We Are All Marquette: I was born to be light, the Womxn of Color Employee Resource Group

By Saul Lopez, graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

“Who loves you?” 

“What do you create?” 

“Who is your family?” 

These questions float in the room one February afternoon while a group of more than 15 women gather around the table, all attentively listening to Venice Williams. 

Williams is the executive director of Alice’s Garden, a local non-profit that provides models of regenerative farming, community cultural development and economic agricultural enterprises for the global landscape on Milwaukee’s north side.

A candle in front of Williams burns as she speaks – its strong fragrance fills up the room. Williams has been invited to speak to Marquette’s Womxn of Color Employee Resource Group. 

At their recent event, Williams touched upon the importance of integrating selfcare into one’s daily routine by checking in with oneself on a quarterly basis. She did this by having the participants engage with themselves via writing.

She asked them questions like “What do you fear?” and “What satisfies you?”

Williams wanted the group to tap into themselves for the answers. Because, as she puts it, “Each and every one of us, because we are women of color… are the continuation of our ancestors’ unfinished stories.” 

These stories live by virtue of these women telling them – in the way they go about their work, and in how they help Marquette grow.  

Launched in 2018 by Clara Dywer, assistant director of the Office of Engagement and Inclusion, Womxn of Color builds community among women of color on campus through programming, social events and networking opportunities. The objective is to provide resources for underrepresented women in a variety of ways – both formally and informally. This group is one of seven Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that are supported by Marquette’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. 

Parisa Shirazi, program associate for the Center for Peacemaking and co-chair for Womxn of Color, says that she hopes the group continues to grow:

“We are a strong community of women who collectively support each other and care for one another’s well-being – and I see us growing that.”

These ERGs seek to promote a sense of community, build personal and professional networks, enhance employee support and retention, and assist in attracting new employees to Marquette. ERGs help foster a diverse and inclusive community among employees.

Each ERG has a designated liaison to the University Leadership Council (ULC). For Womxn of Color, Chief of MUPD Edith Hudson and Dean of Libraries Janice Welburn serve as ULC liaisons.

While the ERG model is based on common background or interest, in the spirit of inclusivity, any employee can join any ERG. 

To join the Womxn of Color Employee Resource Group or learn about the other ERGs that exist on campus, visit the Diversity and Inclusion website.  

Celebrating diversity and inclusion at Marquette University