Throughout this year, we have featured over 100 local men and women in our Women’s Empowerment campaign.
These outstanding individuals have joined together in solidarity by giving everyday examples of how they empower women. Although our campaign comes to an end, the importance of empowering women continues on!
This coming year, we challenge YOU to be the woman who straightens another woman’s crown. We challenge YOU to be the man of quality who supports women’s equality. As you are putting your goals for the New Year into action, we hope that our mission of empowerment shines bright in you well into the future!
We are so grateful for such an outpouring of support this year! Thank you for joining us on this year-long campaign, we hope you feel excited, inspired, and eager to come alongside YWCA Northeast Indiana as we continue our mission to empower women.
"Santa is a humble leader, and is quick to give me a lot of credit. We also want to acknowledge other strong females at the North Pole. Almost 70% of our elf workforce is female and those ladies do a great job making every kind of toy from baby dolls to skateboards to footballs! In fact, our new head elf, Noel Nutcracker, is a dynamic young leader. She’s only 236 years old and already at the top of her game! I’m so proud of her. All elves are paid equally for the role they are in, and each elf has the chance to move up the Toy Ladder, so to speak. Currently, 82% of our management positions are now held by female elves. The world of children is blessed by all the wonderful elves, not just our elves but all those around the world, male and female, who help make Christmas happen every year."
Chief Operations and Elf Relations, North Pole Toy Company
"I am the legacy of a loving and inspiring Puerto Rican mom who taught me I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Women’s equality is important to me because I believe all women deserve to reach their highest potential, yet we do not all have the same opportunities. I lift the crown of other women by helping them find their voice, encouraging them to discover their
own paths and passions, providing support and encouragement, and by mentoring new nonprofit leaders. I also lift the crown of other women by raising a son that respects, supports and empowers women at home, at work, and in everyday life. One of my favorite quotes is from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She says, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” Let’s work on building a society that provides that opportunity for all women."
Executive Director, Volunteer Center
"I believe with everything that’s in me that each one of us is an unrepeatable masterpiece. Greatness is hardwired into our very DNA. I have dedicated my life to unlocking it – first in me, and then relative to everyone I have the privilege of encountering. So, with this posture, I can’t help but to champion women, people of color, and, quite frankly, all others who are (and have been) historically under-represented and marginalized. Unspoken truth gives lies the opportunity to be amplified instead. So I’m talking. To all those who’ve been told that they were less than, excellence looks like you too! REIGN!"
Firm Diversity Partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
“It is my pleasure and honor to support other women, as others have so kindly done for me. I encourage women to think for themselves, find their own voice, and speak up (even when it quivers). I try to help others see the talent and hope inside themselves - and to help them find their passion. A favorite quote by Henrietta C. Mears says, “You teach a little by what you say. You teach most by who you are.” I take this to heart, striving to lead by example, working to be my best self, and providing support and mentoring to others. Through this process, we can all support one another and continue to learn and grow!”
Melissa L. Gruys, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Dean and Professor of Management, Doermer School of Business, Purdue University Fort Wayne; YWCA Northeast Indiana board member
"To empower women in the workplace, we need to see ourselves as people. The most important step towards creating an equitable gender balance is to avoid division and instead focus your energy on honing the skills that you bring to the table. It is with this persistence that a successful “woman president” or “woman CEO” can simply become a successful “president” or “CEO.” Results speak louder than anything. Never lose sight of that."
President and CEO, Hallmark Home Mortgage
"As the mother of three amazing young women with unique destinations, I see how society can foster growth of their unique skills and how society can hamper their impact. I want to make sure that I not only mentor young women but sponsor them as well, helping them achieve their goals in all aspects of their lives."
Carolyn Warner-Greer, MS, MD, FACOG, FASAM
Medical Director, Bowen Recovery Center
"I help to straighten the crowns of others through philanthropic support. I learned from my generous grandparents how important it is to financially support the community in which we live, work, and raise our families, and I will continue their legacy by supporting nonprofits that provide services in the focus areas my grandparents were most passionate about, including YWCA Northeast Indiana."
Executive Director, The William J. and Bonnie L. Hefner Foundation
"True empowerment begins by establishing a feeling of authentic mutuality, supported by others willing to share the invaluable gift of lived experience. To straighten the crown for another is to listen actively, and respond with empathy as equals, capable of accomplishing great things."
Director of City Ministry, Trinity English Lutheran Church
"Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown."
County Council-1st District, Allen County
"I straighten the Crown for the next generation of women and girls so the path they forge will be recognized and valued as the norm, not the exception."
Executive Director, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc.
"My mother reminds me to “be kind to everyone” and that “love is free.” I take this advice into every relationship, which helps me to not only straighten crowns, but to see each woman individually for her unique contribution. Because of this, I can rest in my belief that every woman has been fearfully and wonderfully made."
City Council - 6th District, Fort Wayne
"I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of so many powerful women and to be mentored by men and women who believe that knowledge and experience are meant to be shared. I carry these lessons as a business owner and a community volunteer. It is a big part of my mission to see more women in every board room than when I was first invited. Research shows that women are collaborative leaders; the world needs more of us!"
CEO, CVC Communications
"I hope to empower others through philanthropy. When people choose to give, their generosity can inspire others to do the same. Giving can have a snowball effect, getting bigger and bigger as it moves forward. I have been financially contributing to nonprofits for most of my adult life, and I hope my choice to do so has not only inspired others, but has had a lasting impact on our community."
Community Advocate and Philanthropist
"A wise mentor once told me that the most important professional rule is to never do anything to harm another woman’s career. We have so many barriers already we should not create them for each other. I take this seriously. This means avoiding a competitive mindset, there are enough opportunities for all of us. Demonstrating honesty, loyalty, and equity in all personal and professional relationships is crucial. When someone tries to create a personal or professional barrier for another woman, it is my responsibility to say something. If another woman needs help and I have the time and resources to give, it is my responsibility to step up. If a young woman is looking for a mentor, it is my job to support her the way I was supported by the women in my life. We are all in this life together."
Whitney Bandemer, JD
Principal, WB Consulting, LLC
"The best part of my job is that I get to spend time making sure that people are aware of the resources available to them. Every little bit helps, and helping people help themselves is always the way to go. In my tenure, I have also been privileged to encourage, mentor, and coach others to become their best selves. Sometimes all they need is a little bit of confidence and knowing that someone is there behind them."
President & CEO, United Way of Wells County
"My advice would be to make yourself available to help someone up after they have fallen. It doesn't matter if they stumbled or were pushed down. Sometimes the only thing people need is to know that someone is rooting for them to get back up. Take a moment to see the potential in them and encourage them to see it too."
Executive Director, Isaac Knapp District Dental Society
"There are times when a woman's greatest enemy is, unfortunately, another woman. Insecurity and jealousy can create competition that does not exist otherwise, and bring forth perceived differences that are not based on anything factual. I want to change this phenomenon. I want to be a cheerleader for the women in my life. I want to help women celebrate what makes them unique, and confidently embrace their specific talents and abilities. I want my girls to see their mama build others up instead of tearing them down, love without limits, and choose to find the good in everyone. I want my girls to learn to straighten every woman’s crown first, even when their own feels off-centered and askew. This is the kind of action that will change the world. One person at a time."
Community Volunteer; YWCA Northeast Indiana Board Member
"Empowered women empower women. From a young age, I watched my mother lift up other women in our community and give them opportunities. Her example has led me to be the person that I am today and serves as another role model for my daughters. When we empower women and give them opportunities, it builds the entire community."
Executive Director, The RespectTeam
"I straighten other women’s crowns by amplifying marginalized voices."
Executive Director, Incremental Development Alliance; YWCA Northeast Indiana Board Member
"I straighten crowns by developing relationships and inspiring others. One of the keys to success is looking at what others have done in their journey and learning about their successes and failures. I try to look for people that inspire me and hope that I can be an example to inspire others. Networking and sharing experiences with others, and building meaningful relationships with those people, is so valuable, both personally and professionally. The more people see themselves represented as leaders, the more they are encouraged to pursue their own career paths."
