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Women Leading Today

From March issue African American Point of View

by: Lora Wondolowski

I have to say that I was dreading writing an article for Women’s History Month this year.  Regardless of your political leanings it was a bruising year for women.  We witnessed a barrage of anti-female sentiments from political candidates and voters throughout the year.  Sexual assault crisis hotlines experienced a 30-40% increase in calls this fall.  Women’s aspirations of seeing a woman break the highest glass ceiling were dashed.  How do women heal and lead?

In 1912 the women’s suffrage movement was frustrated with their lack of progress after years of advocating for the vote.  Alice Paul and Lucy Burns proposed an “audacious” and massive march on Washington to coincide with Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.  Their group got to work organizing this massive march.  Their march in March of 1913 drew 8,000 marchers including Helen Keller, Nellie Bly, and Ida Wells and a half-million spectators. Additionally, a group hiked in the cold from New York to the march in Washington, covering 234 miles in 17 days!    This was a huge display at the time that helped the movement continue and eventually win the vote in 1919.

Earlier in January of this year, two women leaders took the world by surprise organizing the largest protest march ever. More than a half-million marchers descended on DC while millions of others joined affinity marches around the world.  The march in my little Greenfield, MA drew roughly 2,500 people.  It was in inspiring show of women’s leadership and perseverance around the world.

The other stand out at the event was the sea of pink kitty hats worn by most of the marchers.  Jayna Zwiman and Krista Shuh designed the hat’s pattern with the owner of The Little Knittery in LA.  They made the pattern available for free online and organized hundreds of knit-alongs around the country.  Craft stores and knitting shops around the country reported a shortage of pink yarn in the weeks leading up to the march.

In LPV we have been discussing the leadership capacity of advocacy.  Advocacy is an important skill for leaders—it is the act of giving voice to your intentions.  Leaders need to be advocates in order to engage others in their vision.  An advocate should be clear, compelling, credible, and committed.  The message of the women’s march was “women’s rights are human rights.”  This was a clear, compelling message from committed leaders that engaged others.

The Women’s March showed the world that women’s leadership has not gone away in the face of an atmosphere that was increasingly hostile to women and our rights.  The spirit of the early suffragists is alive in a new generation of women leaders who are advocating for their basic rights and dignity in a hostile and divided world.  Their leadership is giving hope to many that despite steps backwards, new women leaders have stepped up to make a difference.

Boston-Based Leadership Experts Present “Science of Leadership”


Boston-Based Leadership Experts Present “Science of Leadership

Maximizing Your Human Quotient Emphasized

Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director                                                              (413) 737-3876 or c: (413) 695-2038

Feb. 22, 2017                                                                                                       

SPRINGFIELD, MA— Leadership Pioneer Valley will host a three-part leadership development series on March 6, 13, and 20th from 5:30- 8:00 pm at the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield. The series will be led by Strategy of Mind, a global leadership and team development firm based in Boston. The company specializes in building the Human Quotient, a concept they created that refers to a unique set of evidence-based qualitative skills crucial for professional success. They work across a diverse range of industries and with companies of all shapes and sizes.  This innovative and dynamic series will focus on the science of leadership and best practices for 21st Century leaders.  Topics include understanding of the “human quotient”, mission-driven leadership, and managing stress.

The session leaders include David Brendel and Springfield-native Ryan Stelzer.  David is a certified executive coach, psychiatrist, and philosophical counselor. David specializes in coaching executives and other high-level professionals on leadership development and career transition. David writes about his approach to coaching in frequent blog articles for the Harvard Business Review and other publications. David earned an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago.  Ryan is a management consultant who specializes in both individual and organizational performance improvement. Prior to his work in consulting, Ryan served at The White House as a Presidential Management Fellow during the Obama Administration. Ryan holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and undergraduate degrees from Boston University and the University of Cambridge in the UK. He has written articles for various publications.

Dinner will be included in the event, which costs $100 for general admission, or $75 for Leadership Pioneer Valley members. Tickets can be purchased at

Leadership Pioneer Valley is a non-profit that works to identify, develop, and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region.

Black History Month


As we enter Black History Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the leadership of some of our local African American leaders. Sojourner Truth was part of the Northampton Association, a utopian community based in what is now Florence. She was an activist in the Women’s Rights and Abolition Movement. Truth was born into slavery and was originally called Isabella, however, she managed to escape to a new family who bought her freedom (National Women’s History Museum). Truth dedicated herself to helping other slaves secure freedom, and became a prominent orator of her time delivering speeches across the country to important figures. Truth published a biography detailing her life and philosophies entitled Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Folsom, Black History Month: The Crusade of Sojourner Truth).

