Own Your Power

Time: 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm
Location: Capitol Complex Visitors Center Auditorium
Address: 425 S College St, Springfield, IL, 62701

Women often shy away from the word “power” and let’s face it, you can’t blame them. The news and social media feeds are filled with stories about abuse of power. What’s more, for many, we have had our own experiences with power being used to keep us from attaining a promotion or prevent us from sharing our opinions. We don’t often hear stories about when power was used for good even though it happens all the time. So why would women want to own power?

Our moderator, Amanda Vinicky from WTTW-TV and our esteemed panel of influential Illinois women are here to unpack the definition of power and help women leverage their very desirable leadership qualities, among which include strong communication and collaboration skills.


Justice Lisa Holder White
Illinois Supreme Court

In 2022, Lisa Holder White took the oath of office as the first Black woman to sit on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Justice Holder White began her career out of college as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Macon County before going into private practice with a Decatur law firm. While in private practice she also served as an Assistant Public Defender for Macon County, where she litigated on behalf of those charged with criminal offenses and represented abused and neglected children.

In 2001 she was sworn in as an Associate Judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. In 2008, she became a Circuit Judge and in 2013 she was sworn in as the first Black Justice on the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District.

Justice Holder White is dedicated to judicial education. She served on and chaired the Illinois Supreme Court committee that provides continuing legal education for judges. She is also dedicated to giving back to the community and engaging with young people. She uses the courtroom to host mock trials with schoolchildren and provides students opportunities to learn more about careers within the legal profession and what it is like to be a judge.

Justice Holder White is a Decatur native who now resides in the Springfield area.

She graduated magna cum laude from Lewis University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and went on to earn her Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law.

Susan Hayes Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief External Affairs Officer
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Susan Hayes Gordon has worked at Children’s Memorial Hospital/Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in various external affairs, communications and marketing positions since 1987. In her current role as Senior Vice President and Chief External Affairs Officer, she serves as a member of the senior management team and as an advisor to the CEO on legislative and regulatory affairs at the local, state and federal levels of government, policy and advocacy, and on community engagement strategies. Susan’s team is responsible for developing and sustaining relationships with internal and external constituencies, fostering awareness and participation among them to enhance the health and well-being of all children, and working to preserve essential government funding.

Linda Reneé Baker
University Professor
Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University

In her role at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Linda Reneé Baker’s focus is on expanding access to high-quality health care in partnership with the SIU School of Medicine as well as helping minorities and people with disabilities reach their full potential.

Before joining the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in 2003,  Baker held key managerial positions under three Illinois governors, notably serving as the Secretary of Illinois’ largest state agency, the Department of Human Services.

As secretary of the Department of Human Services, she led and managed a comprehensive human services agency with about 20,000 employees and an annual budget of about $5 billion. The agency provided services in the areas of community health and prevention, mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and vocational rehabilitation. The agency also directed and implemented the state’s nationally recognized welfare reform efforts.

She previously served as director of the Department of Employment Security, assistant director of the Department of Public Aid and as the first African-American legislative liaison for an Illinois governor.

Baker earned a Ph.D. in public administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2004. She also holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in gerontology and healthcare administration and public administration from that institution.

Kara Demirjian Huss
Founder & President, DCCMarketing
Senior Vice President, T/CCI Manufacturing
President, DemirCo Properties & Real Estate Portfolios

Kara Dermirjian Huss is Vice President for T/CCI Manufacturing a global leader in compressor technology and electric vehicle component manufacturing for the commercial vehicle and specialty automotive industry. TCCI is headquartered in Illinois with facilities in 10 countries. Kara leads the Marketing and Public Affairs to support the changing paradigm on the road to zero emissions.

Kara is also Founder and President of DCC Marketing, WBE/WBENC, a full service marketing agency driving impact through their unique approach to multicultural marketing that creates stand out campaigns to drive consumer education and behavior change. Kara is the agency’s fearless leader who founded DCC in 2000 by fusing business know-how and creative strategy to drive success for powerful brands.


Amanda Vinicky
WTTW-TV Chicago Tonight

Amanda Vinicky is a correspondent and segment host who focuses primarily on Illinois government and politics—though her insatiable curiosity leads her to cover a little bit of everything. Vinicky joined WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” in 2017, after spending a decade as the Statehouse Bureau Chief for NPR Illinois and the Illinois Public Radio network. She also co-hosted WSEC-TV’s “CapitolView,” and was a regular analyst on the “State Week” roundtable. Her work and analysis has been featured on shows including NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “The Takeaway,” and she’s garnered top honors from the Illinois Associated Press and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.

Vinicky received her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield and has degrees in political science and journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She began her career in the Chicago suburbs (where she grew up) as a newspaper reporter. She loves mustard, hot sauce, podcasts, yoga and traveling (though she doesn’t do nearly enough of it).