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Victoria’s Secrets: “They don’t just lean in. They rise up.” Celebrating Women’s History Month

I asked myself, why isn’t there a Men’s History Month, and when I asked Siri, I found an article about the subject that simply said, there is none because we don’t need one. Sadly, to this day, there is still great inequality, both in America and worldwide.

And so, in March, there is an opportunity to focus on women and their achievements, and this year, remarkably, is also the 100-year celebration of women in New York getting their voting rights.

Over 15 years ago, I created an event to highlight the enormous accomplishments of women who I believe are the greatest jugglers of life after I attended a Chamber of Commerce annual business award dinner. The dais of honorees ran the whole length of the ballroom and, to my amazement, there was not one woman sitting there.

I decided I would change that by creating an event to honor and recognize their achievements in business, education, technology and non-profit organizations.

It has grown to recognizing women in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, and only a few weeks ago, over 600 people applauded extraordinary women in Brooklyn at the Grand Prospect Hall.

I’m always amazed at the enormous impact that these women have on our community and it’s been my privilege to put the spotlight on them.

Ironically, the spotlight was turned on me by our City Comptroller Scott Stringer for his Women’s History Month celebration. I received my recognition at the gorgeous, stately, multiple columned, historic Supreme Court building in Manhattan. The rotunda designed by Guy Lowell has a three-story-high ceiling mural painted by the Italian artist Attilio Pusterla. The mural, paid for by WPA funds, depict the history of the law from across different civilizations including Assyrian, Egyptian, Hebraic, Persian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine, as well as illustrating English and American civilizations.

I was enthralled by the powerful images.

Then, on March 30, I had the honor of being recognized by Mark Jaffe and his organization, the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, at another historic site, the General Society Library in Manhattan. The library was founded in 1785 by the skilled craftsmen of the city.

I sat with women who have made an impact on all our lives. I loved meeting Michelle Bouchard, the president of HealthCorps which oversees a wellness educational program that has impacted more than two million students nationwide.

Then I met another honoree, a leader of STRIVE, Judy McElnea. The group helps to empower women by offering mentoring and training services. I was enthralled by the story of one of the women her group helped, an impoverished single mother of three who got her GED through STRIVE and was supported to pursue a career at a hospital and is now in line for a management position. Now that’s power!

An old friend who I have honored, Chetachi Nwoga-Ecton, the president of the When in Need (WIN) foundation shared the story of her downtrodden childhood in Nigeria, her remarkable journey to America and her efforts that led to the establishment of a healthcare agency to help the powerless, needy people in Philadelphia. Her WIN group created out of what she learned has enabled her to help people from Queens to Nigeria. In 2014, she was recognized as one of the 100 most influential Nigerians in America. What a woman!

It’s sad that we need a unique month to celebrate women. The need should not exist but until the time comes of total equality for women, we should do what we can to tell the stories of these wonderful women.

Honoree Jen Tortorici from Luna Park
Honoree Jen Tortorici from Luna Park

Welcome to Queens, Jay 

To the good fortune of Queens College, the brilliant Jay Hershenson has joined its leadership team as senior vice president for communications and marketing. He comes back to his alma mater to add to the efforts of his old friend, President Felix Matos Rodriguez, to make Queens College the premier institution in the CUNY universe.

Jay has served the CUNY system for over 32 years under eight different CUNY chancellors. He has been recognized and honored over these many years for his efforts on behalf of minority and disadvantaged students. Marty Markowitz, the former borough president of Brooklyn, said about Jay, “He is Mr. CUNY, and his entire career has been in the forefront of fighting for quality higher education.”

I loved how Ben Schmitt, the former chairperson of the CUNY Board of Trustees, called him CUNY’s Derek Jeter:

How blessed we are to have him back!

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