Detroit Regional Chamber > International Women’s Day > Women Forging Change in Michigan Uplift at Annual International Women’s Day Lunch

Women Forging Change in Michigan Uplift at Annual International Women’s Day Lunch

March 6, 2023

Throughout the 2023 International Women’s Day Lunch, four notable women forging change in Michigan took the stage to deliver TEDx Talk-style impact stories that highlighted how businesses can make progress for equity in the workplace and what we can learn from the achievements of women forging change via technology and sustainability in communities, workplaces, and beyond.

Deeana Ahmed: Resume Gaps are Opportunities to Showcase Unique Qualifications

Deeana Ahmed, Vice President of Strategy, Policy, & Sustainability at Our Next Energy encouraged attendees to embrace their unique life, education, and career experiences as powerful assets and not as burdens to their professional development. She noted, “The windy road of experience is what makes me qualified to do the job that I’m doing and not the box that society tells me I should fit within.” Ahmed also highlighted how Our Next Energy is putting equity at the forefront for their manufacturing workforce by offering wrap-around services like childcare, flexible schedules, and health and wellness benefits.

Shelly Rood: There is a Place for Her in the U.S. Military

Shelly Rood, Creator of Others Over Self, served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 16 years and often found herself to be the only woman in the room. Although the U.S. military is male dominated, she reassured any attendees considering entering the service that there is a place for women saying, “your female persuasion, ability to influence, and perspective are highly valued and needed.” She acknowledged that the intensity of the job can deeply affect mental health and well-being, but when women rely on each other and lead with their personal values at front-of-mind, it is a highly rewarding experience.

Danielle Russel: Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it

Danielle Russell, Managing Director at Google and Site Lead at Google Detroit, began her career as a professional tennis player, never expecting her path to lead to where she is now. She credits her success to her father who truly believed in her dream, reflecting that “if we dream it and believe it, we can achieve it.” She also emphasized the importance of paying it forward and paving the way for others who may not have had the exposure to opportunities before or even realize a dream they had was within reach.

Donele Wilkins: The Fight for Environmental Justice

Donele Wilkins, Chief Executive Officer of Green Door Initiative, described herself as a “born advocate,” and was first inspired to action by the death of her stepfather who was regularly exposed to hazardous environmental conditions at his job. It brought to her attention that low-paid and dangerous factory positions like his were most commonly filled by Black workers, leading her into the environmental justice space. “Environmental justice is about people who are disproportionally impacted by pollution and decisions around environmental protection that some people really take for granted.”