Board of Directors

President - Hilary Brown

Hilary Brown abandoned her family’s hopes of a “real job” to pursue her life’s passion as a voracious consumer of pop culture, namely music, and its intersection with feminism. She evolved that pipe dream into 15-year career as a marketing executive and digital brand strategist for the world’s foremost music and musical instrument corporations, as well as a contributing journalist on intersectionality in entertainment for the industry’s most noteworthy publications. In addition to her academic background in investigative journalism and political science, Hilary is also an ardent advocate for equitable representation in all art mediums, as former Chief Marketing Officer at NPO Chicago Sinfonietta, a youth empowerment workshop leader at Girls Rock! Chicago, and a current Sustaining Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago. As the Chicago chapter's former Director of Marketing, she is particularly invested in merging her passion for data-driven decisionmaking and designing lucrative mentorship programs to build critical professional and economic leadership skills in women of underserved populations. In her spare time, she is an active bass player, shameless coffee addict, and avid marathoner, having recently trained in support of Girls on the Run and Girl Up, as well as PAWS Chicago, where she is currently a sitting Professional Board member in support of homeless animals. Contact her at president@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

First Vice President - Suvai Gunasekaran

Suvai Gunasekaran is a recent graduate of Northwestern University where she received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering. While she is still continuing her PhD research in improving MRI of the heart, she is also active in various Chicago-based service organizations. Suvai serves as the Director of the Associate Board for Surge for Water, a non-profit that provides sustainable clean water solutions to developing countries around the world, and she is a Fellow of the Scholar Strategy Network, an organization that works to bridge the gap between scientific research and policy making. In her free time, Suvai enjoys making pizza from scratch, photography, and ice skating at Millenium Park.  Email her at vp@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

Secretary - Jeanne Song

Jeanne Song is an attorney admitted to practice in Illinois. She loves being a lawyer because she gets to interact with clients and fellow attorneys from all over the world, although it might entail occasional 6 a.m. international calls. Jeanne was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea but also had the opportunity to grow up in Boston, Massachusetts and Auckland, New Zealand, which helped her become a travel enthusiast and cultural diversity advocate. Jeanne feels alive when she shares her interpersonal skills and passion for women’s rights with others to help the community. Contact her at secretary@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

Treasurer - Erin Rengel Blakley

Erin Blakley joined the Chicago USNC-UN Women as Treasurer in June, 2018. While she has worked as a corporate banking financial analyst for BMO Capital Markets since 2011, she graduated from American University in DC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. As such, she spends her free time oil painting and has served on the Evening Associates Board of the Art Institute of Chicago for eight years in various capacities, including Executive Communications Officer from 2014 to 2017. Deeply devoted to the equality and empowerment of women, Erin has also been heavily involved in BMO's Alliance for Women resource group, where she served as Operations Co-Chair on the National Leadership Committee from 2017 to 2019. Contact Erin at treasurer@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

VP of Membership - Amanda Woolsey

Amanda Woolsey has always been an extremely passionate about international development and gender equity. She found her feminist voice while attending the University of Illinois at Chicago where she studied Sociology and Gender and Women studies. While being inspired by many powerful women, Amanda decided to study abroad in India learning more about global feminism through a Labor, Food, and Gender program. She continued her journey by joining the Peace Corps, where she worked as a Youth Empowerment Specialist in Fiji to continue to empower women, raise awareness for international women’s issues, and actively participating in the ways in which different communities responded to gender, health, and education challenges. Currently, Amanda is a Project Coordinator at the University of St. Francis, where she provides prevention education, training, and resources to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Being a part of the UN Women USA Chicago Chapter has allowed her to connect with strong, like-minded women, and be a part of a larger mission. As the Vice President of Membership, Amanda hopes to encourage more women to feel empowered, supported, and contribute to the ongoing fight for gender equality. In her free time, Amanda enjoys traveling, listening to podcasts, and reading. Email Amanda at vpmembership@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

