NFBPWC Young BPW turns the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their profession. Featured members exemplify the mission of the BPW of uniting and advocating for women everywhere.
Meet Lusine Aleksanian!
Located in Hollywood, California, Lusine is a member of the BPW Hollywood Chapter. Lusine is currently applying to medical school in pursuit of a career in medicine while working at an integrative mental health outpatient center. She also loves to journal and sketch in her spare time, and she advocates for ending animal cruelty and saving the environment.
Tell us about yourself!
Born and raised in Los Angeles, I come from a family of two ethnic backgrounds; my father is from Armenia and my mother is from Guatemala. I am the middle child of 3 siblings and have 2 beautiful dogs. I have been working at an integrative mental health outpatient center, as a Neurofeedback Technician and have currently been part of the team for 3 years. My commitment to the team is fueled by the passionate individuals I work with who collectively prioritize trust, care and compassion. I love to journal and sketch during my spare time. I am also an advocate for ending animal cruelty and saving the environment.
Where did you attend school?
I attended an Armenian Christian school for my primary and secondary school years, during which I grew a deep connection with my Armenian heritage. I furthered my education and earned my bachelors degree in Psychology from UC, Irvine. With each psychology course, my interest in the relationship between one’s body, brain, and mind immensely grew, therefore I decided to pursue a career in medicine. I am currently applying to medical school to pursue a medical degree.
What are your career aspirations?
My goal is to pursue a career in neuropsychiatry by practicing the disciplines of psychiatry and neurology. On a larger scale, I'd like to be an effective health advocate by integrating social factors of health into patient care. I strive to educate, empower, and provide individuals a mechanism for coming out of a state of despair and dependency.
What brought you to this career path?
The unpredictability of my ethnic background coincides with unpredictability of my choice to pursue a career as a medical doctor. I am a non-traditional prospective medical student, and this basically means that I did not always want to be a medical doctor. Actually, when I was 10, I really wanted to be a biologist. However, my experiences and a specific neuroscience course I took as an undergraduate was truly why I have a strong passion to study medicine. So far, my education has provided me with the fundamentals of psychology and I've learned the importance of the body & brain relationship. However, this same experience has motivated me to further my education and expand my knowledge in understanding the scientific roots of the human brain. I believe choosing a career path in the field of medicine allows an individual to use the most complex organ in the universe, our brain, to its fullest potential with the benefit of significantly improving the quality of human life.
Can you tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
By nature, I always aim to increase my knowledge and skills through opportunities. The clinical experience I've gained so far has helped me acquire valuable life skills and lessons. I've learned that with grit, humility & trust you can succeed in all aspects of your personal and professional life. I still have more to learn as I embark on my journey to medical school, but the skills that I've acquired so far has helped me achieve and move closer to my own goals every day.
Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are today?
Both of my parents gave me the opportunity and freedom to choose my own career path. For this I am very blessed and grateful. I specifically remember a moment during my undergraduate years when I felt lost because students around me already chose their career path while I was still undecided. I spoke with my father about my thoughts and concerns with precious time being waste and being unsure of my future career choices. His response to me was - "It is never a waste of time, when you are deciding on what you want to do for the rest of your life." It was then when I realized that my goal was not to choose a career, but instead my goal was to become a medical doctor, and this meant no amount of time I put into achieving this goal should be considered a waste. These words were very comforting and continue to motivate me to pursue my passion.
How did you find BPW?
I first discovered BPW from an established BPW member. From the moment I joined this organization, I have met the most inspiring group of women that have empowered me in all aspects of my life both professional and personal. They've really expanded my knowledge in understanding the mission to achieve equity for all women in the workforce through advocacy, education, and information. There have been several memorable experiences however if I had to choose, it would be celebrating Hollywood BPW's 100th anniversary via zoom. It was an honor to gather with fellow BPW members via zoom and spend an evening recognizing the achievements and accomplishments of past and current members throughout the years. I find it especially rewarding to hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each member’s life, because each person’s unique qualities intrigue me.
