While the popular (and often controversial) discussion about “having it all” and “leaning in” continues in the news, the ladies of UNITE HERE Local 1 were honored to have lunch with Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle – a woman who knows a thing or two about being a leader. From finding that all-important work/life balance to her fight to take on the racial inequities in the County judicial system to what book she is reading, not much was off limits.
UNITE HERE Local 1 recently elected its first woman President, Karen Kent, and invited Preckwinkle to share her own experiences with the women of Local 1 about being a leader.
“Part of my goal as the President of the Local is to train and empower women in our union to become leaders,” said Kent.
Forty female staff and members of Local 1 took part in the intimate and candid discussion with President Preckwinkle, sharing their own experiences of being women and leaders in the labor movement.
“As a mother, a housekeeper, and an organizer my life is pretty busy. It can be overwhelming trying to balance it all and stay motivated,” said Hortensia Varela.“How do you stay inspired to keep working hard and fighting for justice?” she asked, getting emotional.
“Being angry and frustrated is momentary,” said Preckwinkle. She advised Varela to surround herself with supportive people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Sometimes it’s a matter of not feeling so alone,” Preckwinkle added.
Kent added her own thoughts about her experiences as a leader: “Ten years ago, I didn’t even imagine myself being here. But, what I have learned is that I just had to make the decision.”
Preckwinkle shared her thoughts on a variety of topics:
On the labor movement: “If we don’t have people to organize those who need it the most then we’re in a lot of trouble.”
On women in politics: “We can’t just volunteer. We, as women, need to step up more.”
On being persistent: “I know now that the things you want to change and do aren’t going to happen overnight.”
Preckwinkle has been a dedicated community leader in the city for over two decades. Originally a high school history teacher, she was elected 4th Ward Alderman in 1991 and Cook County Board President in 2010.