Director of Marketing and Communications - Mariana Guarín Barkach

Mariana is a passionate and energized creative who loves ideas so much that she believes ideas can change our culture and move equality forward. Guarin works as a copywriter at Leo Burnett Chicago, where her hard work is part of big campaigns for big brands. Her enthusiasm to help non-profits, such as Amnesty International, Instituto of Chicago, UN Venezuela, Purple Purse Foundation, and Off The Street Club, has been part of her career. She's fun and proud of her Latin background bringing it to the dancefloor every time DJ Lala plays. She's a soccer fan, a cat person, a beach lover, and a food fan.  In 2018, Mariana joined the UN Women USA Chicago Chapter as a member of the Marketing Committee. She started to work UN Women global initiatives and lead a group of talented volunteers in 2019 as the Director of Marketing and Communications. Connect with her on LinkedIn and at marketing@chicago.unwomen.org

 

Director at Large - Emily Thomas

Emily serves as a Director at Large and Social Chair of the board of directors of the Chicago Chapter of UN Women.  She is happy to contribute her time and talents to the crucial efforts of UN Women and enjoys meeting and connecting with likeminded women and men passionate about UN Women’s campaigns.  In her day job, Emily is corporate counsel for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, where she serves as attorney on real estate and other transactional deals for the hotel company.  Previously, Emily worked at Chicago-based law firm, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and concentrated her practice on real estate transactions across many industries and clients.

Before law school, Emily worked on statewide political campaigns in Montana and Georgia and for environmental non-profits in Georgia.  In her free time, Emily enjoys spending time with her husband, Danny, and two young daughters, Rose and Ruby.  She is also an avid reader, crossword puzzler and podcast aficionado. Contact her at ethomas@chicago.unwomeusa.org

 

Director of Public Affairs - Jessica Zaehringer

Jessica Zaehringer (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Chicago. She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), as well as a master's degree in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies (MA) and a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) with a specialization in Mental Health, from Loyola University Chicago. During graduate school her research included the social, political, economic impacts of state, local, and federal policies; trauma-informed care; and mental health stigma. Jessica has worked with organizations and firms such as: KJD strategies, The Humane Society of the United States, and Sierra Club. Currently, Jessica works at NAMI Chicago as a Senior Clinical Manager. In her free time she enjoys biking, eating at local vegan restaurants, visiting art galleries, and going to concerts with friends. Connect with her on Linkedin and at publicaffairs@chicago.unwomenusa.org

Director of Events & Activities - María Barragán Ortiz

María Barragán Ortiz found her activist voice in third grade, when she presented the UNICEF list of Children’s Rights to one of her teachers to demand equal treatment in her classroom. Inspired to be the teacher she needed as a girl, she graduated in English Studies and Literature at the University of Seville (Spain), where she is originally from. She continued her studies and research in language learning and multiculturalism at Jagiellonian University (Poland), and later at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom). Her journey carried on at the International Affairs Office at the University of Seville, providing legal orientation on international issues and collaborating with refugee support services. María is currently a mentor, speaker, dual language teacher and social-emotional coach in the Chicagoland area, specializing in women empowerment through education. She coordinates and facilitates intercultural social-emotional programs and activities for young women, and also founded her own international project leading women empowerment circles. In her free time, María loves traveling, reading and expressing her creativity through writing. Contact her at events@chicago.unwomenusa.org

 

VP of Development - Lois Johnson

Lois Johnson proudly hails from East Tennessee (y’all). While she’s only been in the city for a couple years, she has quickly become an engaged Chicagoan. As a volunteer and active member at the Field Museum, Lois has helped launch young professionals events with world-leading scientists, studied exhibits, sorted specimens, and answered hundreds of visitor questions. She is also an active member of the Young Professionals Network at the Chicago Council for Global Affairs. Lois’s professional experiences range from interning with the Obama White House, receiving a degree in Industrial Engineering, leading a team of Georgia Tech students in building an optimization tool for the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS, and now she’s currently a technology consultant at Workday. In her pre-pandemic life, Lois loved to hike, listen to live music, meet new people, and her favorite thing of all, travel. She has visited 26 countries, 40 states, and 14 US national parks. Contact her at vpdevelopment@chicago.unwomenusa.org