YWCA Madison honored area's female leaders at its 2013 Women of Distinction Awards luncheon May 23 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
The event was held during YWCA "Moxie Conference: Nerve and Know-How for Emerging Leaders.” This year’s honorees were Betty Banks, Andreal Davis, Tehmina Islam, Salli Martyniak, Becky Steinhoff, and Mona Adams Winston.
Every year, Women of Distinction are honored for their community service, professional achievement, integrity, leadership, and dedication to the lives of others and to the quality of life for all as they stand as a reflection of the YWCA’s historic mission and values. Since its beginnings in 1974, more than 195 women have been honored as YWCA's Women of Distinction.
Event attendees could see a panel presentation from the Women of Distinction during a special breakout session at the Moxie Conference titled "Personal Leadership Styles." Moxie Conference breakout speakers included Marcia Anderson, Bettsey Barhorst, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Amy Christianson, Jennifer Conlin, Dawn Crim, Linda DeVries, Londa Dewey, Annette Miller, and Barbara Nichols.
The keynote speaker was Marilyn Tam, who is the former CEO of Aveda Corp., president of Reebok Apparel and Retail Group, and vice president of Nike Inc. Tam, an author and humanitarian, is currently co-leading HealthWalk, an integrated health care services and products company.
Women of Distinction awardee Betty Banks is co-founder and executive director of Today Not Tomorrow, Inc., whose mission is to create ways for the voices of youth to be heard. She is currently president of the Access Community Health Board of Directors. She’s also a board member of the South Madison Health and Family Center-Harambee and a former director of the Early Childhood Center at Family Enhancement.
Banks thanked Access Community Health Centers for nominating her. “I dedicate this award to the women in my family — both past and present — and the men in my family who continue to love and protect us,” Banks said. “My grandmother, Anna Mae Miller, a teacher who came to Madison with her husband William, a lawyer, at the turn of the 20th century. Together they pioneered many social justice causes that have contributed to the lives we live today.”
Banks' mother, Anna Mae Mitchell, received the very same award in 1982. “She dedicated her life to her family, church, and community,” Banks said.
Banks also thanked her sisters — Caroline, Emma, Arlene, and Yvette and her daughter, Carla, and son, Alan. “Last, but, not least, I thank Gaddi Ben Dan — the man who's been a source of comfort, happiness, and encouragement for me. It is his belief in social justice and creativity that has laid the foundation for our shared work in this community.”
Andreal Davis is the culturally responsive practices coordinator at the Wisconsin Response to Intervention Center. She taught for 20 years at Lincoln Elementary School and has provided leadership as director of Equity and Family Involvement in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
“As I think about the YWCA's mission, which speaks to empowering women, I think about women who helped to create my own definition of empowerment in mind, body, and spirit which serves as replenishment in times of strength and weakness,” Davis said. “I stand on the shoulders of the likes of Harriett Tubman who continues to teach me what it truly means to step out on faith and to go forward with courage.... and Sojourner Truth who beckoned me years ago to tell her story through the Children's Theater production of ‘A Woman Called Truth.’
“Thanks to the YWCA who empower women like myself and work to eliminate racism but, more importantly, serve as a bridge from the past to the future as we breathe new life into this work,” she added.
Tehmina Islam is a certified professional midwife and owner of Access Midwifery, LLC. She is the first person of color to be a licensed midwife in Wisconsin. She also is a volunteer facilitator for the Madison Institutes for the Healing of Racism and serves as a board member and volunteer at Neighborhood House Community Center.
“My family emigrated from the United States 40 years ago and instilled upon me the importance of building community,” she said. “They taught me that without personal health, I cannot have community health... and without community well-being, I can't have personal well-being. Those two concepts are inseparable.”
As president of Forward Community Investments, Salli Martyniak has been instrumental in many nonprofit building projects in Madison. She is a member of the Goodman Community Center development committee and a board member of the Salvation Army Dane County.
“I can't tell you what a humbling experience it is to stand in the shadows of previous Women of Distinction and in the company of so many amazing women who do their own share of giving, mentoring, organizing, and advocating,” Martyniak said. “The energy in this room could really light up the Capitol.”
2013 Women of Distinction winner Becky Steinhoff is the executive director of Goodman Community Center, Steinhoff has secured federal and local grants to expand community programs. Under her leadership, the center has created programs that expand opportunities for teens, such as MERIT and TEENworks. She also has served as executive director of the Atwood Community Center. 2013 Women of Distinction winner Mona Adams Winston is agency services area representative for Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin. She is the immediate past chair of the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center board. She also coordinated the Madison Study Circles on Race project through the Urban League of Madison. She was also a foster parent for 20 years, guiding 22 children into adult life.
The Women of Distinction event began in 1974, when Louise Marston Conklin, a longtime editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, retired and decided to turn her retirement celebration into a benefit for the YWCA, on whose board she then served. Since that time, we have recognized more than 195 Women of Distinction. In addition to recognizing outstanding women, the event also raises money to support YWCA programming throughout the year through corporate sponsorships and event ticket sales.
The YWCA Madison is dedicated to providing safe, affordable housing and shelter; education and training for finding, changing or maintaining a job; racial and restorative justice programs to create a more inclusive community, and Girls Inc. to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold.