Crossing the Tattoo Line: Nurturing Young Women Leaders in America

young women leaders
Women, and particularly younger women of color, made historic gains in the 2018 elections. What can women donors do to nurture more of this kind of leadership?

“Raise your hand if your biggest obstacle has been older women,” asked the conference moderator on a panel about building women’s political power. One hundred and twenty young women leaders raised their hands. From the dais, I thought back to my own experience as a 22-year old councilwoman. I know that being a young and female and elected is not easy, but the fact that our own sisters continue to be more hindrance than help is more than disheartening, it’s calamitous. It is the difference between building on a wave election and continuing to grow the number of elected women in the country, or once again stalling out. 

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Leader Spotlight: Alessandra Biaggi Takes on New York Incumbent

Alessandra Biaggi is running against incumbent, Jeff Klein, for the New York State legislature.

In this election cycle, a record number of women are taking on powerful incumbents and systems that have stalled progressive policies in states across the country. Case in point: Alessandra Biaggi, who is running for New York State Senate in District 34 in Westchester and the Bronx. Biaggi is only thirty-two years old and is a former policy aide to Hillary Clinton. She is also a lawyer who served as counsel to Andrew Cuomo.

And after last week’s enormous primary upset of 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over ten-term U.S. representative Joe Crowley, well, this moment is meeting Alessandra Biaggi. Courageously, she is taking on a sitting New York State Senator, Jeff Klein, who has led an obstructionist group called the Independent Democratic Conference, comprised of seven Democratic state senators who have caucused with the Republicans. Jeff Klein’s alliance with the Republicans has enabled the blockage of a slew of progressive legislation, including early voting and codifying reproductive health rights. Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference also blocked Andrea Stewart Cousins, a female state senator from Westchester and the Bronx, from becoming the majority leader of the Senate.

Alessandra Biaggi is progressive and smart and tough and made for exactly this moment in time.

We asked Biaggi a few questions to help you get to know her better.

Here are her answers:

What is one thing most people don’t now about you? I’m left handed.

If you could pass one law today, what would it be? The Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade in NYS…no, it’s not codified; yes, my opponent is the reason.

What or who helps you keep going through the criticism and attacks inherent in a political campaign? The mantra that nothing is life and death, but life and death.

If you could have dinner with one famous woman (dead or alive) who would it be? Hannah Arendt

What’s the first line of your epitaph? They said it was not possible.

Chocolate or wine? Chocolate. I stopped drinking alcohol after the 2016 election — for many reasons — one of which was that the waters we were about to charter, I believed, required a steady and clear mind to find the truth.

To learn more about Alessandra, visit her campaign website here.

Related:

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Meet Attica Scott, Democrat for State Legislature in Kentucky

attica scott
Attica Scott, Democrat running for re-election in the Kentucky legislature.

In 2010, Representative Attica Scott graduated from the first class of Emerge Kentucky, which prepares Democratic women to run for office.

In 2016, Attica defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the Kentucky state legislature. Moreover, Attica is the only woman of color in the entire Kentucky legislature. In 2017, Representative Scott was named to Essence Magazine’s list of #Woke100 women in the U.S. She is running for re-election to the state legislature this year.

Attica is an inspiring person and powerful speaker. Here is her Tedx talk:

She is a rising star in Democracy party circles. We here at Philanthropy Women thought you’d like to get to know her a little bit better.

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Cheers for the Winners. Now Help Us Elect More Women Candidates

electing women
Stacey Abrams, House Minority Leader in the Georgia Legislature, successfully bested her primary opponent, and is headed for the mid-term Gubernatorial elections in November. (Image Credit: Kerri Battles, Creative Commons license 2.0)

These are exciting times we live in, as record numbers of women run for political office all over the country. And, of course, there have already been some fabulous victories in the last few weeks including, but not limited to Stacey Abrams and Jacky Rosen  (from this former temple president to another, brava!) But electing women is a multi-step process of getting more exposure to more women candidates.

The familiar-name candidates are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other interesting women running in important races that don’t get as much press. For instance, Deidre DeJear is running for Secretary of State in Iowa and Veronica Escobar running for Congress in Texas. These are amazing women running in tough places for important positions.

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Funders: Step Up and Help Women Lead America

How would you turn a moment into a movement? That’s the question that organizations that fund women running for office have been asking themselves over the last year. It’s a hard question to answer in any field. Now imagine trying to answer it while being deluged by an unprecedented number of women ready to run for office.

women running for office
Progressive women have pledged to bring #powertothepolls, but not enough funders are putting resources toward organizations doing the groundwork for a more representative democracy.

There are nine national organizations dedicated to training and supporting women running for office. These are long-established organizations like Ignite and Emerge America. In addition, there are newer organizations dedicated to supporting women of color running for office such as Latinas Represent and Higher Heights. Regardless of when they were started or where they focus geographically or demographically, none of these organizations have experienced a moment like this – because, of course, the country has never experienced a moment like this.

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Women: Embrace Your Power for Funding Social Change

Allison Fine, author and nonprofit leader, is Vice Chair of NARAL: ProChoice America Foundation.

Editor’s Note: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Allison Fine to Philanthropy Women as a guest contributor. Allison is the author of multiple books including Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age and The Networked Nonprofit. A former Senior Fellow at Demos, Allison specializes in the intersections of online activism and democracy-building, and encourages women to embrace their power in funding social change. 

Exactly a year ago, millions of women across the country created the Resistance. We have marched and protested, shared our outrage using hashtags such as #metoo, #yessallwomen #nastywomen and called (and called and called) Congress. Now it’s time to shift from powering the Resistance to creating the Renaissance. However, there is one huge barrier, the “final frontier” as philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch calls it: our discomfort with money and power.

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