"I am a joiner. Being invited to, and inviting women to, social gatherings, charity events, a concert, or simply dinner or a drink brings joy to my life. Discovering and connecting with new women is a passion of mine and connecting women to each other is magic. As women, we need other supportive women in our lives. I recently became a grandmother for the ninth time – five of them are girls. My hope is that they all invite and get invited to the table. I want my granddaughters to find friendship, wisdom, knowledge, or simply a listening ear. Women helping women, that’s the power we must use to support each other!"
EVP for Finance & Administration, Indiana Tech
"In this competitive world, women can be downright cruel to each other! How refreshing instead to surround yourself with women who truly care for other women - who encourage, compliment, pray for and mentor others to be the best they can be. Being a domestic violence survivor, and having been beaten down both emotionally and physically, I am passionate about advocating for not only domestic violence victims, but all women. We all need uplifting! The look - the smile - on someone's face when you genuinely compliment them is priceless. We all need to strive daily to straighten each other's crowns. The reward of compassion and the "feel good" aura, comes back to you tenfold! Just do it. And continue to pay it forward, as you never know what someone else might be experiencing."
Lydia M. Runge-Quinn
Design Consultant, Ethan Allen
"I am always looking for opportunities to encourage, empower and lift up women near and far. The General Motors’ Women's Committee enjoys supporting YWCA Northeast Indiana, and looks forward to helping with the organization's future endeavors in raising awareness and support in our community!"
Fort Wayne Assembly, General Motors; Chairperson, UAW Local 2209 Women’s Committee; Director, LegalShield
“When I think of straightening the crown of another it means having the courage and trust to know that you can be real with them. It’s important to ask ourselves, “How do I improve and grow if everyone around me is simply telling me I am doing great when I’m not?” I want to hear from those that care enough about my success to tell me what I really need to hear to improve! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” I strive to be the kind of woman that will straighten the crown of another. Not because I have succeeded and I can rest knowing that my crown is on straight, but because I know there are going to be times when my crown will need to be straightened as well."
Vice President of Human Resources, Master Spas
“When I think back to when my career started, I keenly recall the women I wanted to emulate. They carried themselves with confidence, were kind and inclusive to those around them, and weren’t afraid to share their knowledge and opinions. Women beginning their careers need good examples, kind words of both encouragement and verbal accolades for a job well done, and, last but not least, an additional smile in the crowd to cheer them on. So many women were like that for me. I try my best to pay all of that forward.”
Business Development, MKS Michael Kinder & Sons, Inc.
"I believe that women should not only have a seat at the table, but have a voice in the room. It is my life's mission to make every woman feel empowered to have an opinion and the confidence to share it. As the mother of a young daughter, I want to create a world where she doesn't have to shrink herself to make people comfortable. Strong women paving the way, lifting each other up, and taking up space is the change I wish to be a part of for future women empowerment!"
Community Affairs Manager, Indiana Michigan Power
"I began volunteering with the Miss America Organization over fifteen years ago. A lot of people see the national competition on television, but what they do not see are the preliminary competitions. The candidate competes in local, state, and then finally the national competition. There is a lot of growth that takes place between points A and C. I host the Miss Three Rivers Festival Competition in the fall and have the privilege of getting to know the young ladies and their families. I have a chance to engage with these young ladies and to learn about their likes and dislikes. It is an opportunity to find out what it is like to take a walk in their shoes. I have come to learn that the things you may see as your flaws are what makes you unique. There are so many times that we compare ourselves to the next person in line. During my middle school and high school years I was very awkward, tall and heavy set with frizzy hair. I grew up in a single parent home and we made the most of what we had. Now that I look back, I can see where those struggles prompted me to become a more confident person. My friends taught me how to embrace those things, and I will always be grateful for that. Ladies, wear your crowns proudly, and surround yourself with friends that help you to embrace your uniqueness."
Program Manager, Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana
"My mother had a beautiful crown and was the most kind-hearted, loving, and unassuming person I've known. She quietly helped others and offered love and support without judgment. She was the best and most empowering woman I've known in my lifetime. It has been my goal to continue her legacy, and to do my best to be positive, kind, engaging, and a good listener. To let other women know they are not alone no matter what life throws at them, I will be there for them.
