Post by Lark Mills (Communications & Technology Co-Chair)
DePaul faculty, staff and students gathered to attend the 8th Annual Women of Spirit & Action (WSA) Awards Ceremony on May 29, 2013.
As the attendees arrived, inspiring quotes about the 2013 WSA award recipients rotated on the big screen. Several DWN women spoke at the event, explaining what it means to be honored as a woman of spirit and action. The event included a keynote speech by Jackie Lomax, founder of Girls4Science, followed by an awards ceremony for the 2013 WSA honorees. Attendees had the opportunity to network over breakfast before and after the event. All attendees received “I am a Women of Spirit & Action” pens.
Speaker Liz Ortiz
Liz Ortiz, Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Equity, opened the event by sharing a few tidbits about St. Louise de Marillac’s life story.
About St. Louise de Marrillac
St. Louise was born out of wedlock, married at 22 and widowed at the age of 34. She had wanted to become a nun but was denied admission. Her darker side involved struggling with anxiety and depression. It was her vision, that by helping others, she would find redemption and joy. St. Louise was considered to be the brain behind St. Vincent DePaul’s heart, but she had heart too! She had a practical, can-do attitude; her problem-solving skills helped future generations to come.
What it Means to be a Women of Spirit & Action
Ortiz explained how the 2013 WSA honorees embody the spirit of St. Louise: “The women being honored (our faculty, staff and our students) represent purpose, drive, the ability to get things done, and service to others, in their own gentle way, the way Louise de Marillac did, to help build a better DePaul.”
Speaker Joy Boggs
Joy Boggs, DWN President-Elect, introduced keynote speaker Jackie Lomax. “Her spirit calls you in. You feel at home and welcome. She is hospitable. She has a big heart.” Boggs shared the story of how Lomax’s daughter had aspirations to become a dentist. There was just one problem: Lomax couldn’t find any resources for supporting her daughter’s interest in dentistry. As Boggs explained, Lomax channeled her spirit and passion for serving others into helping not only her own daughter, but other people’s daughters as well. Lomax saw a problem and moved into action, just as St. Louise de Marillac would have done.
Keynote Speaker Jackie Lomax
Jackie Lomax opened with mentions of significant women in history, including Mae Jemison, first African-American astronaut, and Henrietta Lacks, an African-American tobacco farmer whose cells were used to develop numerous medical technology breakthroughs.
Lomax contrasted her own life with these great women in history, explaining how she was raised by parents who had a 5th grade education, but she went on to earn her B.A. in Communications from St. Francis of Joliet, Illinois.
Lomax was living her life, working in the news and media industry and raising her two daughters. After a routine trip to the dentist office, Lomax’s daughter asked if she could work on people’s teeth one day. Lomax shared her exact thoughts from that moment: “I knew my choice of words would either bless her with encouragement or stereotype her with despair.”
Girls4Science: An Organization to Support Young Girls in STEM
Despite not having a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), Lomax knew she had to do something big to help her daughter pursue her dream to become a dentist. Lomax left her job at the Nielsen Company and started Girls4Science (G4S), Chicago’s first and only resource for helping to support young girls’ interests in STEM fields. Lomax explained that women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields: Women make up nearly half of the total U.S. workforce, but hold less than 24% of all jobs in STEM; African-American and Latino women make up 13% of the total U.S. workforce, but hold only 3% of STEM jobs.
When launching her organization, Lomax first solicited help from friends and other mothers, who all had demanding schedules of their own. Eventually, Lomax reached out to Linda McGill-Boasmond, the country’s only African-American chemical manufacturer. Boasmond took a leap of faith and agreed to sponsor G4S. This sponsorship by Boasmond enabled G4S to grow. As a result, since 2009, G4S has helped more than 300 girls follow their dreams of pursuing careers in STEM.
Closing Remark: Lead by Example
In closing, Lomax told DWN attendees, “I believe there is a calling in each of our lives to lead by example.” Lomax thanked DePaul for inviting her to share her story and allowing G4S to be that inspiration to strive to lead by example.
Speaker & Award Presenter, Christine Gallagher Kearney
Christine Gallagher Kearney, DWN President, kicked off the awards ceremony by explaining that the Women of Spirit & Action event is unique in that it honors faculty, staff and students in a non-competitive way. DePaul women proudly walked up to receive their award certificates as their names were called out loud. After the ceremony, women lingered to mingle with fellow DePaul faculty, staff and students.
Did you attend the Women of Spirit & Action Awards event? Please leave a comment about what you enjoyed or the lessons you learned. We’d love to hear from you.