Chicago Women in Philanthropy Annual Luncheon
March 21, 2018, Grace Hou, President, Woods Fund Chicago
Notes and Review from the 2018 CWIP Annual Luncheon provided by Anne Zender
“You Have to Search for the Truth”
“I feel so lucky to do a job that I love and gives me purpose,” Grace Hou told a roomful of fellow philanthropy professionals during the Chicago Women in Philanthropy (CWIP) Annual Luncheon in March. Hou, president of Woods Fund Chicago, is the 2018 Making a Difference Honoree and was keynote speaker during the luncheon.
Hou talked about her early life as the daughter of immigrant parents from Taiwan. The family moved to Chicago when she was eight and she has worked her whole life in Chicago, which gives her a “shared history” with many of her colleagues. “Chicago is a beautiful place, a sweet home for many, but not for all,” Hou said.
“In my bones, I’m a journalist. I like hearing other people’s stories….The only thing that separates us as strangers is story,” she said. That love for story, plus a quest for the truth, guides her, she said. “You have to search for the truth; it’s often unintentionally hidden,” Hou said. She is now the mother of two boys and said she occasionally reads them the young people’s edition of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. She does this not to make them sad, she said, but because “sad is part of the journey to the truth.”
Much of Hou’s work at Woods Fund Chicago, a foundation that draws on the power of communities to fight poverty and structural racism, is driven by the need to “begin to unravel structural racism and force it to be a thing of the past,” she said. At Woods Fund, Hou said, “we fund organizations to unearth racism at the roots. We know racism has consequences. The question is how to move from knowledge to action.” The goal, she said, is “a time when we all now and completely reject racism.”
How can CWIP members help? Hou’s guidance to CWIP members is:
- Attack at the roots: allow those most impacted to lead
- Change the narrative in your world; challenge racist notions and comments
- Be friendly and kind to strangers; share stories
- Read, learn, and be willing to be uncomfortable
- Learn about the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Partnership, the Kellogg Foundation Process that Woods Fund Chicago leads in the Chicagoland area, to proliferate healing and equity within individuals, neighborhoods, and communities
The Annual Luncheon also highlighted the CWIP’s Women’s Leadership and Mentoring (WLMP) program, now in its 10th year. WLMP co-chair Debra Walker Johnson noted that in that time the program has served approximately 350 women, both mentors and mentees. But there is still a gender gap in nonprofits that highlights the continued need for the program. The data shows that women want to be leaders, Johnson said.
The audience also heard from mentee Melanie Sillas, who said her experience with a mentor was helpful as she was trying to break into the field and then get a new role. “I’m grateful to have been connected with my mentor, and we remain connected,” Sillas said.
The event also featured a performance by Still Point Theatre Collective, “The Power of Grace,” which was created in partnership with Grace House, a home for women exiting the Illinois prison system.
CWIP past board chair Maricar Ramos updated the audience on the association’s work in the areas of racial equity and social justice, which has been a programmatic focus for the last year and a half. CWIP has presented two events to educate and support those working toward racial equity and social justice, as well as a training for its board. One more event is being planned for this year, Ramos said.
Notes and Review from the 2017 CWIP Annual Luncheon provided by Anne Zender
“Build Bridges and Throw Down Ropes”
“When women wake, mountains move,” is one of Elizabeth Dozier’s favorite quotes. Dozier, Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Making a Difference honoree, cited that quote during her keynote speech at CWIP’s Annual Luncheon on March 2.
Dozier is managing director of Chicago Beyond, a privately held organization that seeks to create opportunity and access for Chicago’s young people. The group invests in and analyzes ideas and programs to address youth violence and educational attainment.
Dozier is a former Fenger Academy High School Principal who was featured on the 2014 CNN documentary series “Chicagoland.” She told the story of a student who was shot in the head during her time at Fenger. From that experience, she learned “to realize that every moment is precious, we never know when people will be there and when they won’t…Treat people with dignity, humanity, decency, even when it is hard.”
She said Chicago Beyond is particularly interested in organizations that “are getting to the very core of what we are trying to disrupt.” The CWIP luncheon featured a performance by Changing Voices, a program that serves court-involved juveniles and young adults. In 2016, Changing Voices was one of three winners in Chicago Beyond’s first-ever innovation challenge.
Dozier urged her listeners to “look more to see the potential in those who exist on the perimeters of Chicago. How are we building bridges and throwing down ropes?” She urged the audience to “see people not as caterpillars but as butterflies. It is incumbent that we unleash that ability within ourselves.”
“Our collective liberation is bound together one to another,” Dozier said. “We are all connected. You can believe you can’t change the things you don’t like, but the day you see that for a lie is the day your world opens up.”
The luncheon also featured remarks by Lindrea Reynolds, mentee participant in CWIP’s Women’s Leadership Mentoring Program and marketing manager for After School Matters, and Sandra Abrevaya, president and chief impact officer at Thrive Chicago, a citywide collective impact initiative.
In the years past, the following prestigious women have been honored for their contribution to philanthropy in Chicago:
- 2018 - Grace Hou, President, Woods Fund Chicago
- 2017 - Elizabeth Dozier, Managing Director, Chicago Beyond
- 2016 - Evelyn Diaz, President, Heartland Alliance
- 2015 - Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics and Chief of Family Planning at the University of Chicago, 2015
- 2014 - Julia Stasch, Vice President of U.S. Programs, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- 2013 - Maria S. Pesqueira, President & CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, 2013
- 2012 - Aurie Pennick, Executive Director and Treasure of the Field Foundation of Illinois, 2012
- 2010 - Adele Simmons, Metropolis
- 2009 - Amina Dickerson, Kraft Foods
- 2008 - Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company (previously President of Peoples Gas)
- 2007 - Anna Roosevelt, Boeing Company