How can the BPW club and its members help you on your career path? What do you wish we knew?
To continue to empower one another and to always remember that TOGETHER we can achieve more.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
During the pandemic I joined LA COVID-19 Volunteers at UCLA assisting in Personal Protective Equipment assembly and constructing Face Shields for doctors all across the country during time of shortage.
You can connect with Lusine on
The National Federation of Business & Professional Women Holds Parallel Event at the United Nations CSW65
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC, USA, February, 2, 2021
As part of the 2021 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) event, the National Federation of Business & Professional Women’s Clubs (NFBPWC) will hold a parallel event on using impact activation events to help fast track a gender-equitable pandemic recovery. [Link to Event]
To be held on March 18, 2021, the event will focus on how the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities that adversely affect women & girls all over the globe, forcing a shift in priorities and funding across public and private sectors.
The sixty-fifth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), the primary intergovernmental forum for discussing gender equality and empowerment, will take place virtually this year from March 15 to 26. This annual event is attended by member states, UN entities, and global UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accredited non-governmental organizations.
With a goal to showcase innovative ways for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists to accelerate awareness and action for this issue, NFBPWC will host two screenings of the award-winning film Pioneers in Skirts – a film where viewers can see their role in the solution, feel hopeful, and are motivated to act.
CSW65 attendees will be able to view the film for one week of on-demand screenings as well as during a March 18 one-hour LIVE Filmmaker Watch Party screening event, followed by an interactive expert panel discussion.
Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited NGOs from all regions of the world are invited to join the filmmakers and esteemed panelists for a post-screening impact discussion on how to use events like this one to advance women and girls’ status around the globe. The discussion will feature interactive elements to encourage audience engagement, as well as best practices for how to activate films and other media to influence empathy, bring awareness to solutions, and fast track progress towards the achievement of gender equality.
For information on how to RSVP for the screenings and the panel event, visit https://www.nfbpwc.org/event-4123114.
“Organizations like BPW spent the first part of the pandemic in shock over the backsliding of progress made towards the achievement of gender equality,” said Megan Shellman-Rickard, President of NFBPWC. “We quickly pivoted to taking action – and want to empower others to do so, too.”
With everyone going virtual and the need to keep awareness and progress moving forward, storytelling is even more important to keep audiences engaged in creating a successful mission. Stories have the power to change minds and move hearts. “Good storytelling like Pioneers in Skirts can engage the brain in ways other forms of communication simply cannot,” shared Producer Lea-Ann W. Berst.
“We are proud of the conversations audiences have after screening our film,” says the film’s Director Ashley Maria. “Viewers at this screening, and the Impact Relay* screenings around the world, will be empowered to share their truths, ask questions, and take action.”
To see the kind of conversations sparked by Pioneers in Skirts, watch the Meaningful Conversations highlight reel:
RSVP: For information on how to RSVP for the screenings and the panel event, visit https://www.nfbpwc.org/event-4123114.
About NFBPWC: The National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (NFBPWC/USA) works to develop the professional, business and leadership potential of women at all levels, and advocates for equal participation of women and men in power and decision-making roles.
NFBPWC/USA is an affiliate of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International) – which is also an NGO that has had general consultative status with the United Nations through the ECOSOC since 1947. At present, there are a total of 21 members serving as representatives of IFBPW at the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations, specialized agencies and related organizations. For more information, please visit: https://www.nfbpwc.org.
About the film: Pioneers in Skirts® is a feature documentary examining the need for gender parity in our culture from the perspective of a female filmmaker who was frustrated with her own problems in the film industry.
In an inspiring portrait of perseverance and determination, director Ashley Maria expands her search to include other industries and society in general. She shares her own story, but she also follows the journey of 3 girls on a robotic team, their fathers, as well as a young mother – all while traveling the U.S., speaking to fellow pioneering women and topic experts who had solutions to share. By the end of her quest, Ashley finds out how we ALL can address the stereotyping and sexism that can chip away at a woman, hurt her potential, and make her feel like she must re-think her dreams.
