Women’s History Month originated as a national celebration in 1981 when the United States Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which requested and permitted the President to proclaim the week of March 7th, 1982 as “Women’s History Week”. After being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project the designation of March as “Women’s History Month”, this designation was accomplished through the passing of Pub. L. 100-9.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day which is recognized each year on March 8th and celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, we are spotlighting Mayor Danene Sorace of the City of Lancaster.
Danene Sorace was elected to the position of Mayor in November 2017 and was sworn in on January 3, 2018. She is the second women to hold the office in the 202-year history of the city, the first being Mayor Janice Stork who held the office for two terms from 1990 until 1998. Her passions and goals for her time in office overlap, the things that she cares most deeply about are family and community life, social and economic justice, education and opportunity, and optimism about the future – especially the future of Lancaster City.
Prior to her election to the position of Mayor, she was a member of the Lancaster City Council, and chaired the Finance Committee, and served on the committees for Public Works, and Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization.
Danene is a first-generation college graduate, she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from Albright College, and a master’s in public policy with a concentration in health care policy from Rutgers University.
WHF-PA recently interviewed Danene to learn more about her career path and the advice that she would share with other women interested in government.
What motivated you to run for the position of mayor, and what challenges did you face during your first year in office?
My motivation to run for office was two-fold: 1) to build on the success of the Gray administration and all that was accomplished over the previous 12 years; and 2) to build a stronger and more equitable Lancaster block by block, by focusing on Strong Neighborhoods, Safe Streets, Secure Incomes and Sound Government.
I also believe that we can do politics differently at the local level. We can have real discourse without demeaning each other. We can solve problems and improve the lives of our residents. We can be responsible stewards of our children’s futures. I believe we are doing these things — working together as a team to ensure that our local government is operating with integrity and respect to deliver quality services that our community relies on every day.
This year marks my third year in office. There have been a lot of challenges! The fire-bombing of City Hall, officer suicide, police use of force were a few that stand out from year one. While all of these were very painful, out of these experiences we were able to make significant, systemic changes to address housing and police related issues.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in running for government office?
Don’t count yourself out before you even begin! Research has shown that women often don’t move from thinking about running for office to preparing to run because they believe they are not qualified. This is simply not true in many cases.
Get involved. It is actually pretty simple to get involved in your local political party and additional hands are always welcomed. Check it out! Get to know the work and the people. Ask questions. Show up.
What strengths do you bring to the office, and what qualities do you admire in other female leaders?
Listening is one of the strengths I bring to the office. Being heard and working to find a path forward is one of the things that I strive to do.
Fortunately, there are a lot more women leading organizations here in Lancaster! Think about it – Jan Bergan at Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine, the County’s largest employer, Dana Hanchin at HDC Mid-Atlantic, Barb Wilson at Lancaster City Housing Authority, Lisa Riggs at Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, Vanessa Philbert at Community Action Partnership, Dr. Barbara Altmann at Franklin & Marshall, and Damaris Rau at the School District of Lancaster – to name a few! It is an exciting time to be among this cohort of women leaders and I’m inspired by the work they do every day recognizing that it can be quite daunting.
What in your life has brought or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?
Being a mom and a mayor are two things that have brought me a kind of satisfaction that I couldn’t have anticipated. The opportunity to be a parent and to love someone else so utterly and completely has been a complete joy! Being a mayor has challenged me, provided me opportunities to learn and grow professionally. I am grateful that I took the risk, though it has had its moments. And I don’t think I would have done anything differently – I try not to dwell on the past. It is more important to be reflective, learn from mistakes, and work to be better.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the next generation of women?
I think women will continue to struggle with the “invisible work” of home while also juggling a career. As we continue to integrate our home and work life, we shouldn’t have to be fighting for equitable pay and supports like child care.
Women’s History Month celebrates the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. In your experience as a successful woman, what is the significance of having a month dedicated to recognizing these achievements?
My mom was one of four children. Unlike her brothers who had the option of going to college, she was told that there was no point in her getting a degree since she would be getting her M.R.S. Recognizing the achievements for women, especially women of color, is an opportunity to honor the women who came before us, and to highlight and plan for the changes that still need to be.
POSITION: Housing Compliance Consultant
LOCATION: Flexible – Eastern to Central PA
M&L Compliance Management, LLC (MLCM) is a consulting firm specializing in Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and HOME compliance, along with Property Management. We are searching for an energetic and highly organized professional with an engaging personality to service our clients primarily within Pennsylvania. The ideal candidate for this position should possess a HCCP, CP3, or other relevant designations and have at least two years of experience in LIHTC, HOME or other affordable housing experience. We seek a self-starting individual who is comfortable functioning in a team, and able to work in a fast-paced environment while managing multiple deadlines. The successful candidate will be required to occasionally travel between Philadelphia and our office in Mechanicsburg, PA.
