Highland Park resident helps women climb the career ladder
Highland Park resident Lisa Pattis is vice chairwoman of Women Employed, which works to mobilize people and organizations to expand educational and work opportunities for women in the U.S. | Photo submitted
Lisa J. Pattis
Hometown: Highland Park
Occupation: General counsel, Wintrust Financial Corp.
Avocation: Vice chairwoman, Women Employed
Words to live by: “Everyone ought to do some direct (volunteer) service, but you also ought to be involved in something that’s about changing the playing field.”
Updated: March 21, 2013 2:34PM
HIGHLAND PARK — She has degrees from Princeton, Stanford and Northwestern, spent a couple of years in Peru after college, and commands a healthy salary as general counsel for a financial holding company.
Highland Park resident Lisa J. Pattis also is recently remarried, and is a mom of two and stepmom of one. The youngest, a 15-year-old, is in the midst of learning to drive.
Add in a couple of Portuguese water dogs and a miniature wire-haired dachshund, and life for the successful 46-year-old is busy from sun up to pillow time.
For a cause near and dear to her heart, however, Pattis said she always finds time.
“It took organizations like Women Employed to say that there’s nothing inherent about being a woman that makes you more talented at being a secretary or less talented at being an executive,” Pattis said of the Chicago-based organization that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Pattis is vice chairwoman of Women Employed, which works to mobilize people and organizations to expand educational and work opportunities for women in the U.S.
Women Employed is celebrating its milestone anniversary with a number of events, including a signature luncheon set for May 14 at the Chicago Hilton on South Michigan Avenue.
“What Women Employed started about was trying to level the playing field,” said Pattis, who’s been involved in the organization for nearly a decade. “As they’ve moved the needle ... they’ve moved on to the next piece.”
Women Employed was among groups instrumental in helping to pass the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, for example, Pattis said.
Today, while much has been achieved — and Pattis’ own role at Wintrust Financial Corp. is a prime example — much remains to be done. In particular, Pattis said, women toiling on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder still face “outrageously” unfair circumstances.
“We’ve had tremendous success in advancing the cause of women who have accomplished a lot in their professional careers,” Pattis said. “We have women on the board of Women Employed who are the first in their families to get any post-secondary education and who are executives, and senior executives in some cases, at major corporations.”
Pattis, who grew up in Wilmette and attended New Trier High School, said her family always was supportive of her educational and career aspirations. Others, she knows, are not so lucky.
Among initiatives Women Employed is backing are efforts to streamline community and city college curriculums to offer specific, cost-effective, career-path driven programs to help women train for jobs that provide living wages and hours conducive to raising a family.
Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed since 1985, said Pattis exemplifies intelligence, character and drive, providing a great example for younger women.
“She is someone who is genuinely concerned about young women advancing in the legal profession and elsewhere,” Ladky said. “She’s also very strategic. She’s an asset in how we think about and plan for Women Employed’s impact and its future.”
For more information about Women Employed, visit www.womenemployed.org. Tickets for the May luncheon will be available at the website soon. The event is open to anyone, Ladky said.