Chicago & Global Family: Hedy Ratner to Speak on Women’s Financial Empowerment


We are pleased to invite Hedy Ratner, co-founder of the Women’s Business Development Center and currently President Emerita for an open-to-public roundtable discussion to discuss “Women’s Financial Empowerment.”

Members: Complimentary
Non-Members: $10

Not a member? Become one here to have unlimited complimentary access to this event and all other Chicago Global Family events for one year!


If you have difficulties registering for this event, please CONTACT Rana Yurtsever, Program Director for Niagara’s Center for Public and Global Affairs, via email at [email protected] or phone 312-240-0707 Ext. 107.

Wednesday, May 20th.
11:30am- 1:00pm
Lunch will be served

205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

Hedy M. Ratner is founder and co-president emeritus of and currently consultant with theWomen’s Business Development Center, the largest, oldest—28years—and most comprehensive women’s business assistance center in the U.S. The Women’s Business Development Center has initiated and helped develop women’s business programs in 14 sites in 6 states. The Center provides counseling, training, financial, certification and procurement assistance in Spanish and English for emerging and established women business owners.

An advocate and activist for women’s empowerment issues, civil and human rights and women’s business development for more than four decades, Hedy Ratner was appointed by President Clinton to the National Women’s Business Council; by Illinois Governor Quinn to the Illinois Economic Recovery Commission, the Illinois Business Enterprise Council and the Governor’s Women’s Advisory Council; by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the Mayor’s Affirmative Action Advisory Council and by Cook County Board President Preckwinkle to the Cook County Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Council. Hedy helped to advocate for, create 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. Hedy was appointed as Co-Chairperson of the Women’s Health Task Force by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. She was a board member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau; was a founding member of the Alliance of Minority and Female Contractors Association and continues to be a member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations;

Her most recent honors were 2012 Lifetime Advocacy Award from the Federation of Women Contractors; the 2011 Fifth/Third Bank Community Award; the Athena International 2011; Women’s Leadership Award; WBE USA 2011 Women’s Business Hall of Fame Award; Historic Achievement in Business Award in 2011 from Voting Women’s Organization; 2011 Association of Women’s Business Centers Leadership Award; 2011 SBA Women’s Business Center Award; 2010 Women Employed Champion for Change; University of Chicago first Diversity Leadership Award in 2009; Network of Women Entrepreneurs Women Who Dare Award; the B’Nai Brith Woman of Honor Award in 2008; the Diversity Champion Award in 2007 from Diversity Edge Magazine; the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rainbow PUSH in 2006; the Compass Award from the Women’s Leadership Exchange; in 2005 Ratner received the SBA Advocate Award; the National Center for Women’s Business Research Leading by Example Award; the Anti-Defamation League’s Women of Achievement Award. In 2003 Ratner received the prestigious University of Chicago Alumni Public Service Award. Other Honors include the SBA Women’s Business Advocate of the Year; the Governor’s Women Business Advocate of the Year; the National Association of Women Business Owners Public Policy Advocate of the Year, both locally and nationally; the Bank of America Community Leader Award; National Organization of Women’s Bella Abzug Woman of Honor Award; among others.

Her educational background includes an M.Ed from DePaul University; an M.S. from the University of Chicago; A. B. and M.Ed. from University of California.

By Brooke Moscow, Public and Global Affairs Intern

On May 20, Niagara Foundation was delighted to host Hedy M. Ratner, co-founder of the Women’s Business Development Center and current President Emerita, for a Chicago & Global Family roundtable talk about her years of experience empowering women to succeed in business and advocating around the globe on behalf of women of all races, ethnicities and nationalities.

Before her work at the Women’s Business Development Center, Ms. Ratner was very active in the fight for women’s and LGBTQ rights during the second wave of feminism in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and was part of a number of different organizations that fought for these rights. Her strong identity as a Jew and connection with Jewish values has contributed to her commitment to secularism and social justice in society, and has informed her passion for helping other women, people of color and other marginalized groups achieve the same levels of successes as everyone else. Ms. Ratner was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Women’s Business Conference and later sent by the State Department to a number of different nations including Kuwait, Belarus and India to help promote female leadership and initiatives such as the right to vote for women and the right to run for political office.

Ms. Ratner founded the Women’s Business Development Center in 1986, a time when it was especially difficult to establish non-profit organizations. She opened the center with the hopes that she would be able to empower women and people of color by helping them to create and cultivate their own successful businesses; her vision was that women and other individuals could use small businesses as a means to obtain financial security and independence, and also improve the way that business was conducted on a larger scale. Although Ms. Ratner acknowledged that business in general didn’t necessarily agree with her own personal beliefs, as it symbolized capitalism and oppression, small business was a very viable option for marginalized groups who were unable to find employment elsewhere, such as immigrants and women, to make a living for themselves and achieve financial stability.

Once she got the Women’s Business Development Center off the ground, Ms. Ratner gained support from Governor James Thompson and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. She then began seeking support at the federal level, and also pursuing policy changes that would allow women to excel in the business field. For example, women once were not able to have credit in their own name, which diminished their ability to take out loans and grow their businesses. Ms. Ratner was part of the fight to change this and helped enact policies that would allow women to have credit in their name and have easier access to bank loans. She also fought to address the problematic practice of banks not lending to economically disadvantaged communities with the Community Reinvestment act, which allowed such communities better access to bank loans; this in turn made a huge difference in women and minority-owned businesses and their ability to grow and prosper.

As of today, the Women’s Business Development Center has helped over 72,000 entrepreneurs in Illinois, primarily in Chicago. Of the people who the center serves, 43 percent are low or moderate income, 92 percent are female, and 63 percent are minorities. They have recently started a program for veterans, who experience incredibly high levels of unemployment, as well as a Latina entrepreneur program, in which programs are conducted in Spanish as well as English.

We would like to thank Hedy Ratner for her engaging and informative talk. She has had an illustrious and inspiring career and we look forward to hearing about what she has in store for the future!

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.