27th Annual Women’s Forum Breakfast

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

8 – 9:30 a.m., McCormick Place, Lakeside Ballroom, E354

The year 2013 marks a significant change for the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) as the co-founders step aside as co-presidents and new leadership step in to guide its future. Because of that change, this year’s Women’s Forum will feature the former and new leadership in a conversation focused on The State of the State of Women’s Business Development. Moderated by best-selling author Terry Savage, the Forum will begin with a discussion of the origins of women’s business development locally and nationally, the impact that the WBDC has had on women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, the WBDC’s focus in the future and its renewed commitment to fighting the challenges that still exist everywhere for women and minority-owned businesses.

Forum Moderator

Terry Savage

Best-Selling Author of The Savage Truth on Money, and President, Terry Savage Productions, Ltd.

Terry Savage is a nationally recognized, award-winning financial authority, television personality and the author of best-selling books on personal finance. Her most recent book is a new edition of The Savage Truth on Money, which was named one of the ten best money books by Amazon.com. She also authored The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire? A regular contributor to the popular investing websites MoneyShow.com, YahooFinance.com and TheStreet.com, she is also a frequent guest on radio and television shows including CNN, NBC, and CNBC. Savage’s financial expertise comes from experience, in part as a founding member and the first woman trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. She is also the president of her own company, Terry Savage Productions, Ltd.


Hedy M. Ratner

Co-Founder and Co-President Emeritus and Consultant

Women’s Business Development Center

Ratner co-founded with Carol Dougal the Women’s Business Development Center in 1986, and together, they steered it into an organization that has helped more than 70,000 women start and grow a business. An advocate and activist for women’s issues for the past 35 years, Ratner was appointed by President Clinton to the National Women’s Business Council. She helped advocate for and was appointed by Illinois Governors Edgar and Ryan to the Illinois Women’s Business Ownership Council and the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in Illinois. She also served as an appointed member of the Illinois Labor Advisory Board and the Business Enterprise Program Council. Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed her co-chairperson of the Women’s Health Task Force. She is a past board member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, a founding member of the Alliance of Minority and Female Contractors Association and a member of The Chicago Network.

S. Carol Dougal

Co-Founder and Co-President Emeritus

Women’s Business Development Center

Dougal co-founded the Women’s Business Development Center with Hedy Ratner in 1986, and she has helped guide the organization into one that is generally recognized as the nation’s largest business assistance center serving women. A creative leader who was a member of the executive committee membership of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Dougal helped develop the first national Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) certification program that ultimately supports women- and minority-owned businesses gain access to corporate and government contracts. Her earlier experience in employment and training issues helped the WBDC launch a program to educate women business owners on matters related to hiring women who are moving from welfare to the workforce.

Emilia DiMenco

President & CEO

Women’s Business Development Center

Emilia DiMenco was named president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) on August 1, 2013, replacing co-founders Hedy Ratner and Carol Dougal. She joined the WBDC as chief operating officer in July 2010 after completing a 30-year career as an executive vice president with Harris Bank’s Corporate and Commercial Banking team. She served on the WBDC’s board of directors for several years before accepting a position as acting chief operating officer in July 2010, a position that became permanent in 2012. In that post, she was responsible for all aspects of non-profit leadership including program management, fundraising, succession and strategic planning. Among her accomplishments, she launched two WBDC microloan programs with a pool of nearly $1 million in loans. She is well known for her contributions to leading civic and professional organizations, including the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. She currently serves on the City of Chicago’s Small Business Advisory Council, the State of Illinois’ Workforce Investment Board’s Entrepreneurship Task Force, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Job-Creation Advisory Board, and Enterprising Women magazine’s Advisory Board, among others.

Debra Jennings-Johnson

Chair, Board of Directors, Women’s Business Development Center

Director, Supplier Diversity, BP America, Inc.

Debra Jennings-Johnson has been a passionate advocate for minority and women-owned businesses for more than 20 years. As a leader in supplier diversity, Jennings-Johnson combines “old school” spirit and a dedication to minority business development with current practices, skills and competencies of procurement operations.

In her tenure as Director of Supplier Diversity for BP, the inclusion of minority- and women-owned businesses spending amount has increased from less than $200 million in 1999 to approximately $700 million in 2010. She has lectured extensively and published articles covering topics such as subcontracting opportunities for MWBEs, non-traditional purchasing, joint ventures, building strategic alliances, second tier purchasing and program strategies for corporate America. Additionally, she has participated on numerous panels addressing minority and women business related issues. She has received many awards from organizations such as the Chicago Minority Business Development Council, Chicago United, the Minority Business Development Agency and SCORE.

Jennings-Johnson is a board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and Chicago Minority Business Development Council. She is also actively involved with the Chicago Urban League, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Louisiana Minority Supplier Development Council, among others.