Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World (GEOS)

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07:00 pm





In March 2021, UNA-USA celebrates women’s history with women in leadership discussing how to achieve an equal future in a COVID-19 world. This past year has not only seen the devastating effects of a global pandemic, but also a critical setback in women’s progress in terms of economic and workplace empowerment. Join this interactive Global Engagement Online Series (GEOS) session to learn from women leaders from various sectors sharing their impact and solutions to create opportunities for women during and after the impact of COVID-19.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. ET and include interactive presentations from a variety of gender equality advocates. It will be moderated by SDG 5 Global Goals Ambassadors Nekpen Osuan Wilson and Ada Yang.

Speakers will include:

Penny Abeywardena, New York City Commissioner for International Affairs

Penny Abeywardena is New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs. As the City’s ambassador, Penny leads the agency serving the largest diplomatic corps.  Since her appointment in September 2014, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs has successfully implemented a series of initiatives and programs with the international community, which include youth empowerment and the leadership of cities and local governments on global issues like climate change and managing/rebuilding post the Covid-19 pandemic.

From 2009-2014, Penny was the Director of Girls and Women Integration at the Clinton Global Initiative, where she led the program’s evolution into one of CGI’s most successful efforts. Penny is a French-American Foundation Young Leader (2017) a WEF Young Global Leader (2016) and a Co-Chair on WEF’s Global Future Council on Cities.


Barbara Benitez, Professor at George Washington University, and International Journalist

Barbara Benitez is an international news journalist with a long history of producing award-winning video content and was one of the original team members to establish and launch the Washington DC bureau for Al Jazeera International’s English language channel. She has also worked for CNN International in Atlanta where she where she received a Peabody, a DuPont, and a National Headliner award while at CNN for her participation in several major stories such as The Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and The Iraq War.

While with Al Jazeera, Barbara Benitez produced and reported on stories from the jungles of the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua to small-town America. She has also played a lead role in planning and producing major coverage for such events as the United Nations General Assembly. As a Senior Producer for the flagship half-hour news program Talk to Al Jazeera, she coordinated interviews with several world leaders and newsmakers including the former Bolivian President Evo Morales, the late Republican Senator John McCain, and Media Critic and Linguist Noam Chomsky. Barbara is now an Assistant Professor at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. Outside of teaching, she still writes and works on productions including documentaries and other journalism projects.


Jacqueline Ebanks, Executive Director for the Commission on Gender Equity, City of New York

Jacqueline M. Ebanks is the Executive Director of the New York City Commission on Gender Equity. An innovative manager and policy maker with extensive experience in philanthropy and the non-profit sector, Jacqueline has worked for over 30 years to promote economic and social justice for women, girls, and marginalized communities. From 2014 to 2017, Ebanks served as the Executive Director of the Women’s City Club of New York, where she guided the civic-engagement organization into its second century of activism. Previously, Jacqueline served as the Vice President of Programs at the New York Women’s Foundation and worked at Citigroup as their Vice President & Director of U.S. Partnerships and Program Development for Global Community Relations Division and then as their Regional Community Relations Director for the Northeast and Puerto Rico. Prior to Citigroup, Jacqueline served as the Vice President for Community Investment at the United Way of New York City. Ebanks began her career at citywide and community-based service organizations serving as Child Welfare Policy Analyst at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Director of United Neighborhood Houses’ Staff Development and Human Resource Management Initiative, Director of Program Development and Quality Assurance at the Society for Seamen’s Children, and Director of Development at Harlem United Community AIDS Centers. She holds a M.S. in Policy Analysis and Public Management from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Jessica Berk-Ross, Managing Partner at FINN Partners

Jessica Berk-Ross is a Managing Partner in FINN’s Washington, DC office and leads the agency’s Global Public Affairs Practice. Jessica brings more than 30 years of experience blending political, public affairs and public relations experience into winning communications strategies for clients.

Jessica provides strategic counsel to clients on multi-channel communications with a special focus on public affairs—the intersection of business and government. She serves on the FINN Crisis Team—a cross functional team of experts in crisis and issues management.  Her experience includes crisis preparedness and mitigation, litigation support, as well as strategic response.  She has worked with clients facing a range of complex situations including negative media attention, government investigations and Congressional inquiries. Jessica has worked across sectors to help organizations build and manage their relationships with government.  Her work is wide ranging—including technology, financial services, energy, healthcare, and she has expertise in diplomacy, trade, tax, legislative and regulatory environments.

Jessica began her career on Capitol Hill, and she holds a Masters Degree in Legislative Affairs from The George Washington University, where she is currently a faculty member at the School of Media and Public Affairs, where she teaches Communications Strategy, Crisis Management and Ethics.

Kristy Wallace, President of The Ellevate Network

Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network, and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network’s mission of changing the culture of business from the inside out by providing professional women with a supportive community to lean on and learn from. She directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely with Ellevate’s Chapter Leaders, Business Partners, and Champions to further Ellevate’s impact. Kristy is host of the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business and is also a regular speaker and thought leader on Leadership, Diversity, Social Entrepreneurship, Networking, and Entrepreneurialism.  Most recently, Kristy was recognized as a Woman of Influence by the New York Business Journal. Kristy strives to support women and girls in achieving their dreams. She is an Angel Investor with Pipeline Angels, an organization creating capital for women and non-binary femme social entrepreneurs; a Member of the UN Women Global Innovation Coalition for Change; an Advisor for the 92Y Women in Power Fellowship for Rising Female Leaders; on the Advisory Council for the Villanova University Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship Institute; Co-Chair of the Leadership Advisory Board for the Girl Scouts of Greater NYC; and a Board Member at Workforce Professionals Training Institute.

Prior to joining Ellevate, Kristy was a founding team member of, where she oversaw operations, business modeling, brand development, partnerships, and fundraising. Prior to Zeel, Kristy served as VP of North America Ad Sales and then GM of International Operations at Kristy obtained her BA in English/Sociology from Villanova University and began her career as a financial analyst at KeyBank. A passionate runner, reader and world traveler, Kristy lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband and three wonderful children.