Four women
Mar 12, 2021

Following the inspirational lead of Y women leaders

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the YMCA of Metro Chicago is highlighting the women who shape the Y—and this week, we’re featuring our Association’s own women leaders. We are proud to have women make up the majority of our senior leadership team. These women bring varied and insightful perspectives to the development of our programs and initiatives every day, making them some of the most crucial figures in our work to serve and strengthen youth, families, and communities.

Here’s what the women on our senior leadership team had to say about how the Y has empowered them throughout their lives and careers:

Cherese Ledet, Chief Community Development and Equity Officer

Before becoming involved with the YMCA of Metro Chicago in 2004, I was just a kid in the after-school program at the Duncan YMCA. The time I spent at the Y all those years ago and the values I learned put me on a path to become a successful female leader that is not only passionate about the mission of the Y but also impacting communities through service. The Y invested in building a strong foundation for me, providing me with a safe space to learn, and instilling an invaluable sense of belonging.

Years later I chose the Y as a career because of how inspired I was from my youth. I was able to see the impact firsthand that it had on my family and others and I wanted to do the same for future youth. Throughout my career at the Y, I’ve experienced mentors and coaches that have truly enriched my life, inspiring me to be my authentic self as I lead, always being genuine, self-aware, and transparent. They empowered me to take on new challenges, amplify my voice and break down barriers, promoting the necessary change both within and outside of our four walls. The Y is definitely so much more! It truly nurtures the potential, provides unbelievable opportunities, and uplifts leaders like me. As my journey continues I will always lift others as I climb, leaving a path for our future leaders to follow.

Jill Doerner, Chief Learning Officer

The Y has empowered me as a woman by opening the door to opportunities to lift up and empower other women. My greatest contribution is what I have been able to do for others to hold space and amplify their voice. I serve as the Executive Sponsor of our local Women’s Leadership Resource Network at Y Chicago as well as the Vice Chair of the National Women's Leadership Network for YUSA.

These opportunities have empowered me to host internal and external panels on equity for women for Y Metro Chicago employees as well as women across the State of Illinois. As Vice Chair of the National WLRN, I created history TWICE by helping organize an inaugural women's conference in 2018 as well as a 900+ participant virtual event called AMPLIFY for women for International Women's Day in 2021. These experiences have allowed me to evoke change locally, state-wide and nationally. In all of these instances, we've provided opportunities for women and allies to connect, be heard, and amplify one another for social change.

Katie Panning Spieth, Chief Impact Officer

The Y has empowered me as a woman leader by allowing, encouraging and trusting me to lead my department in a way that highlights my strengths and that compliments the work of my fellow colleagues and team members. Having the support and commitment of our Board and the leadership team inspires and challenges me in meaningful ways each and every day. The organization continues to embrace the uniqueness of women leaders and empowers us to do what we believe is right, while motivating all of us to think bigger and more boldly for the benefit of the Y.

Swathi Staley, Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel

I feel empowered as a strong female leader at the Y because I am invested in the vision of the Association. The accountability I feel to the Y mission has led to creative thinking in advancing the functional areas under my purview to not only improve service delivery but advance legal, risk, inclusion and HR goals in a mission-oriented way.

The Y's focus on diverse and inclusive hiring has also led to being surrounded by an inspirational, collaborative senior leadership team that values differing viewpoints. Strong female voices are also seen at every level of the organization and are encouraged to use that voice to keep the Y progressing forward. By using my voice and advocating for the advancement of women at the Y, I feel that I can make a difference and create opportunities for women.