Hampton resident starts Women on the Move, PGH

Monday, March 16, 2020 | 11:00 PM

Women on the Move, PGH, is a new group that celebrates diversity and collaboration among women in the local region.

They met for the first time on International Women’s Day 2020, March 8, at Tu Y Yo Cafe in Glenshaw to explore ways the group can impact each other, share ideas and help their communities.

Julie Mikus of Hampton Township founded the group so she and other members could benefit from effective networking and feature more diversity in its members.

“Women on the Move, PGH, is a group of female entrepreneurs and leaders who have the grace and grit to forge new ideas, promote diversity and inclusion, and serve as catalysts of change in their communities and beyond,” said Mikus.

Mikus recently parted from her former position as regional director of Network of Hope in the North Hills. She is now earning her business degree and is close to obtaining her real estate license.

In this transition, she really wanted to connect and share ideas with others and “to create an atmosphere or environment where diverse women can meet together and learn together,” she said.

Also, she envisions the group to do community outreach at least three times per year, whether it’s helping a women’s shelter, assisting a family experiencing difficulties, or perhaps walking in a breast cancer awareness event.

“We will make connections, engage in meaningful conversations, and add value to our communities. This inclusive, faith-based, grassroots group will model the movement of God,” said Mikus.

She’s keeping it grassroots for now with only 15 members, but she has the feeling it will have significant growth in the coming year.

A recent meeting at Tu Y Yo Cafe, owned by Grace Betancourt-Jones, who is originally from Venezuela, featured an activity where each person illustrated and then displayed their ancestral roots on a piece of paper. Out of their small group, they had nine ethnicities and 49 countries represented, said Mikus.

Pittsburgh photographer May Lebo, who lives in Glenshaw, moved from Kenya to Pittsburgh for school in 2004. She is also co-owner of MayLav Elite Cleaning.

Mikus said she connected with Lebo to exhibit her work at the Tu Y Yo Cafe, and was perfect for their event. It will be on display all of March, which is also Women’s History Month.

“I wanted to put a photography collection together in honor of International Women’s Day because I think of the many women from all over the world who have moved to Pittsburgh for varied reasons and now call Pittsburgh home like myself. I want to put a face to these women who are your neighbors, friends, attendants, employees … and join together to celebrate International Women’s Day,” she said.

She wanted to highlight the many immigrant women like herself who are living in the city through a photography/interview project where she talked to six women from the six habitable continents. Each represents a different decade of life.

In one photo in color, they show where they are from in their attire or a flag in the background, a location that is quintessentially Pittsburgh. In the other photo that’s black and white, they are posing in the International Women’s Day “Equal for Each” stance in solidarity with women of the regions they represent, but most importantly Pittsburgh, she said.

Areas represented are: Uganda, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Pittsburgh, Venezuela, and Oceania, Australia.

“In this current political climate, the idea of immigrants moving to and living in the United States divides a lot of people, but we are here, and we make up what it means to live in Pittsburgh today,” said Lebo.

Betancourt-James, who lives in Fox Chapel, said she was honored to have Lebo show her work at her cafe, which she opened six months ago on Harts Run Road. She finds Women on the Move, PGH, to be encouraging and supportive. And it’s meaningful to her to also be able to share her faith in the group.

“It came at the right time, the right place,” said Betancourt-James.

Mikus, who has a son in 10th grade at Hampton High School, said she loves her community and wants to build bridges to it with this group. She also wants to model to her son what strong independent women can look like.

Anyone interested in learning more about Women on the Move, PGH, should contact her at mikusj6@gmail.com.

To see more of Lebo’s work, visit her Instagram accounts @naibovisuals for business and @faceofpittsburgh.