Women’s History Month

Many of us work alongside some pretty amazing women. These women support each other in a multitude of ways, every single day. In honor of Women’s History Month, we interviewed the UWAC staff, asking them some “Women’s History” related questions, below are their responses. 

What does Women's History Month mean to you?

Women's history month is a time to recognize the women who inspire us. As a teenager, I looked up to my English teacher, Mrs. Centerbar. The energy, passion, and music she brought to the classroom have been a powerful influence on how I approach my work. Breathing life into a mundane task or giving purpose to a project or mission. If it doesn't make you happy enough to sing about it, are you doing it right? We might not always love what we have to do, but we can love the way we choose to do it. Mrs. Centerbar represents one of the strongest most distinguished traits that all women, past, present, and future possess; the ability to give something or someone life. - Jesse Brooks, Director of Advocacy

What does the phrase “empowered women, empower women” mean to you and how do you live this in your daily life? 

Empowering other women is something I try to do daily. I have three younger sisters who are some of my best friends and I always try to lift, encourage and empower them however I can. To me, this could be as simple as a smile, compliment, or acknowledgment of hard work. This kind of support is contagious and can create a ripple effect. When someone supports me I feel empowered and want to support someone else. If we all support one another we create an environment and network of empowered women who are unstoppable. I feel empowered every day working alongside the women of UWAC. - Celia Heath, Public Health & Advocacy Coordinator

What qualities make a great female leader?

In my short lifetime, I've looked up to several female leaders, from teachers, coaches, and bosses to relatives such as my mom, aunts, and my daughter who are great leaders. They've all got their own wonderful, unique qualities, but the leadership qualities that I've admired and appreciated most in these women include:

  • Empathy - being led by someone who values me and others as a human, not just for the job or things I do.
  • Courage - I've known several women who have gone against the grain and stood up or spoke up when it felt intimidating to do so. It's empowering!
  • Leading by example - speaking of being empowered, it's a lot less scary doing something when you've seen someone else do it first. I wouldn't know how to be a mom or a coach without watching those women do it before me.
  • Humility - it's nearly impossible to follow a leader with a big ego. The greatest female leaders I've known have also been some of the most humble; not afraid to admit defeat and grow from it.

Here's to women and female leaders!
- Erin Reed, Development & Marketing Director

What female public figure, past or present, inspires you and why? 

Malala Yousifazi has been an incredible advocate for the education and wellbeing of young women. Her tenacity to stand up for what she believes in with incredible dignity and sincerity has continued to guide me in my career and life goals. The courage in which speaking up without clear praise or glamour will always be difficult and oftentimes risky. However, she has done so to fight for others to make significant and impactful changes. For that, I am endlessly inspired. - Amy Hoekstra, Volunteer & Donor Engagement Coordinator

Growing up, was there someone in your life that inspired you to become who you are today? Who was it and why?

My Dad inspired my life and work skills. He was a man of many phrases, “Many hands, make light work”, “Whistle while you work”, “Every cloud has a silver lining” and “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” (Not actually skinning a cat but there is more than one way of achieving an aim). Thank you, Dad! - Lee Bilson, Office Manager

What piece of advice would you give young women entering the nonprofit sector?

One of the most wonderful things about the nonprofit sector is that it is filled with passionate people who have chosen to dedicate their professional careers to making the world a better place. Overwhelmingly, these people understand that we all rise when we lift each other up. And yet, this work can be emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually draining. So my advice to young women entering this field is to find a mentor. There are some wonderful online resources for "finding the right mentor," but I would encourage people to not overthink it. Your mentor certainly doesn't need to be your boss, or even in the same field as you. They do need to be willing to answer your questions, though, and offer advice. Having a trusted person to talk things through with, to offer a different perspective, is invaluable when gaining experience and building confidence. (Oh, and one more thing! Read the book "Women Don't Ask" by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever - and then start asking!) - Helena Van Voorst, Executive Director

What is it like working in an office with all women? 

Working in an office of all women has been fun and educational in numerous ways. Our camaraderie transcends generational differences, and I’m fortunate to work in an environment full of openness, acceptance, and good humor. Lunchtime is a special time for everyone during which anything can be discussed, from home life to community issues to favorite and least favorite things. (Least favorite things are often of special interest!) We celebrate each other, not just on employee birthdays, but periodically at other times as well, including April 1st, and after someone returns from taking time off. Working with all women has helped to open my eyes a little to what everyone here finds important in their lives, a perspective that I haven’t received in past work environments where employee relations are typically fragmented into small groups of friends (not unlike high school). We’re all free to be ourselves as we get our work done, and I enjoy that very much. I also appreciate the “Sorry, Steve!!!” apologies that I regularly receive during our more lighthearted moments. - Steve Williams, Director of Finance 

How will you celebrate Women’s History month? Let us know by emailing Celia Heath!

To learn more about Women’s History month or ways you can celebrate the women in your life, visit the Women's History Month website.