Women of Achievement 2014
For four years now I have served on the host committee for the Chicago Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League’s Annual Women of Achievement dinner. Every year we recognize women who have had significant career accomplishments and who have also made significant contributions to their communities. This year was no exception. Another outstanding year, another set of amazing women.
The dinner was Tuesday April 8th. In a packed ballroom at the Chicago Hilton, we heard and applauded the stories these women shared with us. I want to share with you some of what three of the honorees had to say that evening.
Janice Block is an Executive Vice President at Kaplan, Inc., a global education company. She is also an extremely highly regarded attorney and very involved with the legal community related to talent development and leadership. I loved how Janice gave us a picture of who she is. She said ‘If you really want to know what I’m made of, ask my youngest daughter. She described me once as one and three-quarter cups Indiana, twenty-seven ounces of grammar police, ten gallons email, one hundred heaping spoons of frequent flier miles, and 50 wedges of high-heeled shoes.’ I am always advocating to women to know how to tell their story, to be able to share who they are and what they are about in powerful and effective ways. In those few words, Janice’s youngest daughter told us more about Janice than a two page resume!
Building on the shoes theme, Janice shared how she has been inspired throughout her life that we should always put ourselves in other people’s shoes, and how that philosophy has served her well in her life and her career. She also reminded us that all of us want to be represented by others who treat everyone well, regardless of who they are and their status.
Julie Howard is the Chief Executive Officer and a Member of the Board of Directors of Navigant Consulting. She has a passion for women’s leadership and counseling, she started the Women’s Leadership Forum at Navigant and also co-founded WLMA (Women’s Leadership Mentoring Alliance). She serves on two corporate boards and on the board of Lurie Children’s Hospital. How she manages all this, along with being a single mom raising three children, is incredible.
Julie shared that for her it was the gift of exposure that her parents provided that served as her launching pad. That broad exposure also steered her towards always trying to live a life of acceptance and inclusion. She was raised in a home that embodies those principles. Her parents always believed that the world was the best education environment for their kids, and that there was diversity and difference everywhere. Julie lived in Nigeria from the age of two until she was seven. Throughout middle school her family served as a waypoint for families from Africa until they could be financially stable. Those early life lessons grounded her in becoming the person she is today. She commented, ‘How many people sit back and think about the impact they can have on others because of their values and the power they hold?’ Another comment she made that made that stuck with me, ‘A whisper from above can seem like a shout from below.’
Cheryle Jackson is Vice President, Government Affairs and Corporate Development for AAR CORP. She also serves on the Board of Governors for the Aerospace Association, and is the first African-American woman to serve on the Board. She was also the first female President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. She’s heavily involved with the White House Project, a national organization dedicated to the leadership of women in business and politics.
Cheryle enveloped the room in emotion when she told us, ‘A year ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. My first thought was not what I had achieved, but what I had not achieved.’ She divulged how scary it was to sit there and realize that she had not reached her full potential in life. Cheryle is now cancer free and now feels she has the opportunity to dedicate her life to realizing not only her own full potential, but also the full potential of others!
Cheryle also acknowledged her parents as people that taught their daughter that she was defined not by what others thought of her, but what she believed about herself. As a young girl in high school that was going through one of the first few waves of integration of schools in Memphis, Cheryle had to hold that guidance from her parents close to her heart every day.
Thank you to Janice, Julie and Cheryle for being who they are, sharing themselves with us, and inspiring all of us to become everything we can possibly be.