Unfinished Business: Closing the Gender Equity Gap for Women and Girls in Chicago
Moderated by Karen Jordan
Felicia Davis, Cherita Ellens, & Dorri McWhorter
Monday, Dec 9, 2019
Felicia S. Davis is a self-described “girl from the South Side of Chicago.” Felicia is President & CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women.
Felicia has spent the bulk of her professional career in public service. Most recently, Felicia served as the Interim President of Olive-Harvey College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). She was named to this post by CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado in May 2017. As Interim President, her primary responsibility was to provide vision for the College and continuous leadership and direction for the planning and operation of all aspects of the College's programs and services in conformity with CCC Board policies, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) rules and regulations, and State law. She was also responsible for developing, maintaining and evaluating the academic programs and student services of the College and creating a climate which enhances student learning, stimulates creative approaches to teaching and learning and motivates both staff and students to optimum achievement. Prior to joining City Colleges, Felicia held several executive positions in city government.
She served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s First Deputy Chief of Staff, the first Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, and as Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings. She also led the Public Building Commission (PBC) as its Executive Director. As a public developer, the PBC plans, designs and builds schools, parks, libraries and municipal buildings that help to make the communities of Chicago and Cook County better and safer places to live. Under Felicia’s leadership, the PBC developed over $200 million worth of public projects. With Felicia at the helm, the PBC’s annual Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise participation rate was nearly 40%. Felicia spent 10 years in administration at Kendall College, rising to Vice President of Operations and Student Administration.
Felicia began her public sector career with the Chicago Police Department (CPD), where Felicia served with distinction, for 10 years. Felicia is a native Chicagoan and life-long resident of the City’s South Side, where she resides with her family. This dynamic leader and mother of five is deeply committed to community. Felicia is proud to serve on the Advisory Board for the Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative and is a founding member of the South Side Giving Circle at Chicago Foundation for Women.
Cherita Ellens is the CEO of Women Employed. A native Chicagoan, and longtime advocate for Chicago women, youth and families, Cherita brings a unique perspective, and a wealth of experience in organizational development, nonprofit financial management, marketing and communications, and employment policy and related strategies to her role.
As CEO of Women Employed, Cherita leads an organization that for the past four decades has been dedicated to establishing equity for women in the workforce through policy change, expanded access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces. From paid sick time, to fair scheduling, to protection from workplace harassment, Women Employed has been at the forefront of proposing and enacting policy to improve the economic status and security for women, empowering them to support themselves and their families.
Prior to joining Women Employed, Cherita led business operations and communications for Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a public-private partnership that works to close the access gap by matching businesses that have unmet hiring needs with qualified, unemployed and underemployed job seekers. She has also served as the VP of Marketing and Membership for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, and later as the Executive Director of the South Side and Wabash YMCAs. From this, she has first-hand experience of the challenges facing so many Chicagoans, the impact on Chicago’s south and west side neighborhoods, and the ways that businesses and nonprofits can partner together to lift up our city.
Cherita holds an executive MBA from The University of Norte Dame, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Communications from Illinois State University. She is also a proud mom of a college aged daughter attending Vanderbilt University, and a graduate of the Kenwood Academy.
Dorri McWhorter became CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in March 2013. She has embarked upon a journey to transform the 140-year-old social service agency to a 21st century social enterprise. Dorri is moving the agency into the digital age and has led the YWCA’s expansion of digital services with the launch of YShop.org (e-commerce platform), womenshealthexchange.org (health insurance and information) and the MPWR, pronounced “empower”, mobile app (community engagement). Dorri leverages her large-scale change experience from working over 20 years in management consulting to the work that the YWCA does to create social change. Dorri led the process for the YWCA to partner on the launch of an exchange traded fund (ETF) for women’s empowerment (NYSE: WOMN) in partnership with Impact Shares, which is the first non-profit investment advisor to develop an ETF product. Dorri was included in the inaugural list of “The Blue Network”, comprised of the top 100 innovators in Chicago, by Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation and recognized by Good City Chicago receiving its Innovative Leader Award. Dorri is a 2019 Inductee in the Chicago Innovation Hall of Fame.
Dorri prides herself on being a socially-conscious business leader and is committed to creating an inclusive marketplace by leveraging a multi-sector approach across business, civic and community organizations. Most recently, she was a partner at Crowe Horwath LLP, one of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. She has also held senior positions with Snap-on Incorporated and Booz Allen Hamilton. Dorri serves on the Board of Directors for William Blair Funds and Skyway Concession Company (Chicago Skyway). Dorri is also active in the accounting profession having served as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the current Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Illinois CPA Society.
Dorri is dedicated to empowering women as a member of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute at DePaul University and Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. McWhorter’s civic and philanthropic leadership includes the board of directors for the Chicago Center for Arts and Technology, 1871 (Technology Business Accelerator), Civic Consulting Alliance, and the Civic Federation. McWhorter is also a member of the Illinois Charitable Trust Board. McWhorter received a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master of business administration degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Lake Forest College.
Karen Jordan co-anchors the weekend newscast in Chicago, the ABC 7 Weekend News with Ravi Baichwal. Jordan, who grew up in Evanston, Ill., joined ABC 7 Chicago in July 2003.
Jordan previously served as weekend anchor and general assignment reporter at WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, Pa., where she worked from 2000-03. In addition to anchoring the station's weekend newscast, she served as the primary fill-in for WPHL's weekday anchor and covered breaking news and local stories.
From 1999-2000, Jordan served as a main anchor and reporter at WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio. She also worked as a weekend anchor and general assignment reporter for WKEF-TV in Dayton (1997-99).
Jordan began her career in Rockford, Ill., as a general assignment reporter for WIFR-TV (1995-97). She also gained early experience at WMAQ-AM in Chicago, where she worked through the Medill News Service as a radio reporter (1995).
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