I have been blessed to be surrounded by the women I work with that share that same passion for caring and empowering women. We are a work family and have supported each other through life's celebrations, opportunities and challenges. My hope is that other women realize the value of being present, lifting each other up, and straightening others' crowns when they can't do it themselves."
CEO, KB Search Team
"As a woman business owner, I’ve always found myself in environments that aren’t always comfortable. While I worked at the Kennedy Space Center, it wasn’t unusual for me to be the only woman in the room, and being seen as a secretary and not a seasoned project manager. That didn’t change when I started my business. So, supporting women entrepreneurs is so important to me. There are more doors open to women business owners but behind those doors are still many hidden prejudices. To all those women business owners out there, you’re not alone! Wear that “crown” with pride. I’m always here to help."
President/CEO, PQC Works, PQC Trains & Windrose Learning
YWCA Northeast Indiana Board Member
"I straighten other women’s crowns every day by making sure they don’t have to choose between success in their career and being a mom, wife, daughter or partner."
EVP & Chief Operating Officer
Physicians Health Plan of Northern Indiana
"When it comes to any woman's success, I'm all in. There is no jealousy, no hate, no competition. If you get ahead of me, bravo, I'll cheer for you and help you if I can. I want us all to succeed. Just remember though, when you get there, turn around and help another woman. At one time, not long ago, she was you."
Captain, SE Quadrant, Fort Wayne Police Department
"As the mother of two beautiful daughters, I have always believed that it is important for them to be strong and independent. It is not an easy world out there, but I know that they can do anything they set their minds to, and I am here to help support them. I take this job very seriously, and my girls know that I always have their back and that I work hard to straighten their crowns when they need me. As Oprah said, “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength."
Market Director - Wealth, Executive Director
Chase Private Client and J. P. Morgan
"I am blessed to be part of an incredible village of women who encourage, challenge, and love me. My mom, sister, and friends inspire me to keep my head up, shoulders back, and to embody the strength and courage that keeps my crown straight. I strive to do that for other women in our community because together we can raise our voices to support women today but also to set the tone for future generations. There has been a mass exodus of women from the workforce, women who may have to give up their dreams, or be unable to provide for their families because of the lack of affordable, quality child care. Moms need to be supported, and to feel reassured that their children are in quality child care. Through this unified work, children will have the opportunity to see their moms with their heads held high, shoulders back, and crowns straight, and our daughters won’t have to worry about their crowns tilting tomorrow."
Early Childhood Development Director,
Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center
"For Emma's entire life, I've done my best to support and encourage her. Through the recorder, violin, flute, drums, and finally finding that her best instrument was her own gorgeous voice. Through thick and thin with friends, family, school, and the pandemic, I've always tried to show Emma what a unique gift she is to the world, and to find strength within herself. She is a kind, talented, loving, and fiercely loyal person. I'm so proud to be her mom! "
Founder and Emotional Intelligence Practitioner,
Mom to Emma Golden
"A favorite quote of mine reads, 'if not you, then who?' If you don’t support our sisters, then who? It’s important to me that women support women especially in a world ruled by men. But now people are drawing the line of feminism outside of our transgender sisters. What we need to understand is that feminism isn’t a clique. It isn’t about supporting some women and not others. Everyone is invited. All women, no matter their history, no matter what they’ve been through, deserve to be supported by their community no matter what.
My mom has been an inspiration to me since the day I knew what the word meant. My mom is my best friend and, besides the fact that she feeds me and does my laundry, I don’t know what I would do without her. My mom has always been my number one fan, just like I will always be hers. I’m so proud of her and grateful to have such a great bond with her. Happy Mother’s Day, momma."
