Gillian Schair, Chair
Gillian Schair is a resident of Portland, Maine and a full-time mother of two children, ages 16 and 12. Gillian is the current board chair of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center and has served on boards relating to both the arts and the environment; she also has a passion for social justice and equality. She is the president of her family’s charitable foundation, which currently focuses on programs that support immigrant and refugee youth in Southern Maine. For ten years she served as a Maine CASA/guardian adLitem, advocating for children in the foster care system. She is a beginner bee-keeper, a seasoned skier and an enthusiast of Maine winter recreation.
Lauren Sterling, Vice Chair
Lauren Sterling provides part-time collaboration and philanthropy consultation to the Maine Early Learning Investment Group, which in turn supports high-quality early childhood education in partnership with exemplary programs like Educare Central Maine. Previously, Lauren directed the Maine Governor’s Children’s Cabinet during the King and Baldacci Administrations providing staffing, program and policy coordination to its various cross-system, statewide initiatives. Under First Lady Karen Baldacci’s leadership, Lauren staffed the Educare Maine development process. Lauren has consulted with the DC-based Forum for Youth Development, led membership activities for the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, and was Executive Director of the former Families First Kennebec County Child Abuse and Neglect Council among other positions in Maine. From 1996 to 2014, Lauren co-chaired of Youth Matter! – formerly known as Communities for Children and Youth, a local child and youth provider coalition leading prevention and youth development funding into the greater Waterville schools and community organizations. Lauren has a Bachelor in University Studies focused on child and youth policy and communications, and has a Certificate of Completion from the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in California.
Pat Ryan, Treasurer
Pat Ryan served as the Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission from 1979 – 2011. As Director, she was responsible for shaping policy and overseeing the investigation, conciliation, and litigation of complaints of unlawful discrimination filed with the Commission. During her tenure with the Commission, Pat was member of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, a member of the Joint Standing Committee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a member of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s State Agency Advisory Board.
Prior to her work at the Human Rights Commission, Pat served as Chair of the Maine State Personnel Board, and Chair of the Maine Commission for Women. She chaired a coalition to secure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Maine, and was Chair of the International Women’s Year Coordinating Committee in Maine. Pat was a founding director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Maine Women’s Political Caucus.
Currently, she continues work as a mediator, focusing on cases for the Maine Human Rights Commission, as well as serving a second three-year term as Board member and Treasurer of the Maine Women’s Lobby and Maine Women’s Policy Center. Pat is Senior Warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, where her focus is on human trafficking and community outreach efforts, and she is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
Elizabeth Riotte, Esq., Secretary
Elizabeth (Liz) Riotte is the board secretary of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center and serves on the Finance Committee. She is currently Assistant Corporate Secretary of Avangrid, Inc. (NYSE: AGR), a diversified energy and utility company with more than $30 billion in assets and operations in 25 states, focusing on corporate governance, securities law compliance, public disclosures and securities filings, and providing support to the board of directors. Liz was previously an attorney at Axiom, a leading provider of tech-enabled legal services and an associate at Verrill Dana LLP in Portland, Maine and BakerHostetler LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. Liz holds a B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law School, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Case Western Reserve Law Review and graduated magna cum laude and Order of the Coif. Liz lives in Cumberland with her husband, Sam, and their two young daughters.
Taught by her father at an early age to value and uphold Faith, Family, Education and humanity in life, Mufalo Chitam of Zambian descent was raised in Lusaka, Zambia with five brothers and four sisters. A Public Administration bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of Zambia, Mufalo worked for an American based non-profit organization Child Fund International, in the outskirts of the capital city Lusaka, providing health, educational, and nutritional support for about 500 families with children ranging from ages 2-18 years old. Mufalo has been connecting people and resources ever since.
It was just a matter of time before she would continue doing the same. Mufalo, since coming to America in 2000, has worked for the University of Southern Maine, United Way of Greater Portland, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Kidney Foundation, Easter Seals Maine and American Red Cross. She has over 17 years of extensive professional experience in: Event Management & Logistics planning, Customer Service, Sales Client Case Resolutions & Office Management, Project & Program Management, Marketing & Public Relations, Financial Development, Volunteer Leadership & Supervision, and Fundraising and Development. Currently, she works for Granite Bay Care as a Program Manager.