MLCM seeks to engage the right person with demonstrated abilities in most of the following areas:
This is a full-time position with a competitive salary and a full benefits package, including 401-K profit sharing, health insurance, disability insurance, and paid vacation and sick time. Actual compensation package will be commensurate with the candidate’s experience and abilities.
E-mail submission of a letter of interest, salary requirements and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to:
M&L Compliance Management
2 Kacey Court, Suite 201
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
No phone calls, please.
MLCM is an Equal Employment Opportunity company and does not discriminate against any person employment because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability (including use of service animal and association with person with a disability), age, GED status, or familial status.
This month we are featuring two fantastic women who have dedicated many years to Women in Housing and Finance of PA. Chris Paul and Laura Northup were among the original founding members of WHF-PA. We are so grateful to them and the other founding members for starting this organization. We interviewed Chris and Laura about their journey and lessons learned along the way. (Please note this interview was conducted earlier in 2020.)
Q: Tell us about yourself. (Your background and what led you to your current role)
Chris: I started out in homeless services. In high school, I was involved in outreach on the streets. After college, I worked in a homeless shelter for men. Before and during law school I worked at a mental health drop-in center. Homeless Advocacy Project in Philadelphia was my first legal job. So I came to the industry via homeless services. I entered the affordable housing and community development world through Regional Housing Services. I worked as in-house counsel at a couple of CDCs then transitioned into the development role at those organizations. I am in my sixth year here at Diamond and Associates. In homeless services, I worked a lot on fighting for inadequate individual benefits and found I wanted to do something more macro. Making housing units available seemed to be the direction to go. But, homelessness is at the root of why I care about housing.
Laura: After college, I was a stay at home mom for 16 years. While home taking care of my children, I became “a professional volunteer.” I organized programs and served on multiple boards for my children’s school, my church, the local soccer club, the Red Cross, the public library and established a support group for mothers at the YWCA. As the church’s treasurer, I was able to use my financial background with fundraising and social work programs that assisted low income families to gain access to food benefits and clothing. I have always been passionate about community involvement and my volunteer work helped feed that passion.
With my two eldest children in high school, I began working at the Adams County Housing Authority, located in Gettysburg, in the accounting department. In less than a year, I went from PT accounts assistant, to FT running the finance department then becoming Administrator of Operations; a position which I held for nine years. Surprisingly enough, the Housing Authority and its non-profit development arm were clients of Mullin & Lonergan Associates (M&L). Throughout the years I developed a great working relationship with Mike Kearney at M&L and he offered me a position in 2010. At M&L, I specialize in tax credit deals and gap financing sources. I made partner in January 2018.
Q: Chris, what were you hoping to do with your Law Degree?
Chris: I went to law school while in graduate school for sociology. I hoped law school would help me understand policy better. I wasn’t intending to practice law long term. However, I wear my lawyer hat a lot more than my sociology hat now. I wanted to be at the intersection of both. I’m more in practice than theory these days. Policy work is not a huge part of my daily work life.
Q: You are both founding members of WHF-PA and are stepping down from the Executive Committee this year. How has your involvement in the organization helped shaped your career?
Chris: WHF-PA has broadened my connections to people and created a safe space for me. The organization has broadened my world and made it feel so much bigger and better. WHF-PA members are my people. WHF-PA created my friendship with Laura. I didn’t know Laura before WHF-PA. I’m not sure I would have met her if it wasn’t for WHF-PA. We may have just ended up as competitors. She’s been a tremendous gift. She’s someone I hold super dear and a very close friend. She is often the person I go to when I have a difficult question or need help.
Laura: Creating WHF- PA with the other women in the organization gave me a sense of community and confidence that I was missing when I was alone in the industry. I hope we created a safe space for women to recognize one another and to be around like-minded people. It gave me, and I hope the other ladies, the support and encouragement we all need at times. I now have a network of women; I can pick up the phone and call if I run across an issue or want to brainstorm a topic. We created an atmosphere of community and comradery. We never felt like we were in competition with one another. A perfect example is Chris Paul, on paper we are competitors, but in reality, we have become close friends and confidantes. WHF-PA members value each other for who we are and have mutual respect. We want to always help each other succeed. I have carried that through my career and I hope the theme continues with the organization in the years to come.
