March 8, 2018

Women of Influence event generates more than $200,000 for children

Speakers at Women of Influence event

The key figures at United Way’s Second Annual Women of Influence event pose for a group photo.

When Sandra Ali isn’t anchoring Local 4 newscasts, she’s busy raising her four children. Like many busy moms, it makes you wonder: How does she do it?

Sandra led an empowering panel discussion that explored the challenges women face as they balance work and life responsibilities during our Second Annual Women of Influence Summit, sponsored by DTE Energy.

The event was led by our Women United leadership group, ASG Renaissance CEO Lizabeth Ardisana, Children’s Hospital of Michigan CEO Luanne Ewald and DTE Energy Manager of Public Affairs Dana L. Williams, in celebration of International Women’s Day. More than 300 attendees donned red and purple, the official colors of the movement.

Between coffee and networking, women shared their experiences with one another. The barriers that almost prevented them from succeeding — the criticism, the solitude — were familiar to all, no matter their career or life path.

Panelist JoAnn Chavez spoke about the responsibility women have to each other and to future generations.

“We have to get out there and tell our stories,” she said. My parents are high school drop outs. I’m a Head Start kid. (Kids) need to know what possibilities look like, and we have to be brave enough to tell our stories.”

JoAnn Chavez, vice president, legal & chief tax officer at DTE Energy, speaks with other attendees of the event prior to participating in a speaking panel.

JoAnn Chavez, vice president, legal & chief tax officer at DTE Energy, speaks with other attendees of the event prior to participating in a speaking panel.

Power in the room

JoAnn, who is the VP, Legal & Chief Tax Officer at DTE Energy, joined Luanne and 36th District Judge Roberta Archer on stage at the Westin Book Cadillac.

Luanne noted that women can accomplish more when they work together.

“There is so much power in this room,” she said. “Together, we are all better. It’s not one company or one person trying to fight for a cause.”

Together, the women in the room raised more than $100,000 to fund our Bib to Backpack work, which provides parents and caregivers with tools to prepare their kids for lifelong success. Beth Chappell, RediMinds Executive Chairwoman and United Way board member, matched all new gifts up to $25,000 in honor of her late husband, Warren. That $100,000 will also be matched by our federal Social Innovation Fund grant — totaling more than $200,000 invested in the lives of children.

“The work United Way does to educate and prepare children and young adults is a shared mission for us at DTE,” said Nancy Moody, vice president of Public Affairs at DTE Energy. “Last year, our volunteers assembled 400 literacy kits and donated nearly 600 books to support literacy and educational development for youth throughout Southeast Michigan.”

Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp, interim CEO for United Way for Southeastern Michigan, ended the day by thanking the guests.

“The women here are part of the thread that makes this all possible,” she said.

Learn more about Women United here.