April 19, 2024

Lieutenant  Governor of the State of Illinois and Wittenberg graduate, Sheila Simon, addressed alumnae and female students at the second annual Women in Leadership luncheon this past Wednesday.
Simon urged those in attendance to take on leadership roles in their communities, having served on city council in her home town of Carbondale, Ill. for five years. She emphasized dedication and collaboration, especially for those women desiring to work in a political field.
“Women in legal office have a sense of wanting to do something rather than be something,” she stated. “You don’t have to care about who takes credit for the work that’s done. I try to do things that won’t be remembered.”
Simon detailed her time as a staff attorney, firm associate, and later Assistant State’s Attorney in Jackson County, Ill. where she prosecuted domestic battery cases. She was able to reach out to those previously unaided in rural areas through virtual means such as Skype.
Simon stressed that “more people should feel important,” especially those women who feel as if they are lost in a workforce among their male counterparts. “Does it matter that we are women? Is that significant? I believe so,” she said.
Writers Alice Walker, Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey were cited as her inspirations for working in public service as well as her parents, the late Paul and Jeanne Simon, who served in the Illinois house together.
When asked how she balances her personal life alongside her life in politics, Simon took the opportunity to assess what she presented as a double-standard between male and female roles and equality in the workplace.
“What you mean is how do I take care of my children and work?” she said. “The real question is how do my husband and I take care of our children. Everyone juggles and should be expected to their part.”
Simon also encouraged attendees to remember the short amount of time women have had equal rights to men, stating that although women’s rights have only recently come forth, young women should focus on where women are now, how far they have come and what they wish to achieve as leaders in their community.
Attendees were asked to participate in a collaborative sing-along of “Froggy Went a Courtin’,” a children’s game, to emphasize women’s ability to work together. Simon used the game as an example of learning from one another, especially those younger women who were unfamiliar with the song.
She described the leaders in the audience as “first” women, those who represent leaders in communities that serve as mentors to others.
“First women make it possible for other women to come along. Whatever you’re doing is leading the way for others,” said Simon.
The luncheon also hosted Jennette Bradley, the first African-American woman to be elected lieutenant governor of Ohio, and university president Laurie Joyner.
Both emphasized the importance of finding a mentor and becoming a mentor to someone at the workplace, school or in another place in the community.

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