“Women and Work: What are We Doing to Ourselves and Each Other?” It’s a big question Nikki R. Jackson will tackle Nov. 9 at the annual Women’s Empowerment Luncheon for the University of Louisville Women’s Center.
Jackson is the senior vice president and regional executive at the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and serves on a number of community boards such as Louisville Public Media, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, University of Louisville’s College of Business Board of Advisors and Family Scholar House.
She took time out of her schedule to talk to UofL News about her hopes for society and women in the work world.
UofL News: You have an impressive resume. What has inspired your work life? What motivates your community outreach?
Jackson: Without question, my childhood, my parents’ views and engagement in Civil Rights, and my own work experiences have all shaped the way I contribute to the world, professionally and civically. Having spent the majority of my career in Human Resources, I was consumed by the desire to help others experience the richness of work, positively. I wanted employees to feel as though they could bring all of their best selves to work every day and that each day, with every encounter, their presence mattered. I also want all people, of all races and ethnicities, to feel valued, seen, understood and encouraged. I still feel this way. For those reasons, even though I no longer work in HR, I want to assure the best outcome for the whole of society, not just part of it. I thrive when I help to bring about change or a deeper understanding of a concept to people and communities who have been left behind or locked out of realizing the fullness of the American dream. That’s why I choose to work in the way that I do and why I serve on the non-profit boards that I do.
UofL News: The name of your talk is ‘Women and Work: What are we Doing to Ourselves and Each Other?’ Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Jackson: Equal doesn’t mean same. Let’s clarify the plight. Women, for years, have sought equality in the form of same treatment. We are not the same. So we may have done a disservice touting our sameness as sameness suggests uniformity, it suggests a resigned expectation of identical needs, wants and expectations… in the name of equality. We don’t all need to burn bras to be treated equal. We don’t all need to work outside of our homes to be treated equally. We don’t all need to climb the corporate ladder in the name of equality. We all don’t need to have bank accounts separate from our spouses in the name of equality. We all need not chase “having it all” like rabid dogs, in the name of gender equality. We are getting better at this but we have a ways to go, especially in the intentional and unapologetic uplifting of other women.
UofL News: Why do you think events like 2017 Women’s Empowerment Luncheon are important?
Jackson: As we celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the UofL’s Women’s Center, it is important to think back on the circumstances giving rise to its inception to begin with. In 1992, the founding year, a record number of women were elected to the U.S. Senate. This was also the year following the hotly contested Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas involving the allegations of sexual harassment of Anita Hill. It was a year that raised the questions of male dominance, politically and otherwise. In spite of what appeared to be an incredibly impactful shift in political winds relating to women on “the Hill,” today, men outnumber women by 5 to 1 in the U.S. Congress. In the corporate setting though, as of 2017, 6.4 percent of the U.S.’s biggest companies (by revenue) are run by women, our highest percentage ever. So while we bask in the excitement of making some strides, we are reminded that disrespecting, abusing and objectifying women is not only still a reality, but seemingly not a barrier to election to public office. For these reasons, it is imperative that we forge ahead with our efforts to empower, support and advocate for women, the exact purpose of the Women’s Empowerment Luncheon.
The luncheon is 11:30 a.m. Nov. 9 at the University Club and costs $50 per person. Reservations will be accepted through Nov. 7 by calling 852-8976.