2023 Leader Luncheon: Equitable Futures

November 16, 2023
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Networking Reception and YShop Pop-Up
12:00 – 1:30 PM
Luncheon Program

Hyatt Regency Chicago
151 E. Wacker Drive Grand Ballroom
(Lower-Level East Tower)


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Cannot attend but still want to make an impact? Make a general donation to support the YWCA’s mission here.


For nearly 150 years, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago has been here to support, uplift and unleash the full potential of every woman, child and family across the region. With its long-held mission to eliminate racism and empower women, the YWCA is building a more Equitable Future – one where quality education is available to all, where women and girls feel safe walking down their city streets at night, where affordable childcare is accessible and working women do not have to choose between their careers and their families to make ends meet.

This year, our four Leader Luncheon honorees are changing policies, breaking the rules and speaking truth to power in the spirit of creating more Equitable Futures for us all.


2023 Leader Luncheon Honorees Graphic

Outstanding Leader in Business: Kathy Bolhous, CEO, Charter Next Generation

Kathy Bolhous Headshot

Kathy Bolhous has led Charter Next Generation through several transformational acquisitions and significant organic growth. Under her leadership the company’s valuation has soared from $58 million in 2010 to over $4.5 billion in 2022. It has also become a frontrunner in sustainability – developing films that use post-consumer recycled (PCR) resins and investing in efforts to reduce plastic waste in the U.S. and abroad. With support from private equity partners Leonard Green and KKR, Kathy championed an all-employee ownership program in 2021 to allow team members to profit from the company’s equity growth. The first five years of the CNG’s employee ownership journey will be featured in a documentary film produced by Ownership Works.

Outstanding Leader in Racial Justice: Tracie Hall, Executive Director, American Library Association

Tracie Hall Headshot

Tracie Hall the first African American woman to lead the American Library Association since its inception in 1876, has spent this year fighting against political book bans and devastating budget cuts to protect Americans’ free right to read. In her tribute to Hall, author Min Jin Lee wrote, “Hall’s life’s work teaches each of us that the love of libraries and books can free us from hatred and lies not just for the present generation but for the liberation of all to come.”

Outstanding Civic Leader: Cristina Pacione-Zayas, PhD, First Deputy Chief of Staff, City of Chicago

Cristina Pacione-Zayas Headshot

Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, First Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Johnson is being described as the most powerful Latina in the City of Chicago and is widely recognized for her efforts to promote educational equity and advance social justice through her service in community-based and policy organizations, Chicago Public Schools, and as board secretary of the Illinois State Board of Education. Formerly as the Associate Vice President of Policy at the Erikson Institute, she played a crucial role in shaping early childhood policy and advocating for children, families, communities. Dr. Pacione-Zayas is credited with establishing Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy and Community Data Lab—two statewide initiatives that have helped Illinois leaders and lawmakers understand the importance of investing in children’s early years and their overall well-being and development. Since December 2020, Dr. Pacione-Zayas has served as a State Senator representing the 20th District leading education, housing and public safety policy initiatives.

Outstanding Youth Leader: The Pierce Twins

The Pierce Twins Headshot

Kyra and Phallon Pierce, or “The Pierce Twins,” discovered a book on their 8th grade summer reading list entitled “And Then There Were None”, by Agatha Christie, was originally named “Ten Little N*****s”. This led to further research, which uncovered was a racist nursery rhyme that was a significant plot point, which sparked the twins advocating for their school to provide context around racially insensitive books and add books written by diverse authors to their school’s summer reading lists. Inspired by their experience, the twins wanted to do more as they saw the lack of diversity, specifically authors from multicultural backgrounds, on summer reading lists, elementary, middle, and high school literature courses, and school libraries. They created an age-appropriate inclusive diverse book list for young readers and sought to take their mission to help a broader audience.

Now, Illinois State Rep LaShawn Ford is working to pass the “The Pierce Twins Bill” in Springfield, one that promotes adding books written by diverse authors to literary curriculums across the state. In addition, the twins are co-founders of Positive Change Charities, a 501(c)(3) organization that has provided over 2,000 books written by multicultural authors to kids in need and underfunded school libraries to schools across Chicago and surrounding suburbs.



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