On Friday May 15th, 2020, Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship hosted a LIVESTREAM Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series event for the summer. The series highlights female regional business leaders and is meant to help both students and working professionals via networking and interactive presentations on topics essential for women in business. This current series is unique due to the current uncertain time we are facing. Although these presentations are usually held on campus, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship are still striving to bring this series to the community, even if it is in the home setting. Do not forget that all events held by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship offer free admission for Chatham Students! The May LIVESTREAM meeting discussed eliminating racism and empowering women and featured Dr. Angela Reynolds, CEO of YWCA Greater Pittsburgh.
Dr. Angela Reynolds received her PhD in Public Policy Analysis from Carnegie Mellon University. Her professional background includes her being an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. While at the University of Pittsburgh, she served as a Research Director at the Center for Metropolitan Studies for a short while. From 2012 to 2019, she served as the Senior Director at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. She recently became the CEO of YWCA Greater Pittsburgh. Here she helps to eliminate racism and empower women.
Reynolds places a high value on her organization’s mission: eliminating racism and empowering women. Being a woman of color, she is no stranger to harassment and discrimination. But she did not let this discrimination discourage her, these experiences helped to shape her values and the work she is doing today. She states that it is important we all talk about race and that talking about race then requires action and change. Starting at the YWCA this past February, she knew that change needed to happen to support the mission. She had strategic meetings and plans for shaping the future of this organization. Then COVID19 struck, and these strategic plans had to be adjusted.
To create change, Reynolds states that one needs to know their data. To properly assist African American women during this time of uncertainty, it is important to know who was impacted before and now. During January and February, the YWCA served about 150 people and after COVID19 they were serving about 330, a big shift for the size of their team. About 80% of the people served, before and after COVID19, were African American and 65% were African American women. It is important to note that all these data points are all someone’s lived experiences. Therefore, what changes can be put in place to change quality of life and how will these changes impact their quality of life?
Reynolds begs the question, “How do we make sure those conversations are there for the people who have the lived experiences?” She discusses two areas in which her organization answers these questions. The first is collaboration. There are great partners in the Pittsburgh area, in which the YWCA has taken advantage of to help service those in need. The next is reducing barriers. The racial and gender barriers that are put up need to be reduced to give opportunities to those who need it. For example, considering the current situation, the YWCA is offering virtual STEM programs to middle school and high school students. This helps women of color to start thinking of the multiple careers paths they could have.
The main message that I received from Angela Reynolds discussion is that nothing can change without action. In order to bring about change for a group of people, one must be willing to act and implement the changes they want to see.
Networking is typically a vital part of the Women Business Leaders Breakfasts, but with the current circumstances, networking was not viable. Therefore, I decided to get in contact with Anne Flynn Schlicht, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. Anne received her Masters of Business Studies in Entrepreneurship from the University of Limerick, Ireland and has a Best Practice in Teaching Entrepreneurship Certificate from the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2016, Anne was appointed Director of Chatham’s Women in Business Center. The following is a set of interview questions that I asked Anne:
What are you most looking forward to for this specific series with Dr. Angela Reynolds? What are you hoping to learn?
“Dr. Angela Reynolds passion for empowering women, especially African-American women in our community, and her work with the United Way of Southwestern PA, and most recently as the new CEO of YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh … What is her vision for the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh, an organization with over a 150-year history of promoting peace and justice.”
What do you hope students/attendees can gain from this series or all of them in general?
“Amazing women business leaders in our community have shared their life journey, and the challenges and successes they have experienced. All have been honest and open about what has led them to their current position, and the support and mentorship they received along the way, which is a great learning experience for students and business owners.”
In light of the current situation, what had to be adjusted in order to continue these events for people to view at home? Were there any struggles along the way?
“CWE moved all our business counseling services and training events online in mid-March and overall we have not had any problems. We provide business counseling services via telephone and online. We increased our zoom capacity so more attendees could join our training events for free. We received a lot of positive feedback from women business owners who stated that online training webinars worked well for them right now as they would not be able to attend in person … The Livestream of the Women Leaders Breakfast Series has allowed many to join online who would otherwise not have been able to participate in person due to work, school or childcare needs.”
Do you have any advice you would like to give women in the business world during these uncertain times?
“The COVID-19 health crisis is constantly changing so you need to keep abreast of the changes and how it will impact your business and industry. There will be some challenging and difficult decisions business owners will have to make, and this will cause a lot of stress and anxiety. CWE is here to guide them through these difficult decisions and identify options to move forward. We have a community of women business owners who are all willing to lend a hand and support each other.”
The next LIVESTREAM Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series will be held on Friday, June 12, 2020. This series will feature Angela Wheland, Vice President of Communications at FedEx Ground. She will discuss communications within times of uncertainty and how to increase clarity and calm. Click here to register!
Morgan Beatty is a third semester MBA student with a concentration in Project Management. Her work experience includes being a Supervisor at Tim Hortons back home in Erie, PA and an Intern at Clinton County Economic Partnership. Besides being an MBA student in Project Management, talk to Morgan about painting, Disney World, or studying abroad!