A member of Emmanuel Assemblies of God Church, Mufalo and her husband Frank Chitam, an IT Consultant at tkc. Co in Portland live in South Portland, Maine and they have a beautiful daughter, Grace who is currently studying at American University in Washington DC. Presently Mufalo is the Vice Board Chair of Community Financial Literacy and most recently the founder of the annual Empower The Immigrant Woman Conference, Empower Maine Women Network Group and owner of Etukis Events LLC.
This historic women’s conference focuses on helping to find solutions to the economic security challenges in Maine due to under- or unemployment. The event, whose mission is to “Empower, Educate & Inspire the Immigrant Woman”, also educates the newest Americans on the programs and services available to address education, social and credentialing challenges of foreign born and skilled professionals. It closes with a remarkable Trailblazer honorees ‘ceremony.
A number of agencies and organizations support immigrants but there is no single platform dedicated to honor and showcase the work of immigrant women in the state. Mufalo is using this conference to create a way for immigrant women to get to know and help one another as they find their way in Maine.
After growing up in southern Maine and graduating from Middlebury College, Erin served as Executive Director of the Spannocchia Foundation for 12 years, supporting an education center and organic farm in Tuscany, and splitting her time between Italy and Maine. Since 2013, she has been the Executive Director of the Emanuel and Pauline A. Lerner Foundation, based in Portland, ME. The Lerner Foundation recently launched a 5-year initiative to raise the post-secondary education aspirations of middle school students growing up in rural Maine communities. She also serves as a grant-making advisor with the Rocking Moon Foundation, based in Washington, DC and midcoast Maine. Erin earned a Masters of Public Policy and Management from the Muskie School at the University of Southern Maine in 2005, is a 2014 graduate of the Exponent Philanthropy Next Gen Fellows program, and serves as Vice Chair of the Maine Philanthropy Center board. Erin and her husband Ben co-own Farmers’ Gate Market in Wales, ME and The Farm Stand in South Portland, purveyors of local, pasture-raised meats and sustainably-grown produce from a network of farms in central and southern Maine. They have 2 young children, ages 7 and 3.
Heather Deese, Ph.D.
Heather is a scientist whose passion is working at the interface between scientists and people who need scientific information to inform decision-making and solve local problems including nonprofits, industry groups, government agencies and local communities. Heather currently serves as Vice President, Research and Strategy for the Island Institute, a community development non-profit that works to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities and exchange information and ideas to further the sustainability of communities in Maine and elsewhere. She joined the Island Institute in 2009 and has served in a number of roles, including as VP of Programs and VP of Development. In her current role, Heather works with community members and researchers to design and undertake collaborative, multi-disciplinary research on social, economic, and environmental issues. She is also responsible for bringing to bear data and analyses to inform Island Institute’s long-term planning and investments. Heather’s research background includes laboratory, observational, and field studies, during which she has spent over five months at sea, including surveys off Antarctica, the North Sea, and many places in between. She has worked in previous positions with government, industry, and environmental organizations.
Heather joined the Maine Women’s Policy Center Board in 2015 and serves on the Development Committee. She also serves on the board of the Hurricane Island Foundation, which runs the Hurricane Island Center of Science and Leadership, for which she chairs the Programs Committee. Heather holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maine, an M.S. from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution & Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.S. from Georgetown University. She and her husband live in Rockport with their two children.
Cara Pavlak, Auburn native and proud graduate of St. Dom’s, has been passionate about women’s rights in Maine for as long as she can remember. Seeking to explore the world outside Maine during college brought her to the Mississippi Delta, Senegal, and Guinea, firmly solidifying her belief that women’s rights are human rights and economic independence is essential to all. As a graduate of Trinity College (Hartford), Cara has spent time as an activist, community organizer, paralegal, and outreach coordinator across the country before returning to her home state. Currently, Cara is a Portland resident and works for Senator Angus S. King, Jr. in his Scarborough Office, where she specializes in immigration issues, particularly federal asylum and refugee policy. It is a joy for her to be involved in the work of the Maine Women’s Policy Center and to meet other women engaged in these issues.