Dr. Ngozi Ezike Headlines Women Employed’s Signature Annual Event

May 17th, 2022

The Working Lunch–Hybrid Edition Brought Over 600 Leaders and Advocates Together in Support of Women’s Economic Advancement.

CHICAGO – Today, for the first time in three years, Women Employed’s signature fundraiser, The Working Lunch–Hybrid Edition was back in person with over 400 people in attendance at the Chicago Cultural Center. The annual luncheon, hailed as one of Chicago’s premier spring events, also offered a virtual component giving more than 200 individuals the opportunity to take part in the event from the location of their choosing.

The focus for this year’s program centered around helping women EMERGE from the “shecession”–the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, which has impacted women, and especially women of color, disproportionately–stronger than before. The dynamic lineup featured a keynote address from honoree, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Former Director, Illinois Department of Public Health. As head of IDPH, Dr. Ezike led Illinois through the COVID-19 pandemic, providing guidance for Illinoisans, and collaborating with businesses, community organizations, and healthcare institutions to ensure residents emerged safe and healthy. In addition to guiding the state through an unprecedented challenge, Dr. Ezike broke barriers as the first Black woman to lead the agency in its 140+ year history.

“We need the resources to continue doing this important work. So, as we think about being emerging leaders and not just emerging opportunities, we also think about the problems and the situations. You cannot tell somebody to not come to work and not get paid and they face the consequences of eviction or the like. Because you are going to have significant implications not just for women, but our communal society. When somebody can stay home when they’re sick, they’re stopping themselves from affecting many other people. And as an employer, it’s about having one person being paid as opposed to having a sick person come in and infect everyone and then shutting down their entire office. It just makes economic sense as well. So please, to all my fellow women leaders and wonderful allies that are here as well, see what you can be and what should be, and then work together to achieve the mission and the vision of this esteemed organization. We want to see pay equity we want to expand access to educational opportunities, and we need to see that all of us are full, equal members of society,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Additional honorees included Lydia Bueschel, long-time Women Employed Board Director and Shareholder at Valentine Austriaco & Bueschel, P.C. and Katya Nuques, Director of the Little Village Portfolio, Robert R. McCormick Foundation. All three of these leaders have dedicated their lives to championing equity for women and are unwavering in their commitment to ensuring fundamental and systemic change at all levels.

The Working Lunch–Hybrid Edition also showcased Women Employed’s current focus on growing the economic power of women in Illinois who are in low or unpaid work, and Black and/or Latina/x women. The event highlighted, how, through driving conversations, practices and policies, is driving change to realize the value of women’s work; shifting the distribution of resources; and forging pathways to economic security, leadership, and wealth.

Women Employed President & CEO, Cherita Ellens said, “The theme of today’s luncheon is EMERGE. And we are starting to do just that–not just from the dreary Chicago winter, but from the pandemic and “shecession” that have had their grip on us for more than two years. Coming out of this crisis with our health is vitally important. And it’s also important that the women and families–especially those that have been disproportionately impacted such as those in low-paid “essential” roles, Black, and Latinx women, can emerge stronger than they were before.”

She then followed up by saying, “By now, you’ve heard all about the “shecession”. About the women whose jobs have been decimated, who’ve experienced unimaginable levels of unemployment. About the women on the frontlines who’ve put their health and safety at risk every day to keep us all going. About those who’ve had to shift their whole lives around–often leaving their jobs and the workforce completely–to manage caregiving for their children and elderly family members due to massive gaps in our country’s care infrastructure.”

Clips from The Working Lunch–Hybrid Edition, including remarks from Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Lydia Bueschel, and Katya Nuques are available upon request.  For access to the full program recording, contact Racquel C. Fullman at [email protected] or 312-419-2541.


About: For nearly 50 years, Women Employed (WE) has been opening doors, breaking barriers, and expanding opportunities for women. Our mission is to increase the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity, and we do that by effecting policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces so that all women, families, and communities can thrive. For more information, visit https://womenemployed.org, or follow Women Employed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

Together, we will ensure more women, families, and communities can build their economic power and thrive.

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