For more information, please visit: https://www.pioneersinskirts.com.
*About the Pioneers in Skirts Impact Relay: The March 18, 2021 screening will be the kickoff event for the Pioneers in Skirts Impact Relay – where activation efforts surrounding nationally-focused screenings will be used to cast a broader scope of awareness for the need to address gender equality and human rights issues.
The impact campaign involves having prospective movie screening hosts apply to be chosen for a free movie screening and filmmaker post-screening Q&A. Screening in a multitude of diverse locations around the globe, the team at Pioneers in Skirts aims to re-ignite governments, civil society, businesses, and other stakeholders to work to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and achieve equality in all areas of life.
With projections showing that women are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, they want the Impact Relay to also be a push for women to be at the heart of pandemic recovery efforts.
About NGO parallel events: The NGO Commission on the Status of Women a group of New York–based women’s NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (NGO CSW/NY), organizes the civil society side of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Running parallel to the events occurring within the UN Headquarters, the NGO CSW events provide civil society the opportunity to engage in the processes and events of CSW without ECOSOC-accreditation or a UN grounds pass.
Over the two weeks of the Commission on the Status of Women, NGO CSW/NY organizes events that inform, engage and inspire grassroots efforts and advocacy needed to empower women and girls. For more information, please visit https://ngocsw.org/ngo-csw-forum.
NFBPWC Media Relationspress@nfbpwc.org +1 (818) 848-2848
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Meet Keri Hess!
A member of BPW/Downtown Sacramento and BPW/California, Keri grew up in Massachusetts, 26.2 mi from Boston, the start of the Boston Marathon! She moved back to California when she was 17, went to Sacramento State University and received a B.S. in Health Science, minoring in Biology.
Keri’s first job after undergrad was with a county health department where she worked on tobacco and smoke-free policies for local jurisdictions and on motor vehicle and car seat safety. She became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician and went on to start the first Car Seat Recycling Program in Northern California (yes, car seats expire!).
This program is still operating today even after Keri left the county upon receiving her Master's in Public Health from University of New England and moving on. At present, she works for a non-profit, Health Education Council, where they seek to cultivate health and wellbeing in underserved communities.
Keri continues to work on tobacco and smoke-free policy at a regional level, serving Latino Communities in 14 counties in Northern California, and she volunteers with her local Safe Kids Coalition to continue to keep kiddos in our community safe in their car seats.
Sacramento State University, B.S. Health Sciences, Minor Biology, University of New England, Master's in Public Health
I want to continue to create a healthier environment for communities as a whole.
I started out majoring in Biology when I "found" public health. What I like about public health is that we are trying to improve the community’s health as a whole – instead of working with individuals, we tackle problems that are affecting many.
Keri Hess at the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Denver, CO, presenting her work on forming the first Car Seat Recycling program in Northern California.
Working on policy is not for the faint of heart. I have been called names, yelled at, and treated differently for being a young woman in this field. I came face to face with a tobacco company representative for the first time early in my career. I couldn't stop thinking about how this man could go home at the end of the day and feel good about the work he did. Some days are hard, but at the end of the day, I know that I'm fighting the good fight.
I was a collegiate athlete for a short period of time before getting injured beyond repair. We had a counselor that would recommend classes for us that were taught by professors that were lenient on athletes. I did not like the choices of classes that were recommended to me, so I picked out a class that sounded interesting based on the description It was a biology class on diseases and plagues. The textbook was a short paperback-novel sized book called "Man and Microbes." I read it cover to cover and never missed a class. This professor held my interest and ultimately started shifting my thinking towards public health.
The director of my organization recommended that I join. Being recommended as Health Chair has been the most memorable moment thus far.
Would you like to share how you have evolved since Covid-19 disrupted 'normal' business life?
It was an adjustment to reach the general community at first. I do enjoy working from home, and since I don't have a printer, I've cut back on the paper I use, so it's better for the environment, too!