Student, Concordia Lutheran High School Class of 2022
Daughter to Andie Hines-Lagemann
"Empowering women is one of my life's missions. Personally and professionally I've been blessed and graced by women who have led and guided me through some of my most vulnerable situations. They have been there to help me out of some dark moments and I trusted their wisdom, encouragement, and their hand up. Those women, I could never repay but I will always honor and respect them. One of those women is my mother, Mary E. Starks. I call her 'grace in high-heels'. She's firm but fair, loving, kind and always on the side of right! She is the epitome of an 'empowering woman'. That said, what I know and share with others is what I have learned – I learned from the best!"
Public Information Officer, East Allen County Schools
"Success is a journey, not a destination.
We need to help each other along the way, and it all starts with kindness and a smile."
Managing Branch Director, Creative Financial Staffing
"Success looks different for everyone. For some, it may be securing a large account, or getting a big promotion. For me, it’s about helping others, especially women, find passion and meaning in their work, and growing leaders within our community. Working in an industry traditionally dominated by men, I realized there weren’t many networking opportunities specifically for women. So, several years ago I began organizing networking events for women in the Fort Wayne business community. These events bring women together to make connections, build relationships, and empower and uplift one another. I hope that my small contribution to bring together members of our female business community will help advance the straightening of women’s crowns throughout our area!"
Managing Director, Katz, Sapper & Miller
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s
Empowering Leaders Video Series (2021)
"I am from Peru, South America. As a single mother with two beautiful children, I came to America 22 years ago looking for a better future. I will never forget the day when I walked away from something unhealthy, even though I stumbled a little on my way out the door. I was determined to be brave, and that decision positively changed my life forever. Leaving the shadow of my past and my whole entire family was not easy, but nobody said life would be easy for any of us. We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe we have our own unique gifts, and work towards utilizing these gifts. Passion has been my powerful force, and has helped me accomplish all that I have set my mind to. I live my life, professionally and personally, to the fullest extent possible. Each time a woman stands up for herself, even during the times she feels as though what she is fighting for is not possible, she stands up for all women in our community. Every single woman wears a crown because every single day we all fight our own battles. Always remember to shine and smile because that's when the love begins."
Bilingual Branch Sales Manager, Partners 1st Credit Union
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s
Empowering Leaders Video Series (2021)
"I straighten crowns by helping women perceive, accept, and understand their strengths and weaknesses as communicators. They can then celebrate and leverage their unique gifts and overcome obstacles (baby steps count!) in the way of their self-esteem and success."
President, Gladieux Consulting
"Throughout my career, I have been given many opportunities to learn and grow. Having the courage to take on those opportunities has been extremely fulfilling. We all need to allow ourselves the opportunity to explore new challenges, to learn from success and failure, and embrace everything in between. Wisdom comes from experience. It is my responsibility and honor to help others along the way, by giving opportunities and encouraging others to take risks. I will remain available for “crown straightening” moments along the way. Thank you to those that help me straighten mine. "
Vice President, Private Banking Manager, 1st Source Bank
"I learned early on that my achievements didn’t mean that someone else had to fail. There’s plenty of room for all of us to be successful! Don’t be afraid to seize opportunities to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for other women. When that happens, we all win!"
VP, Corporate Communications, Sweetwater
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Empowering Leaders Video Series (2020)
"Empowering women is not about giving them power or status. It’s about recognizing their intrinsic value and encouraging them to show up with their full self in every situation. Helping other women see their worth and find their courage empowers them to lead from a place of confidence. The crown I wear was not given to me; it’s part of an identity that exists because of how I was created. There have been many women in my life who have helped me recognize that the crown I wear is worthy to be seen by others, and my goal in empowering other women is to pass along that confidence and courage. "
Engage Lead, Pine Hills Church
"I’m so grateful to have YWCA Northeast Indiana as our partner in change as we work arm in arm to address women’s personal safety, economic security, and the future of our young women and girls. Working as the Women’s Fund Director, I have seen firsthand how often our systems fail to protect and empower women. Fortunately, the YWCA is a shining beacon for racial equity, women’s rights, advocating for justice, and promoting peace. To me, straightening another woman’s crowns also means making room at the table for her, and I’m grateful that YWCA Northeast Indiana has done that for me personally and for countless others in our community."
