Advancing the Women’s Economy

Time: 3:45 pm – 4:30 pm
Location: Illinois State Capitol, Room 402A (Guides will meet you in the Capitol Rotunda to direct you to the room)

Women play a huge role in our economy, yet decision makers often overlook our contributions and too many government officials don’t take them into consideration when developing economic policies.

Women are nearly 50% of the labor force and make up more than 90% of the supportive and caretaking roles, like educators, childcare providers, registered nurses and administrative assistants. These supportive roles contribute to the ability of the recipients of our work to be productive.

Women are earning and spending (and influencing spending) at a greater rate than ever before and over the next decade we will control two-thirds of consumer wealth. We make or influence 85 percent of all purchasing decisions, and purchase over 50 percent of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics.

Women-owned business are growing 2x faster than the national average, increasing job opportunities in our communities.

Kristin Richards the Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will walk you through the policies and strategies the state of Illinois is implementing to advance the women’s economy. You’ll also hear from Marianne Markowitz  the CEO and one of the founders of the first and only women-led and women-focused bank in the county on why First Women’s Bank is vital to enhancing the economic power of women.


Marianne Markowitz
President & CEO
First Women’s Bank

President & CEO, First Women’s Bank, the only women founded, owned, and led bank in the country focused on closing the gender lending gap nationally

Previously, Markowitz served as the Acting Administrator and Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration. Markowitz was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve on the City of Chicago’s Small Business Advisory Council. Most recently, Marianne was Managing Director at CIBC, US where she successfully implemented a national SBA program.

Before her time at the SBA, Markowitz served as trustee on the Obama for America Board of Directors, CFO for the Obama for America Campaign, and for the launch of the Obama Exploratory Committee. For 17 years Markowitz held leadership roles in finance and treasury at leading global institutions in the U.S., UK, and Switzerland.

In 2023 Crain’s Chicago named her as a Women of Note, she is a member of International Women’s Forum, The Economic Club of Chicago, and a One Million Degrees mentor.

Markowitz received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA from DePaul University.

Kristi Dula
Deputy Director
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

Kristi Dula, Deputy Director at Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, leads the Office of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Technology which fosters a dynamic business environment in Illinois by supporting and promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and technological advancements across various industries.

Previously, Dula led Network Relations at Pritzker Group Venture Capital (PGVC) where she facilitated relationships for the firm’s family of companies and connected them with a wide network of experts, strategic partners, and potential customers.

Prior to her time at PGVC, Dula was a founding team member at 1871, recognized as the #1 Private Business Incubator in the world, where she led a team to gather and mobilize key partners from industry, academia, and international organizations and governments to assist tech entrepreneurs through events.

Dula is also a Founding Board Member for the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute at DePaul University, the nation’s first comprehensive institute for women founders that integrates academic learning, research, incubation, funding and public policy. She was also a Founding Board Member for Chicago:Blend, a nonprofit organization working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Chicago’s venture capital and startup community.


Amy Elik
State Representative, District 111
Assistant Minority Leader

Amy Elik was first elected to the Illinois House in November 2020. Representative Elik represents the 111th District, which is located in Madison County. She is a lifelong resident of Madison County and has worked for 28 years as a Certified Public Accountant and auditor for area businesses and governmental bodies.

Rep. Elik has served her local community in a number of ways, including as a Foster Township Trustee and as a board member for St. Mary’s Catholic School. She has also been a member of the local Rotary Club and co-leader of the Fosterburg AG 4H Club. Rep. Elik served as a volunteer teacher with SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors. She also taught financial projection classes and consulted with entrepreneurs to start businesses.

Rep. Elik’s accounting experience has proven valuable to members of the General Assembly in her role  as Deputy Budgeteer for the House Republicans’ budget team for the 103rd General Assembly.


Jennifer Sanalitro
State Representative, 48th District

Jennifer Sanalitro has resided in Illinois for most of her adult life. Rep. Sanalitro and her husband have been married for over 20 years. They’ve raised their two adult children and their puppy Lucy in Hanover Park, where her husband owns and operates a small business.

Prior to being elected, Representative Sanalitro worked as District Sales Training Manager and currently is in an Executive Sales position for a packaging company. She brings her experience working directly with both large and small businesses to the General Assembly.  Along with being a full-time executive and Mother, Rep. Sanalitro is an active member of her community she also volunteers for Brittany’s Trees, a non-for-profit benefiting the SADS Foundation, an organization focused on saving the lives of children with hereditary heart rhythm disorders.

The 48th District includes all or portions of Addison, Bartlett, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Itasca, Medinah, Roselle, Schaumburg and Wood Dale.