A member of BPW/NYC, Tiara is a New York State licensed attorney. She currently works for a community-based legal service provider, representing tenants in their housing unit.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Media Studies from Hunter College. I graduated from American University Washington College of Law.
I became a lawyer because I wanted to work on telecommunication policy. I first became interested in this while in undergrad due to a course called Internet and Society. During my final year of law school, I was a part of my school's Disability Right Law Clinic. I realized then that I enjoyed direct legal services more and had a desire to help people.
I found BPW through a class in undergrad. The president of NFBPWC/NYC (then EPW-NYC) was looking for an intern and the class required practical experience. My most memorable experience is helping build the new BPW/NYC website.
Networking and continued education are important parts of a legal career. I hope to meet other women that I can learn from.
Connect with Tiara on LinkedIn.
Meet Stephanie Samedi!
A member of BPW/NYC, Stephanie is a Diversity and Inclusion professional whose work centers on creating equitable and inclusive environments to support diverse workforces. She studied Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU with concentrations in Critical Race Theory and Gender Studies. At Harvard Graduate School of Education, she continued to study race and equity issues in the context of education and nonprofit spaces.
While at Harvard, Stephanie worked on the implementation of a Diversity Index which provided tools and guidelines to be used by business units to support students.
Outside of work she enjoys cooking and finding new ways to be creative.
Q: Tell us about your education.
I completed my undergraduate studies at NYU and received an Ed.M. from Harvard.
I hope to continue to work in the Diversity & Inclusion space. This career path is fairly new, so I am still finding my place within the field.
Q: What brought you to this career path?
My studies have been interdisciplinary with a focus on critical race theory. I wanted to find a career path that aligned with my interests and values.
I have learned how powerful it can be to allow people to express their concerns and voice their opinions about how to make business more equitable. We can all learn a lot from each other.
Q: How did you find BPW?
BPW was recommended to me by a friend. I served as the VP of Programming and helped to organize our virtual events. Those events were my most memorable experiences because I learned so much from the presenters and attendees.
Q: How can the BPW club and its members help you on your career path?
I wish that I had more access to D&I professionals. The way we network has completely shifted and it would be great to meet more people on a similar career path or with similar interests.
I started work 2 weeks before my office went remote. I had to learn how to adjust to my new job as I was also adapting to our new normal. However, this has given us the opportunity to connect with others in our global offices, to have candid conversations about the current events, and to learn how to be inclusive of more voices.
Meet Caroline Rakus-Wojciechowski!
Caroline graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a B.A. in Anthropology, a completed pre-medical track, a secondary field in human evolutionary biology, and a language citation in Spanish Language and Literature. She is originally from Lindenhurst, NY.
She is currently a Global Goals Ambassador for Sustainable Cities and Communities, a GPODS (Global Policy, Diplomacy, and Sustainability) Fellow, and serves as the Chief Partnership and Innovation Officer for the Youth Sustainability Development Conference 2021: Pan-African Edition, the Global Board Treasurer for the International Association of Political Science Student, the Founding President & Chairwoman for the UNA Brooklyn Chapter Young Professionals, and is an En-Roads Climate Ambassador and Climate Reality Leader. She is a YOUNGA 2020 Delegate and has attended the 2019 UNGA74 Youth Climate Summit and Social Good Summits.
For her innovative work and partnerships for Sustainable Cities and Communities and concern for adverse effects on youth empowerment, she was invited to the 2019 World Bank Group Youth Summit Delegate for Smarter Cities for a Resilient Future and the First Annual Conference in Global Energy Transition Law and Policy. She has also been a youth speaker at several conferences hosted by ANYL4PSD Africa, the YSDC Network, EnviPol, and Avant Guarde, Ltd. on issues ranging from quality education, decent work, climate action, and partnerships.
Caroline is currently consulting for a Harvard College team building a spring semester curriculum on sustainability, and she is preparing to launch an independent sustainability consulting startup based out of New York City.
I graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a B.A. in Anthropology and completed Pre-Medical track, minor in Human Evolutionary Biology, and Language Citation in Spanish Language and Literature.
Q: What are you doing today to make your career aspirations come to fruition?
My goal is to be a sustainability and development consultant for the United Nations, universities, and businesses. This means I would be able to use my practical and applied knowledge of creating sustainable communities and development programs on a Global Scale and use it to teach and empower young people, facilitate intergenerational conversations, and most importantly, empower communities to implement their own sustainable development programs. I am currently developing Taita-a sustainability consulting firm, where I will be serving as co-CEO. I also serve as Chief Partnership and Innovation Officer for the YSDC 2021: Pan-African Edition. These programs are dear to me because they have allowed me to empower communities to invest in youth potential through education, incorporate those left furthest behind into the intergenerational hierarchy of the job market, and to create sustainable solutions of their own.
A friend and I recently discussed this: Treat others how you weren't treated. Growing up, Education became Empowerment. As a low-income, first-generation Polish-American, I didn't have the luxuries that my peers had growing up- my hardworking parents were not always able to afford me going to extracurricular programs or giving me money to buy lunch at school. Add to this, lack of a social relationship with my peers in my childhood because I had a responsibility to my severely autistic sister, the only outlet that gave me comfort was my studies. During college, I intended my then-calling to be a pediatric doctor to be the way that I teach youth about their health and lead them to healthier lifestyles and stop unhealthy areas of their lives, like domestic abuse, from stifling their potential. On the other hand, I also majored in the archaeology track of anthropology because I was deeply invested in understanding the histories of cultural norms and traditions, as well as connecting with people by culturally immersing myself on an interpersonal level during any study-abroad programs. After college, I searched for opportunities to be an educator, but I found the traditional routes and curricula were no appealing to me- I was far more attracted to charter schools with innovative, project-based learning programs. Now, two years after graduation, I have found my exciting niche in social innovation and entrepreneurism through collaborating on innovative sustainability programs on a global level and am in the process of making that dream and vocation a reality. I am a global citizen and a servant leader and nothing brings me more joy and humility than helping others find their vocations and empowering them to achieve those vocations.
Q: Can you tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
I wish I hadn't thought there was "a right path" and "the right career for someone who [insert achievement here]." I'm grateful for my path: student to aspiring neurosurgeon to aspiring JD International Relations/MA Forensic Anthropology to social entrepreneur and global citizen. However, beginning in late middle school through this year really, I had a mentality of "What job can I do that will give me the respect I did not get growing up? What recognition and accolades can I achieve that will show I'm qualified?" For some people, that is enough for them to find their vocation and I am so happy for them. For me, this was not enough. One of my mentors had asked me, "In all of these things you're doing, where is Caroline?" and I had no response. Truly, of the 7 pages of my CV, I could point to only two or three things that really defined the character and values that make me who I am because those are the projects where I am my most authentic self. Furthermore, they were not at all related to the "right path" that I had been grasping for so blindly for years. I found my calling when I looked at what mattered to me and ever since, have been following "my path," and I feel so much stronger and happier for it.
Q: Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are today?
“Uncle” Sherman, my greatest mentor, my personal trainer, and my friend. I’m actually writing a book on all the lessons that I learned from him. When I first met Sherman, I thought he was the meanest, scariest man: I was doing the Krav Maga Academy 6-week challenge and had to be in NYC early for an interview, so I decided to do a 7AM class. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love to smile- it is my natural state. The first words I heard out of Sherman Mui’s mouth were “THERE IS NO SMILING IN MY CLASS!” and I was terrified. Of course, now after 2 years with the Academy- gone- FitiHit Official, Sherman is by far my favorite trainer because he cares so much about the well-being, mental and physical, of his students and works so hard to accomplish that.
