Welcome to our very first Women United Spotlight. As you may have read in our previous blog post, Women United (formerly the Women’s Leadership Council) was started in 2002 by United Way Worldwide. The purpose was to establish a grassroots model that local United Ways could execute in their own communities to addresses local critical needs. Today we would like to begin highlighting some of the women who are a part of this incredible organization. Join us in learning more about Kathy Ryg and her passion for Women United.
What is your professional background and if you are currently working, what is the name of your company?
My first career was in social services working with adults with intellectual and mental health disabilities/challenges. I then transitioned to local government working as a full time elected official in my community where I became involved in civic, school and community based organizations with a special interest in positive youth development. In 2002 I was elected State Representative from the northern Cook and Lake County area. In 2009 I left the General Assembly to do full time policy and advocacy work as President of Voices for Illinois Children. I am currently retired and excited to continue to support children and families (including my own 8 grandchildren) through the efforts of Women United!
What inspired you originally to be a part of Women United?
I have always been impressed and supportive of United Way of Lake County and when I was invited to join Women United I immediately responded to the impact that was being made with the financial, professional and volunteer efforts focused on early childhood literacy. With my background and appreciation for data driven results based on identified needs and targeted interventions, I knew I found the group that would take best advantage of my donation and offer hands on experiences to build better lives for the children in Lake County.
What does early childhood education mean to you? If possible, could you share a personal story of why it’s important to you?
In my professional life I was fortunate to meet and support the efforts of Nobel Laureate winner, James Heckman. Prof. Heckman won his prize based on his research as an economist demonstrating that the best investment a society can make is in early childhood services. Early childhood experiences lay the foundation of every child’s ability to succeed – ready to learn in Kindergarten with the necessary evidence based skills, reading at grade level by 3rd grade, entering high school with math and reading skills for success, high school graduation and post high school, college or career/credential opportunities. As Prof. Heckman notes the return on investment for the economic success of all of us is $7-10 return for every $1 invested. How can we not offer every child the opportunities to succeed that we make sure to provide our own children and grandchildren!
What has surprised you most about being involved in Women United?
I knew I would enjoy being part of the work of Women United but I was most pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed getting to know my fellow members. It is so true that but for Women United, I might not have met the amazing women who come with professional, family, personal and community experiences that are quite different from mine. The diversity in our membership is unique but our common passion for children is a bond that connects us in a deeper way than I imagined. I look forward to being in their company at every opportunity!
What does Women United mean to you?
I have found purpose, fulfillment and fun as a member of Women United. I am grateful that I can contribute to successful outcomes for children while having so much fun with women who are all in! We have serious work to do – the need is still great. But we have so much fun with each other, it is a joy to bring more members to the group to share this life altering experience.
What would you say to a woman who is interested in becoming a member of Women United?
So many women are looking for ways to give back to help children and families succeed. Women United is really the perfect blend of knowing you’re financial contribution is making a documented difference in early childhood success while you can volunteer in direct service opportunities as your schedule allows or not! I’ve not found many groups that provide the impact, flexibility and comradery that Women United offers. You won’t ever regret being part of this group of Wonder Women!