Valuing our women leaders doesn’t end in March


The increasing number of women in positions of leadership has been vital to changing our national narrative about what is fair and equitable. I have known great female leaders throughout my career, from New York City schools to those in many prominent organizations here on Long Island. These women leaders have brought about powerful change.
Women have been marginalized historically, but their participation in our society makes for a stronger union. During Women’s History Month, we have recognized the contributions of our female leaders and the challenges to gender equity that remain. Those challenges are faced by women of all backgrounds, affecting our nation in many ways that are not always effectively conveyed or fully understood.
In the New York City Department of Education in the 1990s, a group of women banded together in what became known as the Offeree Movement, battling employment inequity among custodial workers in the city’s schools. The fight wasn’t easy, and it took many years, but they were on the right side of history and ultimately prevailed. They not only became part of the fabric of the profession, but became leaders among their new colleagues. We thank them for the path they forged.
Currently there are many talented women working for the NAACP, the Long Island Latino Teachers Association, the Long Island Black Educators Association and the Cedarmore Corporation, advocating for an equitable path forward. They will succeed. Please learn about these groups and participate in their great work. Their success is our success, as the world they are creating will be beneficial to all members of our society.
Join these organizations if you believe we are stronger together, or if you believe in gender equity, or if you believe in the rights of all people — or join them if you would like to be in the presence of great people doing transformative things for other people. These groups are about fairly addressing the needs of all members of our society, even when confronted by those who don’t share their values. Their collective good is stronger than the fringe bad.

The Cedarmore Corporation, in Freeport, has been a powerful advocate for women and especially a guiding light for young women. On March 18 the organization hosted “Lifting as We Climb, I Am My Sister’s Keeper,” a benefit that honored several outstanding women leaders from Long Island: Angela Yee, an award-winning media personality, who was presented with the Cynthia Perkins Roberts Memorial Award; Leema Thomas, deputy editor of Newsday (the Voices of Inspiration Award); Susan Poser, president of Hofstra University (the Trailblazer Award); Amy Flores, vice president and community manager of JPMorgan Chase (Voices of Inspiration); Christine Layne-Waters, conference education chair of the New York State NAACP (Voices of Inspiration); and Marie E. Saint-Cyr, an artist and entrepreneur (Millennial Moment Honoree).
This month, the Heralds have published a number of stories on local female leaders. We should celebrate them and their accomplishments. But as I read about these leaders, a different thought occurred to me: Besides just listening and admiring, let’s follow their lead. What I took away from these stories was that these women are forging a new path forward, beyond their individual accomplishments. They are having a positive effect on those of all genders, because they are leading the way to a better tomorrow for us all.
These women did not seek recognition, and several of them, actually, wanted to decline that recognition to focus on their advocacy for equity, their view being that the work is more important than the acknowledgments. But recognition of our women leaders is vital, because their inspiration has a multiplying effect, as others are moved to join them. I hope they will continue to accept the honors they have earned and richly deserve, so we all may learn about the admirable work they are doing.
Let’s celebrate their victories, join in their efforts and share their vision for the future as they promote a principled way forward. I am optimistic about the future, despite the current political turmoil, because we will be a stronger country moving forward if we are united in respecting the views of all constituencies. Women from all backgrounds are key to this better tomorrow.

Patrick M. Pizzo II, Ed.D., is the assistant superintendent for business and finance in the East Meadow School District, the president of Equity 4 LI Youth and the Education Committee chair for the Hempstead branch of the NAACP.