As I peruse the fascinating resources collected for Women’s History Month, I thank God for the suffragists and other pioneers in our land of opportunity, a land where opportunity hasn’t always abounded for all.
But as I look back with gratitude, I also look around me to see many women today who inspire us by using the gifts God gave them: serving and leading, untethered by the stereotypes and expectations of culture. Consider some of the encouraging ladies we see within the Palm Beach Atlantic community.
Among many key female leaders at PBA, here are two who have excelled in careers often dominated by men. I asked Courtney Lovely Evans and Ann-Marie Taylor to share their thoughts about Women’s History Month.
Ann-Marie joined the Palm Beach Atlantic staff in 2018, having just retired as deputy chief of the Palm Beach Police Department. She became our chief of Campus Safety and Security and continues to oversee that department after a recent promotion to assistant vice president for auxiliary services and procurement.
A word for daughters
We’re proud that she’s a PBA double alumna, having earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in leadership here. We asked what she would tell her daughter regarding Women’s History Month, speaking from her experience and through the lens of her faith. Here’s her reply:
“In my eyes, I have always been equal to men, created differently and sometimes with different talents and abilities than my counterparts. I would tell my daughter that women, especially American women, have remarkable opportunities in basically every field imaginable. It is up to us to embrace how we get to where we want to be and strengthen our relationship with Christ and build character along the way. Knowing and understanding your gender is important, but limiting yourself based upon your gender is a huge mistake.”
Courtney Lovely Evans served in the national office of the NCAA before coming to PBA in 2015 as senior associate athletic director. She’s now director of athletics. She holds leadership positions within the NCAA governance structure and also with several sports-related organizations and boards. She earned her master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State University and her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.
Courtney’s training and extensive experience has included gender equity and Title IX, the federal law to protect students against discrimination on the basis of sex. Here’s her take on this month’s commemoration:
“As Christians, we should be aware and deeply care about the challenges that women face. Women are created in the Imago Dei. God never put limitations on His creation, so how can we justify putting limitations on women? As we look at the Scriptures, we see women who were full of faith, and gifted by God to be wives, mothers, leaders and business women. We still see God using women to advance His Kingdom purpose. Women’s History Month is a time for us to celebrate what God has done, is doing and will do through His creation.”
Grad’s view on the American Dream
Finally, let me close with reflections from a 2009 PBA grad who has thrived in male-dominated fields. Christina Unkel majored in pre-law, with minors in philosophy and Spanish, all while playing varsity soccer. She earned her MBA and her law degree at Stetson University and is an attorney with the firm Mctlaw in Sarasota, Florida.
Christina probably is the only female attorney in that region working in construction litigation. She also specializes in sports law, with international experience as a FIFA referee and doing broadcast commentary at Fox Sports and CBS Sports. Plus, she owns a gym, which she’s getting ready to franchise.
Her parents came from Latin America, and raised her with the American Dream mindset: “Here, with education, you can be anything you want to be.” She’s certainly lived out that ideal, but she’s seen how many women still struggle against societal structures and implicit bias as they chase their dreams.
Christina does a lot of corporate work and speaking on the topic of gender equity. “People are getting away from the mindset and negative terminology of ‘feminist’ and are saying ‘equity,’” she said. When you want the best person in the job, based on work capacity, regardless of gender, that’s simply equitable.
Politics aside, Christina said, the United States has “gigantic momentum” toward equity now that we have a female vice president. “Seeing is believing,” she said. “Now young girls can say, ‘I see somebody up there who looks like me.’”
Christina is right. Seeing is believing. And as I see what God-fearing women like Christina, Ann-Marie and Courtney are doing, I smile at the opportunities ahead for the coming generation.
Dr. Debra A. Schwinn is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University (www.pba.edu). A physician, researcher and innovator, she began her role as university president on May 4, 2020. For more articles by Dr. Schwinn, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-debra-a-schwinn/