

Julia Olshansky     
Presentation: Rowing Through Adversity 

Chloe

Chloe Stanfield
Presentation: Nothing to Nonprofit 

Amaya

Amaya Santiago
Presentation: Taking Control

Andrew

Andrew Arrigo
Presentation: Imagine, Adapt, Repeat.

WLMP student Kristen Davis and RMU student leaders are presenting during the 3rd WLMP Student Speaker Series event as part of this year’s symposium. This semester’s theme "Forging New Paths” highlights some of the innovative ways students have led personally and professionally through Covid-19 and their role in making lasting change. 

11:00 am - 11:50 am

Session #1: Environmental Emergency: Women, Place and Planet
Session Description: Threats to our climate, land, air, and water are the most pressing issues of our time. From disease to natural disasters, women and girls are most impacted by this environmental emergency. We will explore global themes and local impacts, and how centering the power of women and girls is imperative for the continued existence of our habitable planet.
Facilitated by: Natalia Rudiak

NataliaNatalia Rudiak is the founder of Civic Partners, a consultancy that advises public, private, and non-governmental organizations across geographies on a range of public-facing issues.  Regionally, she is co-developing a public strategy to deepen public investment in Appalachia to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. She has served as a City Councillor for the City of Pittsburgh where she co-created the City's first Office of Early Childhood and its first Gender Equity Commission.

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm 

Keynote presented by Bandana Rana
Women’s Rights Activist and Vice-Chair of the United Nations CEDAW Committee
Co-Sponsored by the WLMP and the RMU Center for Global Engagement

Bandana Bandana Rana from Nepal is a passionate lifelong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.  Her experience spans more than three decades of active engagement in the area of violence against women, gendered conflict transformation, peace building and engendered media through the different organizations and networks she has founded and led. Having worked from the grassroots, national as well as global level she has broken numerous personal and professional barriers to attain her present leadership. 

1:30 PM - 2:00 pm 

Gentle Virtual Chair Yoga 
Facilitated by Alecia Dawn of Yogamotif

AleciaAlecia Dawn Young is a yoga guide and entrepreneur who explores the creative process as an invitation to heal. She believes that creating art and creating life are connected and invests her time in people, projects, and communities that explore these practices. In 2018 she founded YOGAMOTIF to offer creativity as a wellness practice through the signature yoga painting workshop, Yoga Paint Party and its patent-pending mat. She makes space to center Black women in healing, and is honored to support her community with joyful and gentle prenatal and art-centered yoga classes. As a recipient of numerous awards and accolades, her life reflects a commitment to the arts, Black women, and wellness.

Yogamotif

2:05 pm - 2:55 pm

Session #2: Advancing Gender Equality in the Workplace: Tensions Between Neoliberalism, Feminism and Care Work
Facilitated by Dr. Sarah Hansen 

SarahCare work (which ranges from unpaid, at-home caregiving to social services, education, and health care jobs) is not highly valued in the United States, and this de-valuing impedes gender equality. This workshop explores the intersection of workforce development with care work to look at how undervaluing care perpetuates gender inequalities at three levels: 1) individual (i.e. balancing paid labor and unpaid caregiving), 2) organizational (i.e. tension between neoliberal and feminist principles among workforce development service providers), and 3) systems (in the form of gender-based occupational segregation, wage gaps, and lack of policies that support work-life balance, especially for workers with dependent children). The workshop concludes with recommendations and a challenge to redefine our thinking about meaningful work and (re)productivity. 

Sarah Hansen is an instructor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  They hold a PhD in Higher Education Management from the University of Pittsburgh, where their studies focused on organizational development, change management, and disruptive innovation. Sarah has spent nearly 15 years working in adult education and workforce development, the last 10 of which have been in the Pittsburgh region. 

3:05 PM - 3:55 PM 

Session #3 Equitable Workplace Benefits to Best support Women and Gender Nonbinary People 
Facilitated by Jessica Brooks, PHR, MPM 

JessicaJessica Brooks is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, where she is leading the effort to redefine and advance the discussion around health care value, access and quality on behalf of employers. 
Jessica is responsible for the vision of the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health – spearheading new initiatives and measures that have resulted in improving the organization’s visibility and growth in the health care market space.

4:05 pm - 4:55 pm

Session #4: Creating Equitable Opportunities for Women in the Workplace: Why High Quality Childcare Matters?
Facilitated by Shalonda Spencer

ShalondaShalonda Spencer currently serves as the Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Trying Together; she's a proud Mississippi native. Before her advancement as Director, Shalonda was the Advocacy Coordinator for ACLU of Mississippi. She focused on the affiliate's criminal justice reform and voter rights centers of work. Shalonda's most significant moment in her career was becoming an adjunct professor at Millsaps's College in the Department of Government and Politics.  With over seven years of civic engagement experience, her work encompasses community organizing, advocating progressive legislation, and public policy. Shalonda is a strong advocate for all women, but she is unapologetic when raising awareness of black women's issues in this country.

