BOSTON — By age 15, Elizabeth Murray was living on the streets, riding the New York subway at night and eating from dumpsters following her mother’s death. Determined to take charge of her life despite a childhood that included cocaine-addicted parents and poverty, Murray pushed on, finished high school and was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard University. Her story is the basis for the best-selling memoir “Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” was the basis of a Lifetime Television movie that was nominated for three Emmy Awards.
This morning, Murray shared her story with close to 1,000 passionate and powerful women from the Boston region who joined together to celebrate personal triumph, women in philanthropy and what it takes to make a difference in people’s lives. United Way’s 21st Annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast brought together local women leaders to connect, share, and raise funds for United Way’s work to create financial opportunity and educational success for the region’s families and their children.
The presenting sponsor of this morning’s United Way’s Women’s Leadership Breakfast is Deloitte. Philanthropic sponsors are State Street Corporation and Sun Life Financial, and additional sponsors include Advocacy Sponsor Bank of America and Mentor sponsors Boston Financial Data Services, Cabot, Eaton Vance and Santander.
“Deloitte has been a proud supporter of the Women’s Leadership Breakfast since its inception 21 years ago, and I am honored to serve as co-chair once again,” said Susan Esper, Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP, and Board Chair of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The breakfast has come a long way since I co-chaired eight years ago, but one thing has always remained the same: The convergence of a powerful group of women that can elicit change in the communities where we live and work.”
“I have a personal connection to the United Way,” said Karen White, today’s Women’s Leadership Breakfast Co-Chair and Assistant Vice President at Sun Life Financial. “As a young girl, I was a benefactor of Quincy Community Action Programs, a United Way agency. Through their services, I received much-needed support which allowed me to excel in school. I have seen the tremendous difference it makes for people like me. Without the United Way’s support, many community-based organizations would not be able to survive on their own.”
The event honored Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and State Representative Alice Peisch with the “Women who LIVE UNITED” awards for 2016. Both have worked tirelessly to improve educational and financial opportunities for children and families. The event also celebrated Marlene Price, a Mattapan native and student at Bridgewater State University who has demonstrated academic skills, leadership in her community, a desire to give back for the next generation and compassion for her peers and neighbors.
“The breakfast is a demonstration of the strength of women in our community, and I look forward to seeing what we can collectively accomplish next,” said Nancy Stokes, Senior Vice President at State Street Global Services.
Globally, United Way’s Women United group is the largest philanthropic organization of its kind, with almost 70,000 members across the world and $1 billion in donations. Locally, last year more than 1,235 members of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council contributed almost $3.5 million, which helped ensure 3,636 children were more ready for school, 7,026 youth received academic and other supports to stay in school and graduate and 9,152 individuals and families avoided homelessness.
With Deloitte as the founding and sole sponsor, the first Women’s Leadership Breakfast in 1996 brought together 300 women and raised $117,000 for three community-based programs focused on building skills and self-esteem in girls. It was an emerging issue at the time – research in the late 1990s showed that girls’ self-esteem began to decline as early as age 11, and only 29% of girls reported having a high sense of self-esteem at age 18. By 2012, the Women’s Leadership Breakfast had raised more than 14 million for programs that addressed the unique needs of girls, reaching more than 275,000 girls in the region
In recent years, the philanthropic focus of the Women’s Leadership Council has broadened to reflect the diverse passions of its members and challenges facing the community – including early literacy, summer learning, and college and career readiness. For example, the Women’s Leadership Council has also:
- Held six Community Baby Showers, connecting over 525 low-income pregnant women and new parents to educational resources;
- Collected and distributed more than 1,200 books to early education programs in Boston;
- Raised funds to expand United Way’s Summer Learning Collaborative, which last year helped 82% of over 3,000 children avoid summer learning loss and helped 70% advance to the next reading level; and
- Funded internship and summer work experiences for 20 local youth.
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to make their most challenging business decisions with confidence, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. For more information, visit Deloitte’s U.S. website at: http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en.html.
As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.