March is Women’s History Month, and we are proud to highlight our CEO, Dr. Ericka Jones Whitaker, as she shares what Women’s History Month means to her, what impacts she’s having in our local communities, and who is her source of inspiration.
Q. What does Women’s History Month mean to you and why is it important to celebrate the women who have paved the way in society?
Dr. Whitaker: Women’s history is a culmination of the successes and failures of ALL women that have developed our collective strengths. We have made indelible contributions to every major event in history and time. Women have learned over the years that we are stronger together and we’ve managed to make impactful changes in both the political and social arenas. It is important that we celebrate Women’s History because there needs to be a focus on the whole story, not just a few chapters.
Our young women and girls need to understand the impact of those who came before them and developed the doors that they can now access. Women’s History is certainly only one moment in time to honor the intriguing aspects of women around the world; however, the pause during this month is important to give honor where honor is due.
Q. Tell me some ways in which you are making history through your work or communities.
Dr. Whitaker: At one time, Community Action Agencies were dominated by male leaders; however, I am the first woman, and the first African-American woman to lead SCAP. Our annual budget has been as large as $24M to be utilized to serve some of the most vulnerable populations in our communities. Under my leadership, we’ve strengthened operational practices and procedures which are key in operating a multi-million organization. SCAP has grown in size and service area. We’ve expanded the number of Head Start and Early Head Start learning centers, and built new facilities, and we are in the process of building affordable housing on 10 acres of land.
All of these accomplishments are a huge undertaking and of course, would not be possible without support staff, but I strongly believe it takes a visionary to lead these efforts.
Proverbs 29:18 says “where there is no vision, the people perish.” No matter where I am planted professionally, I believe my vision will lead people to a more successful life.
Q. Who is a female leader – past or present that you look up to and why?
Dr. Whitaker: Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African American woman in Congress and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties.
She was an advocate and pioneer for social justice specifically racial and gender inequality. My favorite quote from Shirley Chisholm is “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”