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Photo by Sara Liptak

From left to right: Capt. Debra Cavett, EMS Liz Garcia and Lt. Daphne Tyus participate on a panel at the Women of Color Foundation program Nov. 5.

November 16, 2015

Leadership panel recognizes women for exceptional work

By Sara Liptak

The Women of Color Foundation has provided personal development through mentoring, sharing and training to reach different goals with women and girls of all colors.

The 10th Annual Women of Color Leadership Development and Training Institute Awards Luncheon program at Cleveland State University Nov. 5, explored in a dialogue series for women in leadership explored the topic, “Women Leaders in Non-Traditional Roles: Changing the Employment Landscape in Ohio.”

Beginning the program with opening remarks and sponsor acknowledgements was Charleyse Pratt, assistant vice president of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement at Cleveland State University, and Alexandria Johnson Boone, founder and chairwoman for the Women of Color Foundation.

A panel discussion on “Successful Women Leaders in Non-Traditional Careers: Myth or Reality?” featured panelists Capt. Debra Cavett, commander at the City of Cleveland Division of Police; Liz Garcia, Cleveland EMS; and Lt. Daphne Tyus of the Cleveland Fire Department.

Bilal Akram, director of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at the Cleveland Fire Department, moderated the workshop.

After the panelists spoke, Akram opened a Q&A session up to the audience of about 60 people, mainly African-American females.

The women on the panel were all of different color white, Hispanic and African-American. They spoke about their challenges and benefits of working for safety forces that are known to be dominated by men, and how they as leaders made the long-lasting decision to join their respective departments.

“Just because we’re women doesn’t mean we’re different we can do it better,” Cavett said, while talking about her experience in the Police Academy.

The women explained how raising children and for some — as single parents — was a struggle. Garcia explained how she learned to say “no” to overtime at her job because being away from her children was tough.

Akram asked the three women what they were most satisfied about in their careers thus far. Cavett replied “the opportunities I’ve been faced with it always feels good when you stand up for someone.”

Tyus explained how persistency got her through the discrimination walk she faced while in the Fire Academy.
“If you have a persistence for something, you get through it,” Lt. Tyus said. “At times, people would walk past [me] like a piece of furniture.”

The remainder of the event included two other workshops from 9:45 to 11:30 a.m., following the awards luncheon. Bonne, Pratt and Barbra Tubbs Walker, sister of the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, presented the awards.

Lorraine Vegan, senior vice president at KeyBank, received the 2015 Woman of the Year ISIS Courage Award (ICA). Le Joyce Naylor, executive director at the Cleveland Clinic, received the 2015 Professional of the Year STAR Award and Laura Cowan, chairwoman and founder of The Laura Cowan Foundation, received the 2015 Stephanie Tubbs Jones Courage Award.

After the awards ceremony, panelists including Dr. Sandra Golden of Cleveland State University office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, Marilyn Alejando Rodriguez, research coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic and Rhonda Crowder, reporter at Call & Post Ohio’s African-American newspaper, engaged in a candid self-awareness discussion about reflections of the past and how to move forward.

The foundation is partnered with 15 corporate and community companies and investors, one of those being Cleveland State University. The Women of Color Foundation began hosting executive retreats in 2003, and will celebrate their 13th anniversary this year.

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