By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Dr. Joan Prince is a disrupter. In almost every professional position she, Prince has been the only – that is to say, the only woman or the only African American woman. As the only, Prince often finds herself speaking up and breaking what she calls the sound barrier.
In doing so, she’s helped others see their bias and understand it. It’s not always a comfortable position, Prince said, but it is a necessary one when it comes to challenging and changing power dynamics.
Racism and sexism have a place where they intersect, Prince said.
Prince will be discussing that intersectionality during the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee annual luncheon, “Disrupters, Changing Power Dynamics,” at the Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., on Thursday, Nov. 18. As the title suggests, this year’s luncheon celebrates disrupters, the individuals who dare to challenge and change power dynamics.
Gender and race are often topics that are avoided in public settings, Monica Shah-Davidson the event committee chair for the Women’s Fund said. People think if they can’t see an issue it doesn’t exist, but racism and sexism still threaten women of color.
“We wanted to bring this topic to the forefront,” she said, adding that 10 local disrupters will be honored at the luncheon.
The topic at these annual luncheons speaks to the Women’s Fund mission to advance equity for women. Last year it was gamechangers who drive equity forward. These themes relate to a quote by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, that the group has on its website, which reads:
“When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately; families are healthier, they are better fed; their income, savings, and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families, is true of communities, and eventually, of whole countries.”
In short, helping one woman helps all women and by extension the world.
During the luncheon, Prince will be talking with Abby Phillip, a senior political correspondent and anchor for CNN’s Inside Politics Sunday about gender and race and the impact of intersectionality.
“The issue of the isms is something women of color walk daily,” Prince said.
Prince said Phillip will be approaching the topic from a national lens, and Prince herself will be approaching it from Milwaukee’s viewpoint. It’s a matter of looking at the community and seeing where the disruptions are needed and what can be done better, she said.
For example, Milwaukee lacks corporate CEOs of color, Prince said, it also lacks Black women and other people of color in leadership positions. People need to look at the numbers and make the change, she said. It’s about walking the talk, she said.
“We know how to do it, but the question is, do we have interrupters strong enough to make a change,” she said.
The discussion is only the beginning. It’s about helping people understand how to identify it and then disrupt it, Prince said. It’s about being equitable.
“It’s a conversation about how to be inclusive and not exclusive,” Prince said.
Many of the attendees are from local corporations such as Associated Bank, Johnson Controls and Kohl’s, Shah-Davidson said. The hope is that attendees take what the learn and continue the conversation at work.
The work should begin in school, Prince said, where socialization begins. When people learn that race and sex do not determine someone’s value, they carry that through every aspect of their life. People aren’t born racist or sexist, those biases are taught in socialization – but it can be different.
This is not a fight for women of color to do alone, Prince stressed. It is a fight that must be done hand in hand and in the name of equity. When the numbers boast about how many women are leaders, it must include all women, women of color cannot be forgotten in the process, she said.
“We can disrupt together, women, men, all of us can disrupt,” she said. “If we can do that, I think we can make Milwaukee the great city it deserves to be.”
Individual tickets for the luncheon are still available and can be found at https://womensfundmke.org/.