Q: You both advanced rather quickly in your current organizations. What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Chris: I started working at Diamond in 2014. During my first five years at Diamond, I was able to build on my prior experience and I eventually took on significant supervisory responsibilities. But after five years, I was unsure of how I wanted to grow next in my career so I started to work with a career coach. The coach helped me define my goals. During that process, I realized that I wanted to stay at Diamond, but in an enhanced role. I had a serious conversation with Roy where I communicated my goals and desire for a larger role in the organization. My new role in many ways is a formal recognition of leadership responsibilities that I already had. I was fortunate that I worked for someone who was supportive of this process and open to having this conversation.
Laura: The key is building and maintaining relationships with other people in the industry (women and men). It’s so important. This industry is so niche that knowing who you can call sometimes makes a difference when you are trying to get a deal done. It’s also important to respect people and be honest. You can’t be afraid to be brave and explore ideas that may be outside your comfort zone. It’s not enough to get a seat at the table, you must sit down. Meaning, once you are there take advantage of it and recognize what you bring to the table and don’t forget the women coming up behind you that might need support. You also can’t discount education. You must keep yourself updated on the industry and stay informed.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Chris: I’m continuing to learn but the most impactful leadership trait I have seen is the ability for a leader to identify an issue worth championing, then convince people to fight along with you. You must find the confidence in yourself to believe in the issue, organization or project, even if you fail. We all should build the confidence in our strengths and abilities and accept the fact that not we will not win every battle. In a smaller scale way, project managing a team to closing requires you to guide everyone on a path that doesn’t always feel certain. You have to convince yourself of the path and then convince others on the march to the closing table. As an organizational leader, I want to try to bring out the best in people. Instead of saying ‘what are people not doing’ say ‘what can I do to make an environment that brings out the best so that they can succeed’?
Laura: Respect other people’s contributions that work with you and support you. That is important to any leadership position. Also, trust your instincts and stay true to yourself and be consistent. People will respect you for it.
Q: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Chris: Patriarchy. People who have not been holding all the power have to over compensate and overperform. Women and people of color have to develop a super ability to succeed. As has been said, they have to do everything that Fred Astaire does but backwards in heels. We are not necessarily set up to be better leaders, but we often have to balance so much that we develop pretty strong leadership skills. And yet, there is a societal narrative that women can’t lead. Often as women, we go into the workplace and our default position is that “we can’t do this or that” or we aren’t experts. And yet, those holding themselves out as experts may have fewer skills or less experience. Somehow, we need to get better at valuing ourselves and expressing that value to others. Society may be continuing to make us believe that we cannot lead, but we can lean on our fellow women to help us realize that we can and should be leading.
Q: What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Chris: They are confronting more societal catastrophes than our generation. Climate change and automation are changing the landscape for a younger generation and now Covid 19 has upended much of life as we know it. We seem to keep fighting the same fight such as the fight for reproductive rights. That doesn’t help build a sense that you are a leader if you cannot have sovereignty over your own body. Unfortunately, I think younger generations will continue to have the same or similarly difficult challenges that women in our generation have, but compounded by other tectonic shifts. I hope I am wrong.
Q: Do you think our generation is making strides in women leadership? Are we making improvement, and can we sustain it?
Chris: I feel like so much of progress is two steps forward and three steps back. I think we are doing lots of good work. We are advancing the conversation about class, race, gender, sexuality. There is more sophistication in the conversations that are had today than in my twenties. However, I think money and power continue to push back and retrench. We did a great job at getting women elected. That is huge and exciting. But we still have men and women putting bills forward that compromise women’s rights of self-determination. I think we have money and power coming out against women leaders, as we saw with Elizabeth Warren. When I was in my 20s, the prevailing wisdom was that you didn’t want a female boss. I don’t think that sentiment would be so easily expressed now. So that represents progress. But power does tend to yield slightly, allow some reform, and then retrench- hence the three steps back…
Q; How did mentors influence your life?
