Ten of South Carolina’s top women leaders across nine industries will take the stage at YWCA Greater Charleston’s fourth annual #WhatWomenBring. The event will take place virtually at 11 am on October 27, 2021.
To be introduced by event host Octavia Mitchell (right), Charleston’s Emmy award-winning WCBD News 2 TV anchor, the women will candidly field questions from an audience of all ages, genders, and races, with topics ranging from gender bias, the gender wage gap, the glass ceiling, succeeding as a woman of color, and health disparities, among others.
The honorees include:
BUSINESS: Janet Bates
A construction industry veteran who currently heads business development for JE Dunn Construction, Bates aims to change the face of construction so young girls can see themselves in any role in the industry. She is the past president and a founding member of the Palmetto Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), and has served as both NAWIC South Atlantic Regional Membership chair and National Chapter Development co-chair. Her work garnered her national recognition as NAWIC’s 2019 Future Leader of the Year. She also sits on the board of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and its regional policy council. She holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina.
COMMUNITY: Marguerite Archie-Hudson, Ph.D
As a former president of Talladega College, Dr. Archie-Hudson was the first African American woman to head a four-year institution in the state of Alabama. She went on to serve as a member of the California State Legislature, where she signed 45 bills into law and created the California Science Center, nationally recognized as a premier science education center. She has also served as The Links, Incorporated’s Southern area legislative issues chair, where she was responsible for legislative policy leadership for 79 chapters in seven states. Today she serves as associate professor of public policy at the College of Charleston. She holds degrees from Talladega College, the University of California, and Harvard University.
COMMUNITY: Ericka L. Plater
A passionate, service-driven nonprofit leader, speaker, and growth coach originally hailing from Washington, DC, Plater is an active advocate for equitable opportunities for women, children, and communities of color. She currently serves as executive director for Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, where she focuses on addressing the root causes of poverty, creating systemic change, and helping create and sustain equitable and inclusive communities. She has also served as senior director of diversity and inclusion for the Council on Foundations, led workshops for women in girls in collaboration with the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, and served on multiple boards. She holds an MBA and M.S. degree from the University of Maryland.
EDUCATION: Audrey K.S. Lane
A proud native of Columbia, S.C. with a passion for community empowerment, Lane works to influence the landscape of Charleston’s public education system. She leads E3 – Educate, Empower, and Elevate, an organization she co-founded to create high-quality educational options for Black and Brown students, where the desires and needs of families are central. Prior to launching E3, she served as chief of access and equity for the South Carolina Public Charter School District, the executive director of the Royal Foundation, and the deputy for human capital development for the Charleston County School District. She holds an MBA from DePaul University.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Chajuanna (C.J.) Gathers
Born to a long line of preachers and motivational speakers, Gathers founded The WE Group, a women’s empowerment group, in 2017. Best known for its empowerment assemblies where women come together to engage in healing conversations in an intimate and safe environment, her organization avidly promotes women entrepreneurs and seeks to deliver emotional and spiritual healing to women while promoting their dreams, visions, and goals. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Benedict College. She holds the philosophy that our experiences don’t only belong to us, but are to help others.
HEALTHCARE: Dr. Kimberly Butler Willis
As director of community health for Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, Dr. Kimberly Butler Wills, Ph.D, CHES, CDP, works alongside a multidisciplinary team of 50+ healthcare professionals in five departments to provide care to the tri-county’s most vulnerable and underserved. She is also the co-founder of the equity-centered GOODSTOCK Consulting, LLC. At both, her focus is on promoting equity for those served, especially the marginalized and communities of color. She has been recognized as one of the South Carolina Black Pages’ 20 Under 40, and holds both a PhD and a Master of Public Health in health promotion, education, and behavior from the University of South Carolina.
LAW: The Honorable Myesha Latrice Brown
Elected as a judge in 2019, the Honorable Myesha L. Brown splits her time between the bench and the MLB Law Firm, which she founded 11 years ago. In addition to compassionately exercising her judicial duties, she represents clients in family law matters and serious criminal charges. A previous public defender, she is an honors graduate of the Charleston School of Law, where she served as president of the Black Law Students Association, and sits on the board of the Tri-Community Center. She credits her mentor, a female judge, for assisting her entry into law; today she herself mentors young women. She also enjoys fostering the arts and developing programs to keep communities safe.
MEDIA: Rhonda Maree O’Banion
In her leadership role as manager of media relations at Dominion Energy, O’Banion not only leads a team of communications professionals, she also sits on the organization’s Community Investment Board, Diversity and Inclusion Council, and Social Justice Review Committee. She is also a member of its African American Resource Group. She holds a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of South Carolina, has taught communications courses as an adjunct instructor, is a past president of the S.C. Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, and has received industry recognition for excellence. She is also a Leadership Energy Carolinas graduate and a member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy.
RISING STAR: Adia Dunn
A fierce advocate for human and women’s rights, Adia Dunn is a young woman to watch! She has held multiple leadership roles in her school and the community, including serving as student body president at Hanahan High School and on the Hanahan Youth Advisory Council. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in political science at Howard University, where she intends to also earn her juris doctorate with an interest in human rights. Her goal is to obtain a position of influence where she can effect policy change—but she isn’t waiting until she’s done to make a difference. She often uses her social media platforms to raise awareness of racial and social justice, gain signatures for petitions, and attend protests, changing the way her peers see issues of racial equity and women’s rights.
THE ARTS: Fer Caggiano
An acclaimed painter, Brazil native Fer Caggiano is a Piccolo Spoleto artist whose award-winning work has been exhibited and collected around the world. She is also the creator of “Like A Girl: Dare to Dream,” an exhibition of 40 portraits of inspirational women, including previous #WhatWomenBring honorees Kenya Dunn and Dr. Reshma Khan, designed to empower women and young girls to reach their full potential. She has practiced as an artist in London, Brazil, and Charleston. Her drive comes from her lifelong desire to protect the world; her mission is to use art as a voice for the greater good.
People and teams from organizations across South Carolina and the world are again invited to attend this year’s virtual What Women Bring event at no charge. Individual registration is open now at www.ywcagc.org/wwb-2021. All are welcome.
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