YWCA Madison will present its 48th annual Women of Distinction Leadership Awards on Wednesday, June 21, at Garver Feed Mill on Madison’s east side and will honor six outstanding Madison-area women including Jasmine Banks, Alex Lindenmeyer, Dr. Christina Outlay, Lisa Peyton-Caire, Nancy Saíz, and Rosa Thompson.
“We are so excited to celebrate our 48th annual Women of Distinction event,” YWCA Madison CEO Vanessa McDowell said in a statement. “This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating the Lives of Women Creating New Possibilities in Our Community.’ These six women are doing just that! Please come out and help us celebrate the amazing work that each of these women is doing in our community.”
YWCA Madison Women of Distinction Leadership Awards were established in 1974 to increase community awareness and appreciation of the diverse contributions of women in the workforce and in the community. Since its inception, Women of Distinction has honored over 251 women for their community services, professional achievement, integrity, leadership, and dedication to the lives of others and to the quality of life for all.
For more information or for tickets to the event, click here.
Short bios of the 2023 honorees, taken from the excerpts of their Women of Distinction nominations, are as follows:
◉ Jasmine Banks is a role model to youth, adults and small business owners in our community and beyond. As an entrepreneur, she founded Perfect Imperfections 608, Jasmine’s brand of handcrafted natural goods for the home and body. Her philosophy is to treat self-care as a divine responsibility. To Jasmine, self-care includes lots of things but most importantly, loving yourself enough to live an authentic life.
I had the honor to work closely with Jasmine at Operation Fresh Start, where we co-hosted a monthly Young Women’s Group. In addition to workshops, support group sessions and art, Jasmine would bring ingredients to make self-care products with the youth. The joy of creating body scrub from brown sugar and hearing Jasmine explain the process and the history of her business awakened a great deal of curiosity and enthusiasm from the youth. They loved to hear about her journey of starting her own business, born of her vision and desire to spread wellness.
◉ Alex Lindenmeyer is co‐owner, along with Sinéad McHugh, of Short Stack Eatery (SSE) located on State Street here in Madison. Eighty percent of the restaurant’s staff are women, and 86 percent of the management and leadership are women. With 40 employees led by women, they created a progressive new workforce where people, especially young women, get to have their first job in a women‐owned and women‐led business. They strive to pay fair wages (their full‐time employees receive full health insurance coverage) and they believe in lending financial support to nonprofits who are doing the work.
Through their Root Partners program, SSE partners with four grassroots organizations, led by Black women and men, that focus their fight on the root causes of social injustices like systemic racism, incarceration, and homelessness in Madison and beyond. Each organization receives a percentage of SSE sales each month. Choosing just four organizations allows them to deepen their partnerships and focus their attention more vividly. SSE partners financially and otherwise, sitting on boards, advocating for the organizations in the community, and attending and organizing events. Donation dollars dispersed throughout the year are strategic for the ongoing support of the work these nonprofits do year‐round.
◉ Dr. Christina Outlay is the executive director of Maydm, whose mission is to provide girls and youth of color with the skills, experiences, and connections to pursue careers in and change the face of STEM, she truly aligns, supports, and works towards YWCA Madison’s mission. In Christina’s daily work of growing and expanding Maydm, she is constantly asking herself and her staff: “How does this opportunity get more underrepresented youth in STEM?” By bringing in underrepresented youth, such as youth of color and girls into STEM, we are working to bridge wage equity gaps and gender gaps, all while trying to empower and bring up local talent here in Madison. As a Black woman in IT, Christina’s life has been devoted to uplifting and empowering youth of color and girls in STEM. Before joining Maydm, Christina started the nonprofit organization Colorcoded whose mission was to fill the IT career pipeline with more women and people of color by providing a variety of activities, group work, interactions with mentors, and paid internships. Her organization proved to be extremely successful and provided her the tools to join a larger organization, like Maydm and help expand the work she was already doing at a greater scale.
◉ Since 2012, the nominee, Lisa Peyton-Caire, and her organization, the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness (FFBWW) has worked to eliminate health disparities and other barriers impacting the lives of Black women, their families and their communities. Her Wisconsin-based non-profit organization is committed to empowering Black women and girls to build and sustain healthy, thriving, wellness-centered lives. The importance of her work with the foundation is evident when assessing health issues faced by Black women in the areas that the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness services.
While Black women make up roughly 7% of the U.S. population and 14% percent of the total population of women, they are overrepresented in all major categories of disease and illness including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stroke and reproductive disorders. Within Dane County, key factors cited by Black women that heavily impact their quality of life, their pregnancies, and their health are: racism, discrimination and institutional bias, bias and cultural disconnect in healthcare delivery and experiences, economic insecurity, housing insecurity and high cost of living, poor access to health-supporting assets, chronic stress and many other factors.
◉ Nancy Saiz exemplifies what it means to work towards racial justice by challenging policies, practices and procedures which produce unequal outcomes for various populations. Nancy practices what Dr. Ibram X. Kendi calls being antiracist. This has always been part of Nancy’s lived philosophy and it guides her personal and professional work. This is just who Nancy is as a person, not something she sets out to do for recognition or an ulterior motive. She is constantly advocating, creating community spaces, mentoring, and partnering to work on eliminating racism and empowering other womyn to be the best version of themselves.
In addition to her regular duties as the Grants Administrator, Nancy has been an integral part of various City’s initiatives, including the Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC), the Women’s Initiatives Committee (WIC), the Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative (RESJI), and the Latino Community Engagement Team. Through her work in all these committees, Nancy has made strides in improving the internal climate for diverse employees working for the City as well as improving the City’s engagement with communities of color living in Madison.
◉ Rosa Thompson founded the Black Girl Magic Conference in 2018. The Black Girl Magic Conference began as an opportunity to celebrate our Black girls, to empower them by showing them positive images of Black women in their community, to surround the girls with other beautiful Black girls like themselves, and to captivate the joy and magic that makes Black girls special.
Following three years of successful programming for the conference, Mrs. Thompson developed the conference into a full-blown nonprofit organization in 2021, now known as Black Girl Magic Educational Services. The mission is the same. The Black Girl Magic organization serves girls in the fourth through eighth grades, who identify as Black, African American, and multiracial.
One of the initiatives of the program is Black Girl Magic Saturdays, which happens once every month. The girls participate in activities such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts, and Math) lessons, cooking, creating items such as no-sew blankets, and more. The key to the program’s success is its centeredness around Black girls’ wants and needs.