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm 

Work Smart Salary Negotiation Workshop
Facilitated by the AAUW

The Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program is hosting AAUW’s Work Smart Salary Negotiation Workshop as part of the Fifth Annual, Women & Transformational Leadership Symposium. This workshop sponsored by the City of Pittsburgh and the Gender Equity Commission is part of the city’s efforts to close the gender wage gap. AAUW is committed to ending the gender pay gap by 2030. The workshop will empower women with research-based strategies to advocate for fairer wages and benefits.

AAUW GEC

This workshop is free and open to anyone! To learn more about this effort and the workshop please click here. To learn more about the City of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission visit this webpage.

2021 Presenters & Facilitators

Natalia Rudiak

Environmental Emergency: Women, Place and Planet

Natalia Rudiak is the founder of Civic Partners, a consultancy that advises public, private, and non-governmental organizations across geographies on a range of public-facing issues. Regionally, she is co-developing a public strategy to deepen public investment in Appalachia to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. She has previously served as a City Councillor for the City of Pittsburgh where she co-created the City's first Office of Early Childhood and its first Gender Equity Commission based on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Commission has since published landmark research spurring activism and philanthropic investment for intersectional racial justice. Natalia has also worked with Deloitte Consulting and non-governmental organizations in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She earned her MSc in Public Policy and Management with Distinction from Carnegie Mellon University as well as her BA in International Affairs from George Washington University and the London School of Economics and Political Science. She embraces environments where people from diverse backgrounds feel safe enough to come together to create courageous, remarkable change.

Bandana Rana

Keynote

Bandana Rana from Nepal is a passionate lifelong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.  Her experience spans more than three decades of active engagement in the area of violence against women, gendered conflict transformation, peace building and engendered media through the different organizations and networks she has founded and led. Having worked from the grassroots, national as well as global level she has broken numerous personal and professional barriers to attain her present leadership. 

Her many years of dedicated work has been particularly through the two organizations she co-founded and led in Nepal – Saathi (NGO working on Violence Against Women) and Sancharika Samuha (Women’s Media Forum). She is the former chair of the National Women's Commission of Nepal. 
She led the development of Nepal’s National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and continues to engage in its implementation and localization. She has also been engaged in the review and assessment of the South Asia region to address the gender-based challenges in contemporary armed conflict. She was a member of the UN Secretary Generals High Level Advisory Group (2014/15) for the ‘Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security’.

She is a member of the UN CEDAW Committee since 2017 the first Nepali woman to be elected to this position. She was the Vice Chair of the Committee from 2018/2020 and is the focal point for women peace and security. She has recently been nominated as a member of the UNFPA High Level Commission on ICPD+25 for three years. She was also a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group (2012/2015).
Having served in senior positions in the civil society and the government as well as the UN she has demonstrated effective and strategic leadership in the promotion of gender equality globally. She has received numerous national and international awards for her contribution and leadership in the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality including the NGO CSW Committee’s Woman of Distinction Award, Zonta International Centennial Award and Social Service Award from the President of Nepal.  

Ms. Rana is the chair of the board of directors of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and former Chair of the Global Network of Women Shelters 

Alecia Dawn 

Yoga Instructor 

Alecia Dawn Young is a yoga guide and entrepreneur who explores the creative process as an invitation to heal. She believes that creating art and creating life are connected and invests her time in people, projects, and communities that explore these practices. In 2018 she founded YOGAMOTIF to offer creativity as a wellness practice through the signature yoga painting workshop, Yoga Paint Party and its patent-pending mat. She makes space to center Black women in healing, and is honored to support her community with joyful and gentle prenatal and art-centered yoga classes. As a recipient of numerous awards and accolades, her life reflects a commitment to the arts, Black women, and wellness.
 
Alecia holds a Master of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University, Bachelor of Fine Arts from Alfred University, and is a 200-hr experience yoga teacher and 85-hr prenatal yoga teacher. Alecia offers a breath and awareness centered practice and invites students to find their own comfort in each pose.

About YOGAMOTIF

YOGAMOTIF is a creative wellness studio that uses yoga and art making to inspire healing. We recognize the body is the boss. That’s why we create vulnerable spaces to tap into your body’s innate wisdom so you can recognize how simple creative practices invite space to be well. Whether working with pregnant bodies in prenatal yoga, or creative communities in Yoga Paint Party workshops, we hold space to discover tools for your intuitive, healing nature. Our yoga workshops joyfully prepare the body for life’s labor and the art, ideas, passions, and babies you might birth. 

Dr. Sarah Hansen 

Advancing Gender Equality in the Workplace: Tensions Between Neoliberalism, Feminism and Care Work

Sarah Hansen is an instructor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  They hold a PhD in Higher Education Management from the University of Pittsburgh, where their studies focused on organizational development, change management, and disruptive innovation. Sarah has spent nearly 15 years working in adult education and workforce development, the last 10 of which have been in the Pittsburgh region. Their work has focused on strategic and innovative development in Pittsburgh’s workforce to ensure that all residents have equitable, inclusive access to opportunity and advancement. Sarah serves as Chair of the Workforce Equity Committee and 2nd Vice Chair of the City of Pittsburgh’s first-ever Gender Equity Commission. Sarah is a 2018 recipient of Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40 Award. Furthermore, they are Owner/Principal of EnterChange Group, a research and consulting firm dedicated to elevating people and advancing equitable organizations and inclusive change strategy.

Jessica Brooks

Equitable Workplace Benefits to Best support Women and Gender Nonbinary People 

Jessica Brooks is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, where she is leading the effort to redefine and advance the discussion around health care value, access and quality on behalf of employers. 
 
Jessica is responsible for the vision of the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health – spearheading new initiatives and measures that have resulted in improving the organization’s visibility and growth in the health care market space.   
 
Under her leadership, PBGH has enjoyed consistent financial gains, the growth of the organization’s class-leading prescription drug management program – delivering more than $25 million in annual savings to employers, as well as intervention programs which have saved employees over six million dollars in copays and out of pocket expenses since its launch.  Ms. Brooks has spear-headed the deployment of a comprehensive data strategy that enables employers to better leverage health care and benefits information with health plans, providers and other partners. 
 
Ms. Brooks is also the co-founder and CEO of The Health Desk, a transformative health equity platform that marries technology and human compassion to bring patients, employers, hospitals, and advocates together to save lives.  
 
She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and Carnegie Mellon University, where she received her Masters in Public Management.  Ms. Brooks serves on the board of governors for the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence, Adagio Health, the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, as well as the Patient Health Action Network.  
 
She served as a member of the inaugural cohort of the Advanced Leadership Initiative – an Executive Leadership Program designed for African-American Executives at the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. She also serves on the board of directors of Maitri Medicinals, medical cannabis company, and chair of the advisory board of the Professional Women’s Network. She also serves as a board member of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. 
 
She is a recipient of the 2019 Pittsburgh Women of Influence Award, and led the organization for its recognition as a Healthcare Purchasing Collaborative Award winner, sponsored by the Validation Institute and the World Healthcare Congress. She has contributed to numerous news stories, opinion editorial pieces, and has appeared on National Public Radio, and in national health care and benefits publications. She has been recognized by the Pittsburgh Business Times as a Fast Tracker and was also named to the 2015 Smart 50 class by Smart Business Magazine.

Shalonda Spencer  

Creating Equitable Opportunities for Women in the Workplace: Why High Quality Childcare Matters? 

Shalonda Spencer currently serves as the Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Trying Together; she's a proud Mississippi native. Before her advancement as Director, Shalonda was the Advocacy Coordinator for ACLU of Mississippi. She focused on the affiliate's criminal justice reform and voter rights centers of work. Shalonda's most significant moment in her career was becoming an adjunct professor at Millsaps's College in the Department of Government and Politics.

With over seven years of civic engagement experience, her work encompasses community organizing, advocating progressive legislation, and public policy. Shalonda is a strong advocate for all women, but she is unapologetic when raising awareness of black women's issues in this country. She has served as a Legislative Assistant for the United States House of Representatives and a Foreign Policy Analyst for the Mennonite Central Committee in Washington, D.C. Her legislative portfolio has consisted of women's rights, criminal justice, foreign affairs, immigration, healthcare, and education. Shalonda's admiration for social justice and equality started when she was a graduate assistant for The Fannie Lou Hamer Institute @ COFO. She educated local and long-distance visitors on the Civil Rights Movement of Mississippi. Shalonda is a graduate of Jackson State University, earning a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Public Policy Administration.

About the WLMP: Empowering Women and Developing Leaders

#RMUWomenLead 
rmu.edu/wlmp 

The Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program is a select program for 25 students each year that teaches leadership skills and provides opportunities that foster young women’s ability to contribute, lead, and engage in mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. The WLMP’s mission and vision is rooted in inclusive leadership, gender equity and the advancement of women. 

Cohort members are each partnered with a one-on-one peer mentor and a faculty or staff mentor, and in their junior year, with a professional mentor. Special programs increase understanding of women in leadership, including both successes and challenges.

To get information on our month long celebration of International Women's Day, follow the hashtag #RMUWomensDay and CLICK HERE for how to get involved!