Stories of IMPACT

Shruti Daya

Shruti Daya, a Junior at Notre Dame Academy, is active in Building Bridges, Student Council, and is a Student Advocate for Safe Schools. She says that being at an all girls’ school provides many opportunities experience and promote women’s empowerment, especially during Notre Dame’s Feminine Genius Day. 

A daughter of immigrants from India, Shruti credits her work ethic and drive to her parents. Having a strong mother has pushed her to reach out to other girls who are not blessed with a positive female role model, while working on projects that aim to heal social, political, and personal divisions in her school and community. Shruti radiates the positivity and support that she received from her family and friends onto other women.

Shruti takes advantage of her privilege and uses it to help other women by being involved in Women of Toledo’s mission to Educate, Engage and Empower other women. She is excited to be a part of Women of Toledo’s close-knit community filled with diverse women and to learn from those who all have unique stories to share.


Cordelia Vanderveer

Cordelia is a student at Toledo Technology Academy, a TPS magnet school that has an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). She is part of the 25% of females who attend this school. Cordelia is very passionate about equal opportunity for women in engineering and science fields. As captain of her robotics and quiz bowl teams, she inspired other women to try new things and challenge stereotypes. Although Cordelia is fortunate enough to be surrounded by individuals who support her interest in engineering and science, she knows not everyone else is as lucky. She wants to use her privilege to help other girls around the world realize they are capable.


Christine Villarreal

“I am an intersectional feminist because I believe in the equality for all women regardless of their backgrounds. I believe that we have to be the voice for the voiceless and support each other more often regardless of our differences and strive to find a common ground so that we can all achieve our dreams. I support Women of Toledo because they welcome and empower women of all ages and backgrounds through education, volunteering, and mentoring not only in our local community but globally. It is an honor to be part of such a wonderful organization that inspires me daily. ”


Erin Gariepy

“Feminism, for me, comes down to a core value: Education. I support WOT because it’s a critical component of their mission to educate, engage, and empower women, and I became a feminist through a series of learning experiences, nearly all of which were outside the classroom. My friends and colleagues shared their experiences with sexism: an IT associate ignored by her customers in favor of “one of the guys,” an instructor who received a course evaluation from a student saying she’d look better if she grew her hair out, a tutor who was regularly hit on and sexually harassed during her appointments. These stories helped me recognize that no woman is immune to casual, everyday discrimination.


As a woman in a position of power, I owe a debt to the women who have paved the way before me, and I have a responsibility to those coming after me. I channel the spirits of influential women from my life; my high school English teacher’s assertiveness, my literature professor’s call for perfection, my favorite writer’s balance between humor and no-nonsense; their voices echo in my head. When challenged or confused, I wonder, “What would they do?” Maybe one day, a woman being silenced by a man at work will ask herself, “What would Erin do?” and hopefully, she’ll carry my voice in her head.”


Robin Mahle

“As a national broadcast media professional of 14 years, I've always been proud to stand out as a feminist in a male-dominated industry. I've faced discrimination, and even sexual harassment, but have found that honesty and acceptance can help us build bridges over our adversity.

By challenging my peers to identify and defy stereotypes, I've helped others to understand the power of our perceptions, and the abilities we have to change them. In pursuit of a society that truly provides equal opportunities to all human beings, I've found a fantastic family of fellow feminists here at Women of Toledo.

It's an honor to be involved with so many strong, intelligent, generous women. I've been empowered by Women of Toledo, both as a mentor and as a mentee. Everyday that I'm a part of this group, I learn something new, gain confidence to reach for something more, and find a greater peace with the role I play in this world.” -robin


Anna Brogan-Knight

“I grew up surrounded by groups of women who worked hard and supported other women. I had an amazing Girl Scouts experience, was educated about my body and encouraged to make big plans and believe in myself. I saw other women doing great things, building businesses, speaking up for social justice and pursuing higher education. In college I shocked myself when I changed my major from social work, to women’s and gender studies. I wasn’t sure where the path would lead me, but I knew I was happiest when I was part of organizations and dynamics that allowed me to use my brain and energy to disrupt systems of privilege and oppression that were causing so much discord, especially for women.

Fast forward 15 years, I am teaching a section of Intro to Gender Studies with UT Department of Women's and Gender Studies, working full time in the marketing department and connected to Girl Scouts, AAUW / Toledo Branch and, of course, Women of Toledo(WOT). WOT does exactly what has made me happy my entire life: gives women (and girls!) a space to connect, work together, find friendship and make a difference. I am honored to be a featured feminist, and so glad that WOT is accomplishing so much for Toledo!”


