LuAnn Haydon and Rob Woodall were celebrated Thursday for championing change and empowering women by the YWCA Quad Cities and its YES SHE CAN program.
The two were announced as the winners of the first Quad Cities Champions of Change at a luncheon at the Waterfront Convention Center in downtown Bettendorf. Ms. Haydon is retired from John Deere, where she was manager of the John Deere Pavilion and Branded Properties, and manager of Global Visual Services. Mr. Woodall is president of GRP Europe & Asia for Arconic.
“I am just thrilled to be doing what I’m doing,” Ms. Haydon said of her long role in helping to lift women up in the workplace. “I am so thrilled to stand here with the other nominees who are just as deserving of this award” as well as others in the crowd who may be even more so, she added.
Mr. Woodall also saluted fellow nominees and the crowd for championing female empowerment. He said he came to the cause years ago, when he successfully helped turn his all-male engineering school co-ed. A distant female cousin would later get her engineering degree there.
He also shared a story about talking to a group of men and women in the United Kingdom and asking them, “How many of you want my job.” Men, he said, responded quickly. Women didn’t, until one asked, “What is it that you do?”
“It was a reminder to me that we have to reach out through mentoring and dialog” to show women the opportunities available to them and then help them achieve them, he said.
This year Female Champion of Change and Male Champion of Change were chosen from among six finalists, three men and three women. The champion awards were created to celebrate extraordinary leaders and mentors in the Quad Cities who are intentionally mentoring and empowering women in the Quad Cities.
According to the YWCA, a Champion of Change is someone willing to step up, listen, learn, work together and lead with action. He or she demonstrates an unwavering passion and commitment to the Quad Cities community and serves as a role model and makes contributions that have inspired women to succeed in their professional and/or personal life.
A call for nominations drew about 20 nominations, many of them anonymous, across both categories. The committee narrowed the field through a blind voting process. Each finalist wrote an essay on why empowering women is so important. The essays – along with the finalists’ identities – were then shared with the selection committee to choose the winners.
The other Champion of Change finalists also celebrated during today’s event were:
- Kirby Vyncke-Hughes, human resources manager, Rock Valley Physical Therapy.
- Judy Wurdinger, social worker, Davenport Central High School.
- Doug Hultquist, retired QCR Holdings co-founder, where he served as president and CEO from 1993 to 2019.
- Thomas Fisher-King, first vice president, real estate operations and facilities management, Quad City Bank & Trust.
The awards are the brainchild of Deanna Woodall, the YWCA Quad Cities vice president of development and growth. They are an extension of the YWCA’s mission of Eliminating racism and empowering women, she said.
Each year the YWCA hosts the Race Against Racism to highlight individuals who are working tirelessly in taking a stand against racism in the community, she said. She determined “it was time to highlight the other piece of our mission statement – Empowering Women.”
Today’s event was a year and a half in the making, she said. “I felt then, I feel now, and I’ll feel every day that empowering women is important.”
Sponsors for this year’s annual event included: Quad City Bank & Trust, American Bank & Trust, Waterfront Convention Center, Quad Cities Regional Business Journal, WQAD, Ascentra Credit Union, GreenState Credit Union, Molyneaux, ShiveHattery, US Bank and Edwards Creative.
The person who nominated Mr. Woodall for male champion said that during his rise to the top at Arconic, he always led “philanthropic efforts to ensure women had access to the same opportunities he did throughout his professional journey.”
“This nominee has been all over the world and yet at the end of the day, he remains a strong champion for Quad Cities women,” the nomination said. “With his unique perspective on the global workforce, this nominee is always pushing for mentors and mentees to have everything they need to be successful in their roles. This nominee has witnessed the magic of mentorship in his own life and is determined to give that back to as many women as possible every year. “
Ms. Haydon’s nominators also saluted her long history of developing women leaders.
“Throughout this nominee’s professional career, she had to navigate in male-dominated
leadership team,” her nomination form said. “Having had to learn how to break the glass ceiling herself, she has continually reached down to lift other women up. She does this through donating her time, talents, and treasures to numerous non-profit organizations in the QC. This nominee knows there are solutions to the barriers that women face in the community, and she has always led the charge both within her own life, and communitywide.”
Another nominee said, Ms. Haydon “has been my biggest cheerleader; someone to bounce ideas off of and someone I can always go to for advice. In addition to all of that and on a more personal level, she has served as a wonderful role model in the world of motherhood.”