Penn Women's Center director makes history as first Black woman to hold post

Sherisse Laud-Hammond is the first Black woman to lead the Penn Women's Center, one of the oldest women's centers in the country.

Video Transcript

- Finally at 4:00 today, a local woman is breaking ground in her position as head of a storied organization at the University of Pennsylvania.

- Community journalist Ashley Johnson introduces us to the new director of the Penn Women's Center.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: Sherisse Laud-Hammond is a modern-day pioneer. As a leader at the University of Pennsylvania, her mission is women empowerment,

SHERISSE LAUD-HAMMOND: I believe in lifting while climbing.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: She's the first Black woman to lead the Penn Women's Center. It's one of the oldest women's centers in the country. For more than 40 years, the organization has fought for women's rights.

SHERISSE LAUD-HAMMOND: I'm this first. That is because many, many firsts came before me. I think of Sadie T. Alexander, who was the first woman who graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: While the center has remained closed due to the pandemic, Laud-Hammond has kept its mission alive virtually.

SHERISSE LAUD-HAMMOND: We've had healing in solidarity circles, also psychological and financial and legal wellness workshops.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: As a director, she's been on the job for a little bit more than two years. During Covid-19, she's tackled difficult issues like the gender wage gap with unemployment significantly impacting women, and racial inequality.

SHERISSE LAUD-HAMMOND: With inclusivity, that means intersectionality. So whomever comes to our doors, this is a brave space for them, where their identity is never questioned.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: Laud-Hammond provides the women's center on being a safe haven. For her, it's passion with a purpose.

SHERISSE LAUD-HAMMOND: I just look at myself as someone who wants to help people.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: In University City, Ashley Johnson, Channel 6 Action News.