Precious Tate

“Ever since I attended the all-girls elementary school, Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls, I’ve been a feminist because the school encourages girls to empower other girls. Women, minority women especially, are often underrepresented in leadership positions, but it wasn’t until my participation in NEW Leadership Ohio, a national program that addresses the underrepresentation of women in American politics, that I discovered the truth. Moreover, after participation in this program, and with my previous internship for The Ohio State University Women Student Initiatives Internship, I became committed to educating women about taking leadership roles, especially in the political field. Therefore, my goal is to create, foster, and promote these platforms. Women of Toledo is committed to doing the same. Women of Toledo is such a wonderful organization that is crucial to the Toledo community.”


Alcy Barakat 

“I am a proud born, raised, educated, and employed Toledoan. I am a firm believer in the phrase ‘it matters where you make it’ because I feel that I have ‘made it’ in my short time as a working professional in Toledo. Others have called me an Ambassador of Toledo, as I am always at community events, local coffee shops and restaurants, and I’m always running into other amazing people I know doing the same thing. I just chalk it up to wanting to do the best by Toledo in any way I can, as I feel Toledo has done that for me and my family.

Women of Toledo helped me find my footing as I transitioned from campus involvement and activism at The University of Toledo, to community involvement and employment. I now have a full experience of working in a capacity where I feel like I am making positive connections with youth through YWCA Youth Development Programming in our public school system. I share with the youth my love for Toledo, and a desire to see them succeed in every aspect of their lives. I hope to be amongst those that make the ‘You will do Better in Toledo’ slogan apply to as much of the upcoming generation as possible!" - Alcy


Cami Szirotniyak

“As an intersectional feminist, I often meditate on a quote from Gloria Steinem: ‘Imagine we are linked not ranked.’ If you’re anything like me, that quote challenges you to reflect. What does that mean to me, and what does it mean to advance economic empowerment for women around me? We know that, in 2017, White women earned 82% of White male earnings, Black women earned 68%, Hispanic women earned 62%, and Asian women earned 93% (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “The Gender Wage Gap: 2017 Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity,” 3/7/2018). Are you satisfied with that? I am not. Especially not when women make up 52% of Lucas County’s population, and 34% of the firms in our area are women-owned (United States Census Bureau, Lucas County, Ohio, 7/1/2017).⠀

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a community of diverse, intergenerational women to develop the soon-to-be-released HerHub, a new initiative of Women of Toledo. HerHub’s vision is that women in the 419 can create stronger communities with HER in it, which is done through connecting, collaborating, and communicating. Soon, we will release the HerHub website, an online, one-stop-shop that will showcase opportunities for area women to cultivate their leadership skills; easily find professional, social, and advocacy events of interest; and serve as a resource to find for woman-owned businesses and women-serving organizations. HerHub will be THE place to do just that. We hope you will join us in linking and raising up Toledo-area women.” - Cami


Valentina Talevska

“As a first-generation Macedonian-American woman, I find empowerment in the sacrifices my family made to move to the U.S to ensure that I was given opportunities they previously did not have. I was raised by an incredible single mother, who always told me that education is a woman’s key to independence and success. I study Human Resources Management and Spanish at the University of Toledo. Embracing my ethnic background, traveling, fighting for equal pay and countless civil rights movements, uplifting and encouraging other young women also empower me! Women of Toledo is such an incredible organization and is imperative to the community of Toledo.”


Kristen Murray 

“ I’m a feminist because I believe every woman is capable of achieving her dreams and goals. Women supporting women is the most powerful way to create the environment where we can confidently excel and embrace opportunities to me, equality means being respected for my talents and intelligence by both males and females. It means I’m listened to, that I’m paid the same as my male counterparts, and I have an equal chance of creating tangible change as anyone else. I support Women of Toledo because of the inclusive and empowering environment that is so obvious in every one of its events. The passion for supporting women is evident in its leadership, which inspires me to be a better woman. ”


Kayla Williams

“As a Young Woman of Toledo, I am privileged and grateful to be studying and working in a field in which change can occur - politics. Studying political science at The University of Toledo has shaped me through educational instruction, but more importantly by allowing me to be mentored and empowered by inspiring Women of Toledo. While working as the Public Relations chair of the Political Science Students Association, I was the moderator in our first ever Women in Politics panel sponsored by Women of Toledo. I then learned of all the great ways that Women of Toledo helps build an empowering community for women. Their continuous efforts to create an uplifting community for women motivates me to promote these same values through the future work that I pursue.”


Nisha Luke

Nisha Luke is a student at The University of Toledo majoring in Biology & Chemistry and was born to immigrant parents from Kerala, India. “As a woman, I find that WOT organization has helped me establish relationships with other women across the community, especially with the M.O.M Speed Mentoring sessions that helped me learn about my future as a woman in STEM. I haven't been here long, but I have volunteered for the Women Empowerment summit, along with helping organize Young Women of Toledo programs, served as planning committees for many Educational Initiatives & Fundraising activities”. When Nisha is not volunteering for WOT, or working on our Social Media, you can find Nisha performing on stage with UT’s Rocket Dhamaka dance team or the Bharatanatyam Interest Group of Sylvania (BIGS).