From this black activist we can learn the essentials behind resistance, and cultivate a new generation of leaders. From Truth, we learn that leadership and politics go hand in hand, and in this day and age we are asked to consider the relationship between activism and leadership (Zammit-Lucia, 2017). Activism is defined by Permanent Culture Now, as an effective way of making long lasting social change in your community (Permanent Culture Now). Activism is closely related to advocacy, a topic that is discussed in detail in the Leadership Pioneer Valley “Positive Leadership Curriculum” . If one views advocacy as the act of using your voice or acting for the purpose of supporting a cause, there are indeed similarities between the two. Both practices require clarity and a compelling case (Positive Leadership, 4). We are able to use Truth’s work with speeches as an example of success due to their clear message for equality, her speeches eventually became a staple of the Women’s Rights Movement (National Women’s History Museum), and thus she was able to demonstrate effective leadership. It is also essential to note Truth’s inspiring resilience, a tool that she relied on in order to survive and continue fighting for Civil Rights. Effective leadership requires the resilience of the participant to be able to overcome obstacles and hardships in order to carry out their original mission.

African-American leaders like Truth, teach us the need to be strong advocates in the face of injustice. There are many opportunities to lead locally in the Pioneer Valley with organizations like Western Mass Showing Up for Racial Justice. By getting involved with the local community you can help make a positive impact through activism, and develop a fuller understanding of black history in the Pioneer Valley.

Works Cited:

“National Women’s History Museum.” Education & Resources – National Women’s History Museum – NWHM. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

Dr. Burton W. Folsom, published on Feb. 1, 1999. “Black History Month: The Crusade of Sojourner Truth.” [Mackinac Center]. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

Truth, Sojourner. “The Narrative of Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth.” The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, by Sojourner Truth. Read it now for Free! (Homepage). N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

“About Us.” Sojourner Truth Memorial. N.p., 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

“Leadership in an Age of Activism (SSIR).” Stanford Social Innovation Review: Informing and Inspiring Leaders of Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

“Introduction to Activism.” Permanent Culture Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

Pioneer Valley Handbook, Positive Leadership on Advocacy and Resilience,


Other Ways to Get Involved/ Resources: Healing Racism Institute of PV

The New Workplace: An Evolving Professional Environment

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the “new workplace” and what it is evolving into.  I know you are conjuring in your mind something akin to the Jetsons with robots scampering around and lots of glass.  As much as I would love a robot to get me coffee in the morning (no assistants at this non-profit), the evolving workplace is happening right now and isn’t all about technology.  There are a number of trends emerging that affect workers and business alike including: multi-generational workplaces, diversity of the workforce, and technology.

Okay, I know that most of the hoopla is around Millennials in the workplace, but the fact is that we now have four generations in the workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (1945-1964), Generation X (1965-1984), and Millennials (1984-2000).  Right now the focus is on Millennials but the real issue is accommodating and working with folks from so many different frames of reference and tendencies.  It is not helpful for so much energy being taken up with rants about why all the other generations “hate Millennials.” To succeed in this workplace stew, we need better awareness of the difference, similarities, and motivators of each generation.

Demographic shifts in this country tell the story of increasing diversity, especially among younger generations, which is driving increased diversity in the workplace.  As Baby Boomers and Traditionalists retire, younger and more diverse populations will be moving into the workplace.  This is also happening at a time when more companies see the value of diversity and the buying power of People of Color is growing; demanding products and companies that meet their needs.  The second part of the equation is women.  More women than ever are in the workplace and are going to college while the participation among men in the workforce and in higher education is on the decline.  Fewer women are completely stepping out the workforce after the birth of a child which will shift policies around work/family balance.

The last factor to consider is technology.  The use of technology in the office has become ubiquitous in a way that was hard to imagine just twenty years ago.  Videoconferencing, smart phones, and other connectivity applications are allowing workers to exist remotely.  There are also increasingly better tools for collaboration.  This is reshaping personnel policies and creating new possibilities.  Workers are arriving with their own technology which is forcing companies to figure out how to integrate our tablets and other devices into the networks.  The cost of technology will be an increasing cost for businesses whether it is just the cost of keeping up or training workers.  With such rapid change, it is hard to imagine how the workplace will look in 20 years.

The 21st century workplace is evolving before our eyes becoming more diverse and technology-driven.  Understanding how to navigate these new waters will be incumbent on leaders to be aware-of and responsive to the trends.  Workers also need to be aware of how this will affect them to allow them to pivot and take advantage of new opportunities.  The companies and leaders of the Pioneer Valley can’t afford to ignore the trends or we will be left behind.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Unveils 5th Anniversary Class

37 Emerging Leaders Participating

HOLYOKE, MA — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) officially kicked-off their program and introduced the Class of 2017 on Sept. 27 at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke at 5:30 pm at its annual Reach Beyond Reception. The reception marked the inception of an intensive, ten-month regional leadership development curriculum for the new cohort. This year marks the 5th Anniversary of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

LPV’s regional leadership development program annually features a diverse class from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties—representing private, nonprofit, educational and public organizations. This year’s class includes 37 emerging leaders from the Pioneer Valley that filled the room with energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to the future of the region.

“The LPV Class of 2017 represents the future of our region,” commented Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director, Lora Wondolowski. “They bring a wide variety of backgrounds and skills to bear while all of them are committed to deepening their community involvement. With LPV in their toolboxes, they will go far.”

Leadership Pioneer Valley addresses the critical need to build a diverse network of leaders who aspire to work together across traditional barriers to strengthen the region. The region-specific curriculum is designed to help the participants refine their leadership skills, broaden connections, and develop a greater commitment to community trusteeship and inclusion within the Pioneer Valley.

