About 30 years ago, Bonnie Littman, Susan Brady, Barbara Horton and Hayden McKay had wine and appetizers in Megan Carroll’s loft apartment in New York and one of the first Women in Lighting + Design (WILD) meetings was held.
Fast forward to 2021 and after almost 7 years of volunteering with WILD and helping shape its current growth, Kelly Roberts was elected as the organization’s first president. I flew to New York to present our award to Kelly and learn more about her role with Women in Lighting + Design.
Kelly’s first experience with WILD was attending a panel discussion at LightFair 2015, and she became inspired by the camaraderie and support she felt. She dove head-first into this community, immediately reaching out to the organizers of WILD NYC and offering support. She learned of the other chapters across the country and envisioned building a group that wasn’t isolated to a specific location but was working to build a network of empowerment across the country. The WILD organization now has 15 working chapters with over 1200 members and they are very active. Formalizing and running an organization the size of WILD, one would think that Kelly is a WILD employee, but she works as a designer fulltime for WALD Studio in New York.
One of the most striking symbols of their success is the amount of money they have on hand. During our interview Kelly shared that number with me and it is very telling. The amount is ZERO. They don’t even have a checking account! This is what makes them so unique. WILD has progressed through generous support from the industry and the time and energy of their members. Every one of their leaders are volunteers and work with passion to help her fellow woman.
In addition to electing Kelly as their president, the 15 WILD chapters appointed liaisons who also elected a Vice President, Secretary and four at-large directors to fill Membership, Marketing, Outreach, and Programs Chair positions. A treasurer will be appointed in 2022 as they finish up their bylaws. Kelly assured me they will set up their checking account just as soon as they receive their 501(c)3 listing, which will allow WILD to better manage funds and make a greater impact in the industry
She explained that WILD is known for having conversations that aren’t necessarily lighting related and that the industry is ready to focus on the conversations that WILD is bringing forward. Kelly said anything that impacts people at home affects how they interact in the industry. She stated, “If you aren’t supported in your day-to-day personal life then you won’t feel empowered in your professional life. WILD supports the person, the individual, not just the business of lighting.”
Megan Carroll commented that Kelly saw the potential and the need to make WILD bigger and that she was purposeful and collaborative in her thinking. Megan, further explained, “She worked to bring WILD to a more organized, issues-oriented national organization.”
During our discussion Kelly kept reiterating the importance of volunteering. There are currently opportunities to work on developing specific programs such as the Parenting Resource Group, or the Lamplighter Coalition for sexual harassment awareness. WILD has also established a DEIR Committee and is exploring a mentoring program.
Volunteering locally is another way to be involved with WILD. WILD has chapters in the following areas: New York City, Chicago, LA, Austin, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Des Moines, Denver, Toronto, San Francisco, San Diego, Pacific North West, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. With 15 active chapters the goal for 2022 is to reach 20, with a stretch goal of 25. Kelly asserted, “We are solidifying our process of starting new chapters and supporting them while ensuring WILD stays true to its original roots as a community of women coming together.”
While many sections are still having activities online, she cited examples of a few in-person chapter activities that have restarted: Chicago held a Segway tour, New York hosted a summer picnic, and San Diego managed a golf outing, just to name a few.
Given all her responsibilities, I asked Kelly how she was able to manage everything. She said, “In order to have the time to volunteer [in this capacity] you do need the support of your employer and home because it takes a lot of time.” She gave credit to her boss, Bill Armstrong, who allows her the flexibility to give back, and her husband, who is a wonderful cook. She also thanked the Board members for their dedication to WILD’s growth and the many people who came before her that created WILD in the first place and offered her such an amazing community to join and support.
Megan said, “I believe it’s essential to help others stand up and stand out and Kelly Roberts is a standout!”
We agree. Congratulations to Kelly Roberts the EdisonReport’s 2021 Person of the Year.
Listed below are EdisonReport’s previous People of the Year:
2020: Sam Korbel, Lytei
2019: Jim Brodrick, DOE
2018: Vern Nagel, Acuity Brands
2017: Dr. Mark Rea, Lighting Research Center
2016: Shelly Wald, WAC Lighting
2015: Vern Nagel, Acuity Brands
2014: Bill Hanley, IES
2013: Chuck Swoboda, Cree Lighting
2012: Bruno Biasiotta, Philips Lighting
2011: Al Ruud, Ruud Lighting