Women’s Fund Director, Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne
"When I look at the women in my life – my mom, sisters, nieces, friends, acquaintances, colleagues – some of these relationships have endured the test of time, distance, newness, and some are always evolving. What they all have in common is that we don’t see anyone above or better than another. We are all a circle of women, supporting each other, being present for triumphs and failures, acting as a sounding board for thoughts, and all the while straightening each other’s crowns without letting others know it was crooked or slipping. I choose to celebrate the big and the little in life and the lives of those I surround myself with. I choose to be a role model for the younger women and girls who look up to me. It is important to demonstrate how women supporting women and girls supporting girls has the power to change our world."
Executive Director, The James Foundation
"According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 257 years for women to catch up to men economically at our current pace. In Allen County, we know that women make around $15,000 less per year than their male counterparts. None of us should accept that. It’s time to “straighten her crown” by shining a light on these disparities because a woman’s financial stability and success is not only good for women, it’s good for our economy and our community."
Vice President, Client & Community Relations Director, Northern Indiana PNC Financial Services Group
"Every room that I walk into I wear my crown. I wear my mother’s crown, my grandmother's crown, and the crowns of my ancestors (sisters) who came before me. There are days when my crown may become somewhat crooked, and on those days I look to my fellow sisters, friends, and community to help me straighten my crown.
Let us all be a blessing to one another and make sure that the women in our lives never have a day with a crooked crown. Step in, step up, step forward and straighten their crowns, especially on the days when they can’t."
Councilwoman at Large, Fort Wayne
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana's
Empowering Leaders Video Series (2020)
"It has been said that behind every successful woman is a tribe of successful women who have had her back, and that is so true. I have been blessed to have worked for and with some exceptional female leaders throughout my time in radiologic technology and in my current higher education career. These women have served as excellent role models to me on what it means to be a servant leader and have demonstrated how important it is for women to straighten each other's crowns. It is a privilege to repay the favor that was given to me by being the nurturer, encourager, and example for other aspiring female leaders within healthcare and academics."
Dr. Angela Harrell
Associate Vice President of Healthcare Relations & Dean of the College of Health Sciences, University of Saint Francis
"We never really know what someone else is going through. We all have days when we put on our shiny armor, even though we are feeling dull or damaged emotionally. Sharing a warm smile, a kind word, or a heartfelt gesture can powerfully lift a woman’s spirit, helping to brighten her internal dialogue to be as shiny as her outside. I try to offer these cheerleader moments daily, to let other women know they are not alone and there are people who care."
Client Experience Advocate, Ash Brokerage
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana's
Empowering Leaders Video Series (2021)
"Women have so many burdens put upon them by society. We often struggle to find balance in our lives and look at ourselves with judgment when we think we have fallen short of society’s expectations. As a woman who has not always been viewed favorably by others, I know the importance of a warm smile, a sincere compliment, speaking the truth, and having support when feeling incapable, inadequate, or unsure. Many women helped me see my worth, so now it is my passion to assist other women to come to know the power they possess. Serving as a Board member for YWCA Northeast Indiana allows me to advocate for women and straighten their crowns through positive messaging, raising dollars to support programming, and community engagement. I hope every reader will contemplate how they might straighten a woman’s crown."
Founder/President of Davis Corporate Training, Inc
Vice Chair, YWCA Northeast Indiana Board
Co-Chair, YWCA Circle Event Committee (2020, 2021, 2022)
"I straighten crowns by living and speaking my truth, and encourage others to do so as well."
Dr. Kim Barnett-Johnson
Chancellor, Ivy-Tech (Fort Wayne and Warsaw)
Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana's
Empowering Leaders Video Series (2021)
"I am a mother to five beautiful daughters and also have four amazing sisters, so building women up and helping them see and appreciate their value and worth is something for which I have great passion. It is something that we as a society don't do often enough. Being involved in the YWCA Circle Event and advocating for women who are trying to make better lives for themselves and their families has been so important to me. We never know the role we play in other women's lives and the power our words and actions have in supporting them. My hope is that other women see the incredible benefits of doing this and continue to empower each other."
Director of Safety, Parkview Health