In January of 2014, Class of 2014 member Isabel Serrazina passed away suddenly.  To honor her memory and leadership, fellow-class members, alumni, and the board created the Serrazina Scholarship Fund to enable potential participants to attend LPV.  This year’s annual Serrazina Scholarship was awarded to Intiya Isaza-Figueroa, who works for Home City Housing to provide housing for low-income individuals and families.  Intiya embodies Isabel Serrazina’s longtime work on low-income housing issues in Springfield.

LPV Class of 2017 Participants

Galina Abashina of Westfield Jewish Family Service of Western MA
Ryan Barry of Easthampton Bulkley Richardson & Gelinas LLP
Latoya Bosworth of Chicopee Springfield Public Schools
Chelan Brown of Springfield MGM Springfield
Drew Christensen of E. Longmeadow MassMutual
Sarah Crouse of Granby Appleton Corp
Tasheena Davis of Springfield City of Springfield
Morgan Drewniany of Westfield Springfield Cultural District
Patrick Egan of Longmeadow YWCA
James Farrell of Chicopee Health New England
Jillian Ferguson of Northampton Chicopee Office of Community Development
Melissa Fernette of Greenfield Baystate Franklin Medical Center
Dawn Gatzounas of S. Hadley Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Emily Gaylord of Easthampton Center for Ecological Technology
Johnathan Griffin of Greenfield UMass Amherst
Gillian Hinkson of Springfield State of MA
Mark Hudgik of Hadley Greenfield Community College
Justin Hurst of Springfield Self-employed
Intiya Isaza-Figueroa of Holyoke Home City Housing
Kimberly Lavallee of E. Longmeadow Greater Springfield YMCA
Yaileen Medina of Springfield MassMutual
Daniel Nietsche of Greenfield Franklin Regional Council of Governments
John O’Leary of Westwood Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Julia Ortiz of Springfield Springfield Housing Authority
Katherine Person of Easthampton Veterans Inc.
Karen Pohlman of Northampton Baystate Health
William Reichelt of West Springfield Town of West Springfield
Jessica Roncarati-Howe of Chicopee Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
Kristine Rose of Holyoke Mount Holyoke College
Daniel Schwarting of Longmeadow ISO New England
Jill Scibelli of E. Longmeadow Baystate Health
Jane Sicard of Holyoke Baystate Health
Renee Tastad of Holyoke Holyoke Community College
Giselle Vizcarrondo of Springfield Self-employed
Bianca Walker of Chicopee Alzheimer’s Association
Laura Walsh of Springfield City of Springfield
Brian Westerlind of Agawam The Markens Group, Inc


About Leadership Pioneer Valley:
The mission of Leadership Pioneer Valley is to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. Formed in 2010 to fill a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, Leadership Pioneer Valley combines both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning at different locations throughout the Valley. The curriculum is designed to foster the skills, collaboration, and commitment needed to further a vibrant and culturally competent Pioneer Valley. The inaugural class launched in the fall of 2011.

Whatever Happened to 20% Time?

It’s common knowledge that innovation is tied directly to creativity. Companies and organizations that foster creativity create a well of new ideas that can spur growth. Creative environments strengthen morale, engagement and productivity among employees. Or so we’re told.

One of the more famous programs aimed at promoting creativity was adopted by Google. Known as “20% Time,” it invites employees to allot 20 percent of their time to work on individual or group projects that they think would most benefit the company. Some accounts suggest the program resulted in products like Gmail and AdSense, which are now widely used products. I thought this was an interesting idea. Employees, to some degree, have the most knowledge of a company’s operations as they are the one’s working the frontlines. By allowing them more time to work on what they consider most important, they will be able to come up with innovative ways to improve the company’s performance. Surely such a simple and effective idea would spread to other industries- or so I thought.

I read some personal accounts of Google’s 20 percent time and learned that the many people are not as enthusiastic about the program as early media coverage suggested, and it hasn’t seemed to spread much beyond tech. Even at Google, less than ten percent of its employees were using it and those that did sometimes referred to it as “120 percent time.” 20 percent time ultimately requires employees to take time off from primary projects to work on individual ventures, a sacrifice many people are unwilling to make voluntarily, and those that do, just end up working longer. It seems that creativity requires context, and the 20% time program didn’t offer the right one for everyone. A few years back there was some media attention to the program’s discontinuation, although there was disagreement over whether it was extinguished entirely

Silicon Valley tech companies like to give off the impression that their management techniques are a form of enlightened thinking, especially when compared to other industries. They pride themselves for their innovativeness and attract many great talent as a result. However, I wonder if these “special” methods act more as decorations to disguise these companies from the fact that they operate and manage like any other profit driven business. Google HR boss said it himself, “In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it.”

Despite the program’s discontinuation, it still serves a vital purpose as a part of Google’s story that potential employees can relate to. People want to work at a place that appears to have a laidback, creative culture, regardless of whether or not that’s how it actually is. 20 percent time still serves that purpose.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Class of 2016 makes it into El Sol Latino’s July edition!