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The path to equality is paved by strong women

5 MIN. READ
ICF women pay tribute to those who emulate #EachtoEqual

Every March 8, people around the world celebrate acts of courage ordinary women have done to promote gender equality. Gender equality is one of the United Nation’s 17 sustainability goals. It’s essential to thriving communities. And, perhaps more importantly, is this: “Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.”

The theme behind this year’s International Women’s Day speaks to everyone at ICF. Including these 7 ICFers—a small sampling of those women who put that point to practice.

Rosalyn Shepherd
Rosalyn Shepherd is a regional facilities director, managing real estate and related services for 23 ICF locations in the U.S. (And recently helped relocate one of our largest offices—in Atlanta, GA—to a more modern space.) Rosalyn took her cues from a powerful influence in her life, her mother. “As an activist for women’s reproductive rights in the 70’s and 80’s, my mom blazed a trail mentoring and empowering women to stand up for themselves, be strong, practice excellence, and not settle for good enough,” she says. And Rosalyn certainly hasn’t settled… As a career woman, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, colleague, friend, and neighbor, she pushes herself to ensure positive outcomes for anyone who’s life she touches.
Paola Bernazzani
Paola Bernazzani directs and manages projects throughout the U.S. that conserve habitats under the Endangered Species Act. She also heads an ICF team that leads biodiversity analyses internationally – racking up trips to Cambodia, Georgia, and Ecuador. “I’m proud to follow the footsteps of the women role models we have in conservation like Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson. And I’m in awe of the power of women I see in developing countries. They are effective and strong advocates for conservation, helping move the ball forward for all of us.”

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Liz Janssen
“People grow and develop through learning directly from others,” Liz Janssen told the Association of Talent Development in a recent profile piece. “We emphasize that. We live that.”
Liz Janssen oversees ICF’s learning and development strategy and programs. In her 30+ year career, she's seen the powerful role mentoring plays in helping women navigate and succeed in their careers. Liz is particularly proud of ICF’s Mentor Connect program, where she herself is a mentor and has shaped ICF’s learning strategy based on what she learns from them. “It’s helpful for me to hear their perspectives and the reality of client-facing work,” she explains. She attributes her ability to grow her career while raising a family to many supportive bosses and mentors over the years. And some sage advice from one of her first mentors 20+ years ago: “Liz, there is never a “perfect” time to have children. If that is something that is important to you, then you should go ahead and your career will be fine.” With two college aged kids and a wonderful, satisfying career, Liz is grateful for that insight. 
Chola Sims
“Those women’s courage, determination, and persistence have ensured that the women who have come after them have a seat at the decision table,” says Chola Sims.
Petronella Chola Sims leads ICF’s corporate enterprise technology initiatives, which promotes and elevates the company’s technology-focused services and solutions. She also advocates for technology workforce development throughout the company. “I was born in Zambia and I grew up observing women with very little to no formal education fight social injustices and further causes which ultimately put women in fields like medicine and technology. I am the woman I am today, solely because of the values, determination, and drive instilled in me by my late mother Maria Chanda Shinsama.” That is, a woman with 25 years’ experience in systems architecture and technology solutions to support $3 billion business transformation initiatives.  
Lucy Arora
Lucy Arora specializes in European research on equalities and non-discrimination. “Everyone should have space to be who they are, free from intolerance or discrimination. Even in 2020, numerous gender inequalities persist across the economy, decision-making, health and other areas. Our client work in this area shows how gender equality brings myriad benefits to individuals, businesses, and society as a whole. More equality is better for everyone.”
Dionne Laratta
Dione Laratta manages the project management office for ICF’s disaster management division—handling finance, subcontracts, and data analytics. “I’m a member of Batala Washington DC—an all-female drumming group that attracts women from just about every background. Women feel all so powerful when they hit those drums that their energy is transmitted to the people around them!” Dione currently lives in California, and joined an inspirational samba group there. “The lead drummer is female—something you rarely see. It amazes the public when they hear those loud drums and see a graceful woman leading it.”
Sheila Yahyazadeh
“I recently finished reading Melinda Gates book ‘The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,’” Sheila Yahyazadeh says, “and one quote stuck with me: ‘If you want to lift up humanity, empower women.’”
Part of ICF NEXT's commercial healthcare team, Sheila Yahyazadeh helps her clients create value for the populations they serve (in particular, underserved populations). “If not for the cadre of women, family, friends, colleagues, and mentors who lifted me up along my personal and professional journey, I would not be where I am today. I am eternally grateful to them and the women who came before them. Just as I was lifted, I am committed to doing the same for others and hope to pass on opportunities and the lessons I have learned.”
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