During COVID, I began personal outdoor training (yes, my VO2 Max increased from training in a mask) with Sherman and it was the biggest mental game of my life. Every time that I put on the gloves, it was an hour of battle that I had with myself. And every session, Sherman would yell and shout and I would laugh and cry. Then one day, I realized “Get[ing] out of [my] head” meant more than just on the mat: it was a lifestyle and a mindset. I started looking more closely at Sherman’s sayings and realized a lot of what he said could help me transcend my mental barriers and consequently, I grew stronger every time I trained with him and it spilled over into other areas of my life. I felt empowered to do things I didn’t think were possible and am shifting my mindset into a more self-loving and self-empowering one, which is a hallmark of achieving any goal or career. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am with any of my programs if not for Sherman’s support.
BPW found me- I graduated from Harvard, so naturally, after graduating, I was enrolled in the Harvard Club of NYC membership. It was there that I met Francesca Burack, President of the NFBPWC/NYC and powerhouse of a woman. She became a mentor and friend to me and inspired me to join this great organization with her passion. I think she is one of the most devoted people to this organization and has contributed a font of knowledge and effort in making it an incredible community for women. I enjoyed being the Communications and PR Chair and my one-on-one meeting with Francesca the most so far!
If you know or need anyone to consult on strategizing a development program or sustainable solution, whether for a person or business, please put them in touch with me. Also, as I’m developing my first business, putting me in touch with anyone who has experience in developing their own business in consulting or nonprofit would be greatly appreciated.
Q: Can you share how you have evolved since Covid-19 disrupted 'normal' professional life?
Covid-19, despite being a horrible virus, allowed for me to have time to develop my business, study, improve my health, and figure out what I want to do once it is over.
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Meet Hannah Hughes!
Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hannah is a member of the North Carolina Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club.
My name is Hannah Hughes, I am 19 years old and from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I currently attend NC State University in Raleigh and am working towards developing a career. I study Communication in Public Relations, and Spanish Language and Literature.
Q: What are you doing today to make your career aspirations come to fruition?
I want to delve into the world of pharmaceutical sales with a possible side job of interpretation and translation. I currently own a CBD company to figure out what it is like to handle "supplements," and I work as a tutor and caregiver for Hispanic families in Raleigh whose parents only speak Spanish.
What brought me to this career path was my interpersonal skills with doctors and administrators in the medical field. I was never great with biology and intensive stem classes throughout college, so when I found the Communications department it was a godsend for me. I loved it and found out that pharmaceutical sales can be a strong option for those with any degree relating to the interaction and leadership skills that were required to obtain it. I am very into the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions through both pharmaceutical and holistic approaches and want to further a career in that direction. My mother had stage three breast cancer, and I had to learn at a very young age the pharmaceutical sides of the medical field per diagnoses.
Take classes about subjects you actually want to learn about yourself outside of the classroom and ask doctors in the field if you can interview them.
My parents are my biggest supporters, my dad went to NC State as well and told me to do what interests me. My mom makes sure I am doing well and that I take time for myself to make me the best possible version of myself. I talk to them every day and they help advise me on what options I have and give me confidence.
Q: How did you find BPW?
Secretary Marsha contacted me, she knew I was studying Spanish and could be a possible interpreter. My experience so far was interpreting and lighting the candle during the candle lighting ceremony at the National Convention.
Q: How can the BPW club and its members help you on your career path? What do you wish we knew?
I’d like help with resume building, building my experience, and help determining my strengths and weaknesses while interpreting in Spanish. I am also learning a bit about the world of politics and bureaucracy which is important in every field.
You can email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
While screening Pioneers in Skirts at a recent international BPW conference, I was excited to hear the message of “it’s time for us ALL to take action!” The story shows the inequities and setbacks women have experienced in the workplace, even after decades of advocacy, still perpetuate today.
It certainly is time to take action...for ALL of us to work towards an equitable culture.
Although they hold almost 52 percent of all management and professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men in terms of their representation in upper-management positions. Less than 30% are executives, and, of the companies that make up the 2019 Fortune 500 list, 33 have female CEOs. And, American women’s representation in politics is just as paltry!
National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc.
Equal Participation of Women and Men in Power and Decision-Making Roles
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