As the CEO of a women’s foundation, I recently had a former supporter tell me that so many pressing needs in the world were causing her to put all of her money towards those alleviating immediate crisis. While I absolutely understand the impulse (just pick up a newspaper, tune into the news or scroll through social media), investing exclusively in addressing today’s critical issues leaves no resources to continue to address root causes and lasting change. That’s where women’s funds come in and where we continue to need your support.
Women’s Funds have been addressing lasting change and changing the systems of patriarchy and marginalization that have kept women and so many other communities from realizing their full potential. Many women’s funds like my own fund, have been engaging in changing our own region while impacting change in the the larger world. We do this by ensuring that our own leadership is diverse and also inclusive and we put our money where our mission is when selecting vendors and investments.
At the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts we focus our community investments on giving women and girls the tools to be champions of their own lives and by giving women the tools to be champions of their communities. We also strengthen the nonprofits that serve our women and girls.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or you can teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime. In this crazy world where children are ripped from the arms of their parents and locked up, where reproductive rights are under assault, people of color are targeted and so much more, we must not lose sight of the goal of giving women and their families the autonomy and economic security they need to prosper. With more women and other underrepresented folks in positions of power, we know the world will be a more equitable place. They will bring their lived experiences with them and will collectively be better able to understand problems and find lasting solutions that take into account all those who might be effected.
We believe in the potential of women and girls and focus on giving them the tools they need to break through the barriers that hold them back from their prosperity. We have provided women with salary negotiation skills, training on how to own their expertise and invested in programs that focus on the leadership and potential of girls and young women of color. Over nine years ago we launched a program to prepare women to run for office and be more civically engaged. That program has produced mayors, police chiefs and many school and town committee members. Graduates have run for congress and more.
Several months ago, during the Brett Kavanaugh nomination hearings, we saw many of the same men (Grassley, Hatch, Leahy) who presided over Clarence Thomas’ nomination so many years ago.
If that wasn’t an “advertisement” for investing in a pipeline of more diverse leaders, particularly women, what is? The news cycle has been put on steroids during the Trump era but we would all do well to remember the Kavanaugh nomination hearings’ “advertisement” when reading the daily headlines. We cannot be distracted from our goal.
Let me be clear, there are very urgent needs that absolutely deserve our support. Folks should do what they can to address them. But they should not lose sight of investing in long term change by investing in women and girls through women’s funds. Create two buckets, one for today’s pressing needs and another to build the world we need and ALL deserve to have.