The YWCA Greater Pittsburgh Equity Awards seek to honor leaders, especially women of color, who advocate for and advance our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
Reflecting our long-time commitment to recognizing change makers and risk takers through our historic YWCA Racial Justice Awards and Tribute to Women, the Equity Awards reflect our intersectional approach to addressing race and gender equity. We believe that the equally important goals of eradicating racial and gender disparities call for a new kind of celebration and recognition for the groups and individuals leading the way.
2022 AWARD WINNERS
Recognizes a woman who is a dedicated essential worker on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis, promoting equity, living out the role of helper, and doing the work that continues to be underpaid and undervalued by many.
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Heroine Award goes to Dr. Johanna Vidal-Phelan, Chief Medical Officer in the Quality Department of UPMC Insurance Services Division and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In addition to being a practicing pediatrician, Dr. Vidal-Phelan has led the charge to mobilize resources aimed at ensuring Spanish-speaking populations have accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic, she was on the front lines of community engagement, delivering communication in Spanish via social media platforms, radio shows, townhalls, conference calls, and television news interviews. Understanding that only 2% of the nation’s physicians identify themselves as Latina, she also actively mentors young Latina physicians to bring diversity and equity to the healthcare field.
Recognizes an incredible thought leader or group of any race, ethnicity, gender, or gender expression who embodies the role of ally, advocate, and champion to women of color. This individual or group breaks down barriers, is willing to act with and for others, and practices activism rooted in empathy. They have a lifelong dedication, engagement, and emotional investment in pursuit of equitable community and spaces where ALL people can thrive.
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Ally Award goes to Dr. Rebecca Doerge, Dean of the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon University. In her role as Dean, Dr. Doerge is a champion of racial justice. Throughout her tenure, she has sponsored events including the Black History Month Panel, Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, and Empowering Dialogues. She is proud to act as an Advisor to the Sankofa Alliance, an employee resource group dedicated to supporting career and personal development for black and brown employees, and she was also the first Dean at Carnegie Mellon University to release a statement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Additionally, Dr. Doerge is an advocate for gender equity in STEM: thanks in large part to these efforts, Mellon College of Science has increased the number of women by over 120% across its departments since Dr. Doerge was hired.
Recognizes a woman whose work remains true to their ethnic heritage and roots as they champion strategic initiatives so that the Pittsburgh of our future centers and engages women of color.
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Bridge Builder Award goes to Leigh Solomon Pugliano, Founder and Principal Consultant of Straightforward Consulting, President & CEO of the Equity | Impact Center, Founder and Executive Director of Barrels to Beethoven, and Co-Founder of Limelight Creative. Ms. Pugliano is the founder of Straightforward Consulting, a company specializing in strengthening teams, increasing productivity, and improving overall organizational health. Straightforward Consulting’s most recent venture, the Equity | Impact Center, provides capacity-building, leadership development, and organizational development to organizations that advance social justice. Originally from Guyana, Ms. Pugliano is also the founder of Barrels to Beethoven, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the steelpan, and the co-founder of Limelight Creative.
Recognizes the creativity of a woman involved in the arts or social media initiatives that brings public attention to the empowerment of women, especially women of color and empowers an audience through awareness, education, and inspiration.
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Creativity and Innovation Award goes to Ayisha A. Morgan-Lee, EdD, Founder, CEO, and Artistic Director of Hill Dance Academy Theatre. Hill Dance Academy Theatre’s mission is to provide professional level training in Black dance traditions, history, culture, and aesthetics that engages and empowers students to pursue careers in Black dance. Dr. Morgan-Lee has led a number of initiatives to advance equity in the arts sector, including leading the design of 39 home dance studios for students ages 7-18 from September 2020 to August 2022. These studios were outfitted with custom designed ballet barres, portable dance floors, and fitness equipment. Furthermore, she led HDAT’s purchase of the former St. Benedict the Moor School complex, a 27,000 square foot facility in the Historic Hill District. In addition to setting up a dance space in the building, HDAT has also leased space to four Black entrepreneurs in the arts.
Recognizes a young woman, age 24 or younger, whose voice and actions interrupt the status quo to make a difference in their community by serving as a leader in any way to ensure that equity stays in the forefront.
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Emerging Leader Award goes to Luna Plaza, community organizer and social justice advocate. Ms. Plaza has most notably been a committed youth advocate for mental health and accessibility, and was instrumental to building the PA Youth Advocacy Network’s statewide advocacy platform. She is also a co-founder of Asian Solidarity Alliance as well as working with Abortion Defense Committee, Casa San Jose, Justice for Jim Rogers, Human Rights Student Action Network, and the Stop the Station Campaign. Events she has spoken at include the PA Health Equity Summit and NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania’s Child, Adolescent and Transition Age Youth Mental Health Conference, and NAMICon.
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