S. Mona Sinha is an advocate for gender equality in business and society. She is the Board Chair of Women Moving Millions, a community of women who fund big and bold ($1 million+) to create a gender equal world. She is also the Board Chair of the ERA Fund for Women's Equality. She is a trustee emerita of Smith College, where she was Vice Chair of the Board and led the Women for the World campaign that raised $486 million to support women’s education.
Three weeks ago, I was elected as Board Chair of the Equal Rights Amendment Fund for Women’s Equality. As a funder and champion of women’s rights and economic justice, this call to step up could not have come at a more urgent time.
Each one of us has had many moments of reckoning during COVID-19. But as women of color, we have seen that COVID has treated us differently from the rest. Race has been identified as a co-morbidity and a risk factor, just like diabetes or heart disease. Our healthcare systems, our educational systems, and our systems for protecting essential workers are all struggling mightily against a dangerous and mysterious disease. Basic rights and systems have been demolished for women, and women of color are being particularly hard-hit, facing higher rates of job loss while also being expected to bear more responsibility for caregiving and educating children.
Uncertainty Is the Mother of Invention – S. Mona Sinha
How do we respond in uncertain times? A colleague shared these lines from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’
I have found the simple principles that underlie what we do at Women Moving Millions – Learn, Listen, Connect, and Collaborate – to be valuable tools to guide us towards gender equality and to keep us grounded. In these times of uncertainty, this framework works for me as I try to make sense of my own emotions and how best I can share my skills in this world. Ironically, a month ago, I wrote an article titled, ‘Discovering the Highest and Best Use of my Worth’, and today, it seems more relevant than ever before.
Twenty years ago, I moved out of corporate America to focus on social change. I had been successful on Wall Street and then at a large global conglomerate, working on mergers and acquisitions, capital financing, building brand equity, launching new products and finally restructuring country portfolios in the consumer products industry. It had been quite a run. My colleagues and friends were puzzled as to why I would give up a productive career to work in a field that was not lucrative and seemed poised for uncertain gains.
I was moving on because, as an advisor to a human rights organization at that time, I experienced an epiphany while offering simple business frameworks and tools that were met by the nonprofit organization’s leaders with delight and surprise. A small pivot in my business-trained mindset was seen as a huge and innovative intervention. It made me realize that my corporate and business school training could shift the ways that these critical organizations functioned, and could even make them sustainable. And thus began my path.