Leaders Who Lunch connect young students to women in the workforce

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - During the the height of the pandemic, the International Labor Organization says the number of women in the workplace dropped 4.2%.

”The sooner we can support our young people being leaders the better for us,” said Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO of Women Lead Change.

Leaders Who Lunch began four years ago as a way for students to make connections with professional women in the area.

”We know that these young ladies are our future leaders in Cedar Rapids and we want them to know that building a connection in the community and being a part of the community is really important,” said Deb Worm, F&M Bank Assistant Vice President.

Now after a hiatuses because of COVID the lunches are back, and more important than ever as the number of women in the workforce dropped because during the height pandemic.

”The biggest thing is just encouraging them and giving them the confidence they need to just keep pursuing their goals. We want to make sure we’re keeping equality in the workplace and having the support there for women is huge,” said Kirsten Tillman, Sheets Forrest Draper Insurance.

Cedar Rapids mayor Tiffany O’Donnell is the CEO of Women Lead Change.

She said the more we can connect young women to the community, the more real opportunities they see.

”Events like this really shift the paradigm for our young people. Often times we have to see it to be it. And for these young women here, the professionals that they’re sitting across from become the norm,” said O’Donnell.

Emersyn Courtney is a 4th grader at Kenwood Leadership Academy. She wants to be a famous gymnast when she grows up.

”We have a lot of people here to help us with our goals and to talk about our future,” said Courtney.

O’Donnell said while its discouraging to see women feeling the brunt of the effects of COVID, the focus now is getting them back and giving them the resources the need.

”Post COVID our mission has never been so important. We have seen upwards of 3 million women leave the workforce. And the challenge now is getting them reengaged at a level where they left,” said O’Donnell.

Making sure their voices aren’t lost in the workplace.

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