Iliana Mora

Webster’s dictionary could illustrate a tweet about the word “optimist” with a photo of Iliana Mora.

At her first public event as the incoming president and CEO of Women Employed, a Chicago organization that advocates mainly for working women’s issues, she declared that right now is the best time to push the envelope. I spoke to Mora to find out exactly why she thinks that the time of the 45th President of the United States is the right time to push for the rights for women, especially working women.

It turns out that Mora was still on a high from the Women’s March.

“Women have demonstrated that we will stand up. The fight is not over. There has been an upsurge in not just women at marches, but in creating groups (on and offline) and engaging in political conversations,” she said.

It is clear that Mora does not mean political conversations as in Rauner v. Madigan, rather political in our everyday lives. She’ll be leading just that kind of discussion on Nov. 8 at Everyday Feminism: Making the Workplace Better for Women, a panel featuring yours truly.

Panelists will discuss what everyday feminism means to us, and we’ll talk about the ways in which our organizations have made women and families a priority. Other than Mora and I, the panel includes: Amy Best, senior VP & chief human resources officer at Exelon; Kristie Paskvan, COO & CFO at Mesirow Financial; Tom Alexander, COO at 1871 and Lynn Watkins-Asiyanbi, associate general counsel at JBT Corporation and board member at Women Employed. 

The slogan “the personal is the political” is not just something for our history books, but a guiding theme to Mora and WE’s work. Family is at the center of her work at the office and at home. Her family was at the annual WE Working Lunch cheering her on.

“You know what they say, Latino families show up for everything. My husband, kids, and parents were there for me,” she said. “It is a gift to do this type of work and to have their support makes me even more excited to do work on behalf of Chicago-area women and their families.”

Mora is at the helm of an organization she spent almost a decade serving as a board member. She knows the staff and understands the intimate details of WE, which was led for more than 20 years by the dynamic Anne Ladky. As the new president and CEO, Mora is stepping from behind the scenes and introducing herself to people outside of the organization.

 “I am spending a lot of time meeting with supporters, advocates, and anyone connected to WE’s work,” she said. “I want people to get to know me.”

Maria del Socorro Pesqueira, former president and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion and new president of Healthy Communities Foundation (formerly The Arthur Foundation), has witnessed Mora’s “commitment to informing others on the issues and the roles we all can play to make a difference.

“When I think of Iliana, I think of strong governance, advocate, strategic, results-oriented,” del Socorro said.

While Mora is the first Latina to lead WE, she does not feel pressure to just bring in more Latinas to WE’s fold, she is also committed to bringing in other women of color. “It is important that I am a Latina. It informs who I am and how I go about my work. All our issues impact women, but we may need to create different avenues to bring everyone to our table.”

Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said her organization is excited to collaborate with Mora.

“We are thrilled to be working with Iliana and Women Employed on Illinois Women Moving Forward, because we share the belief that all Illinois women are entitled to equality, economic security, and justice.”

Mora is leading an organization that advocates for working women. She recognizes that she is also the beneficiary of a number of mentors, including Ladky.

What is her key to success?

“I think the key is to choose an issue that you are passionate about. It is amazing how many people will want to help you succeed. You should not be afraid to reach out to others. But you have to be engaged in a lot, be present, show up and do the hard work.”

And we could take that as our marching orders for the next three-plus years. So let’s get started shall we?

Details on Everyday Feminism:

Networking & Cocktail Reception: 5:15 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.
Program and Q&A: 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 8
Where: 1871 Auditorium, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 1212, Chicago

Buy your ticket for just $20 and bring a guest for free! 

Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist, writer, and mom. Her writing has also be featured in outlets such as USA Today, New York Times, the anthology, “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox,”...