Chris: Years ago, Dina Schlossberg sent me a job description. I read it and it was something completely different than what I had been thinking about as a next career move, but I thought if she thinks I’m capable of this and that this is a good idea, then I should apply. If my mentor is saying this is worth exploring, then I should at least explore it. More typically than sending job descriptions, she has served as a sounding board for me as I consider next steps along my career path. Having a sounding board and having the ability to talk something through with someone is such a gift. That has been the greatest ongoing value of my mentor relationship. You can talk through a decision to see if it makes sense or doesn’t and talk about pathways and difficult situations. Mentors provide a tremendous gift. I have tried to pay it forward by mentoring others along the way and provide my thoughts and an ear to listen. It’s just so helpful. No one has “THE” answer, but they can help you get to your answer. It’s often difficult to get there on your own and in a vacuum. And they have more confidence in you to help you get there. We are often not set up with those confidence tools as women and mentors are great to help us build that confidence.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Chris: The more information we can share, the more empowered we can all be. Knowledge is power. We are better for that knowledge and often we can all succeed with that knowledge and power. I feel like we are building a power base with WHF-PA. We are creating our network and information sharing portal. It feels great. In our world, when we share information, we can all succeed.
Last month was National Fair Housing Month, which increases efforts to end housing discrimination and raises awareness of fair housing rights. April is also the anniversary of The Fair Housing Act. Designed to protect Americans from discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on color, race, national origin and religion, the act later extended to sex, disability and family status. This year’s commemoration occurred at a time when a global pandemic is threatening the health of millions and dramatically changing the ways in which we socialize, travel, shop, and even attend school. While there seems to be no end in sight, and how the pandemic will affect housing choices in the weeks and months to come is not yet known, there is no doubt that the potential exists for the fair housing and civil rights of certain individuals, particularly on the basis of race, national origin and disability, to be violated.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has already taken several steps to respond to discriminatory policies and practices associated with COVID-19. HUD recently issued guidance to its Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) and Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) partner agencies pertaining to their use of HUD funding to carry out Coronavirus-related enforcement activities and have additional guidance in the works. At the same time, HUD awarded more than $40 million in grants to FHIP and FHAP organizations, some of which will be used to support their efforts to combat housing discrimination that may occur as a result of the global pandemic. For more information on HUD resources related to the Covid-19 Pandemic, you can visit: https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus.
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) applauded recent steps taken HUD and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to assist homeowners affected by the COVID-19 crisis. NFHA commended the implementation of a moratorium on foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions for at least 60 days as a good first step in helping provide some relief to consumers who are experiencing challenges and will help ensure that those who are unable to work as a result of this health crisis can maintain a roof over their heads for the time being. Of course, they contend, more needs to be done.
According to the NFHA, since the COVID-19 virus began its spread, there have been reports of increased discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and irrational acts of xenophobia. In addition, women are particularly susceptible to acts of sexual harassment from their landlords and other housing and financial services providers. The NFHA is calling for additional funding to address discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, they state, HUD should ensure that, now more than ever, there are multiple ways for people to submit complaints (e.g. via phone and online), that these complaints are addressed in a timely manner, that complaints are not dismissed due to statute of limitations issues related to the crisis, and that fair housing organizations are supported throughout and after the crisis.
The NFHA is calling for the implementation of a national rental assistance payment program; a moratorium on all negative credit reporting; a suspension of all evictions, including HUD-assisted housing facilities and programs; extended moratoria on foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions; increased funding for the Disaster Housing Assistance Program and the Housing Choice Voucher Program; increased funding for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs); and other measures to provide support to people and communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The NFHA has a section on their website to provide information about the COVID-19 crisis, which can be found at: https://nationalfairhousing.org/covid-19/.
There is no doubt that the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus jeopardizes the lives and well-being of millions of people in the United States. Every measure must be taken to keep the public safe and stably housed to avoid further spread of the virus and to protect against the economic impact of a financial crisis of historic proportions. To help mitigate this negative impact, the NFHA is calling on government agencies to adopt and enforce policies to prohibit officials from associating COVID-19 with any particular geographic region, country or nationality. They also call on governmental agencies to ensure that they themselves, as well as the entities they fund, abide by all civil rights obligations and laws, including the Fair Housing Act, and ensure that all programs affirmatively further fair housing.
Hello WHF-PA Members,
We hope this email finds you and your loved ones safe and well.
WHF-PA is launching a new section of the website – Speaker Directory – to help promote our members for speaking engagements. If you would like to be added to the Speaker Directory, please complete the survey HERE [surveymonkey.com]and email a professional photo to Angela Steele at email@example.com. Please include “Speaker Directory” in the subject line of your email to Angela.
[Direct link for survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9Z2Z8ZH [surveymonkey.com]]
The deadline to submit your information for the 2020 launch is Friday May 15th.
With in-person conferences and workshops on hold for the foreseeable future, WHF-PA is also looking for webinar hosts. Hosts would conduct a 45-60 minute webinar for members and the general public on an area of expertise. If you would like to host a webinar, please reply to this email directly.
Take good care,
WHF-PA Steering Committee