Lisa Ujda has lived in Madison for more than 15 years and has been an active member of the Wisconsin Women’s Network since 2018. Ujda, who grew up in Wisconsin, plays a central role in the organization’s professional mentorship program and joined the leadership committee as a member at large in 2021.
Wisconsin Women’s Network is an identity-inclusive organization that seeks to empower and support women across the state. Through its advocacy work and support opportunities, the group promotes the advancement of women and girls in Wisconsin through communication and educational connections, Ujda said.
What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?
I think reconciling the way we think about ourselves and the way that we are. I think Madison has a reputation as a very progressive, very welcoming, very open type of place, and I don’t know that it always is in real life. So, I think probably for the Madison community in particular, it’s being a little less self-congratulatory about our good parts and being a little more realistic about our opportunities, and then doing the work.
I think there are passionate people, who are passionate about a lot of things. The top thing that comes to mind when it comes to opportunities is the potential for action and for change for people working together. There are a lot of people that have their heart in a good place and can do things with the energy they have within themselves.
What do you wish people in our community understood better?
That we live in a bubble. We live in a little oasis that we have created in our minds and, to a certain extent, in reality. But it’s hard to remember — especially since during COVID, most people haven’t left the community. You forget that we live in a very unique — privileged in many ways — place, and that not everyone thinks the same way that most of us do.
What do you think are some of the challenges that we — as women or otherwise femme identifying people — in the community face?
One of the things I think I can speak about with the biggest depth of knowledge because it’s something I work on through Wisconsin Women’s Network, is the professional mentorship program.
The goal is to connect women or humans who identify as women from marginalized gender identities who are looking for opportunities in professional spaces, to match them up with others who are similar to them for a variety of reasons to kind of learn about what it’s like to be in a “professional” position.
What are the things you just don’t know until you’re in there? Like, what it’s like to be the only woman in a meeting or to be the only woman in a company or to be one of many women who hear themselves say something and nothing happens until a dude says the same thing.
There are all kinds of things that are challenging about being a woman in the workplace and the program that I’m most passionate about working on and that I spend most of my time on in my connection with Wisconsin Women’s Network is this professional mentorship program where we create relationships and create support for people who are in those types of spots for the first time.
What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for women in our community?
This is a magic wand, genie in a bottle, type situation but I wish we weren’t having legislative or judicial conversations about health care and access to it and individual’s decision-making agency in consultation with their personal care-giver — we wouldn’t be talking about it.
What about our community gives you hope?
As I mentioned before, I think there are so many people that are passionate and that have good intentions and that want to be welcoming and inclusive and open and give opportunities to everyone who wants them. I feel there is a flinging open of doors that often happens when there is a need, and so I like that spirit and I like that energy.