During March, we celebrate women’s contributions to our nation’s history, culture, and society. We asked the leaders of several Independent Sector member, women-led nonprofit organizations for their reflections on what this month represents, and how their organization helps to advance equality and development of our nation’s women and girls.
Alicia Lara | President & CEO
“As the new President & CEO at Community Partners, and as the Board Chair at the Ms. Foundation for Women, this is a special time to reflect on women’s leadership that is, so often, the heart and soul of our communities. At Community Partners, many of the projects we support are led by BIPOC women, and I am deeply inspired by their commitment and the work they do every day.
“One of the most important things we can do is to listen and trust the experiences and expertise that BIPOC women leaders bring. As pointed out in a recent report by the Ms. Foundation (an IS member), ‘Pocket Change: How Women and Girls of Color Do More with Less,’ BIPOC women are doing amazing work, yet they typically are not able to access opportunities afforded to others. As the CEO of an organization dedicated to incubating ideas that support and strengthen communities, my commitment is to stand with women leaders and to make sure they have true opportunities to grow and thrive.”
Angelique Power | President & CEO
“Our founder, Rose Skillman, was an incredible woman. Not having any children of her own, she dedicated her life, her wealth, and her legacy to ensure Detroit children have the supports needed to thrive. The Skillman Foundation has been a woman-led foundation for the past two decades and the majority of our staff are women from all different backgrounds.
“We lead from a place of love and shared power, with a keen analysis of how racism, sexism, and ableism negatively impact us all. We champion Detroit youth of all identities. While these core values aren’t uniquely female, the belief that children are the barometer of equity has been carried for generations by those most maternal. When our children thrive, we all thrive. And they are all our children.”
Jatrice Martel Gaiter | Executive Vice President, External Affairs
“Maud Booth, an indefatigable disrupter and advocate, was the co-founder of Volunteers of America (VOA) in 1896. She drafted the original constitution of VOA, which granted women equal votes well before women could vote for the President of the United States. VOA continues to build on its legacy of respecting women leaders. Today, 16 of the 30 affiliates are led by CEOs who are women.
“With bipartisan leadership, the affiliate serving Kentucky has expanded its pioneering programs to provide housing and addiction services to women who are pregnant, nursing, and mothers to toddlers. Amid the opioid crisis, these women were previously excluded from most residential addiction treatment programs. Former naval housing was transformed into a 73-townhouse community for female veterans and their children facing homelessness by VOA Los Angeles. Women comprise most of the residents in our expansive network of nursing homes and continuing care communities. These are just a few of the innovative programs focused on women and their families.
“We have enhanced our DEI initiatives to include building a leadership pipeline for women of color. Too often, women of color are excluded from executive positions in nonprofits. Change is more than just a hire – it requires an adjustment of norms, culture, and expectations. Throughout my career, I have always been considered too strident, too animated, and too much. As a six-foot-tall African-American woman, it was impossible for me to assume an inobtrusive and diminutive demeanor. I identify with the 5-foot-tall Maud Booth, who was brave and outrageous in her day. She almost single handedly spearheaded prison reform and halfway houses. She sold tickets to her wedding to raise money for the fledgling VOA. The world is frothing with war, growing racial disparities, poverty, climate change, and frightening uncertainty. It will take more women with vociferous voices, compassion, and strategic alliances in the executive ranks of nonprofits to increase the relevance, influence, and power of our sector.
“Volunteers of America is one of the largest comprehensive human services organizations in the country. Our mission is driven by 16,000 professionals working in 46 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We provide affordable housing and health and human services to assist 1.5 million people in rebuilding their lives and reaching their full potential.”
The top photo is by Paul Engstrom and courtesy of The Skillman Foundation. Community Partners, the Ms. Foundation for Women, The Skillman Foundation, and Volunteers of America are members of Independent Sector. Learn about other Independent Sector members and becoming a member.