Riki Wilchins: Gender Norms and Intersectionality

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Riki Wilchins, executive director of the nonprofit TrueChild and author of, “Gender Norms & Intersectionality: Connecting Race, Class and Gender.”

Riki Wilchins, courtesy: Riki Wilchins

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d realized how difficult and slow social change is. I think when you’re younger, you’re a bit more optimistic. But, any kind of real change takes years, maybe decades, of constant effort and attention. 

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Our goal is getting people to think intersectionally, so they connect race, class and gender norms. The challenge is two-fold: most organizations don’t know how to talk about gender norms, or if they do, they disconnect it from factors like race and class.

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Power to Decide: Ginny Ehrlich on Reproductive Rights and Access

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of the nonprofit Power to Decide, “the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy.” 

Ginny Ehrlich, courtesy: Ginny Ehrlich

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I started my career, I really wish I had truly understood the breadth of possibilities available to me. Early on, I had a limited view of what I could achieve professionally. But I have been extremely fortunate to have exceeded even my wildest professional dreams. So, what I have learned is that with grit and vision, anything is possible.  

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

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It’s All About STEM Women: Arianne Hunter and the Privilege of Dreams

“Women can be successful in science.” This is the core message from Arianne Hunter, a chemist in Atlanta. “Our brains can retain, analyze and distribute knowledge just like our male counterparts [so] our ideas and dialogue should be met with the same respect,” she says. 

Arianne Hunter discusses ways to increase opportunities for women and girls in STEM. (credit: Arianne Hunter)

Hunter is a first-generation college student who was a member of the Division I Women’s Basketball Team at Dartmouth College, the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Oklahoma, and the founder of “We Do Science Too!” — a nonprofit serving girls who have less access to STEM experiences. She is a published and awarded scientist and is currently pursuing postdoctoral training in Forensic Chemistry at the Defense Forensic Science Center.

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Own Your Power: Elizabeth Yntema on Gender Equality in Dance

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Elizabeth Yntema, president and founder of the Dance Data Project (DDP), which promotes “equity in all aspects of classical ballet by providing a metrics-based analysis through our database while showcasing women-led companies, festivals, competitions, venues, special programs and initiatives.” 

Elizabeth Yntema, president and founder of the Dance Data Project (courtesy: Elizabeth Yntema)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I had had a female mentor, and she had reassured me that success isn’t defined by a linear path. I have been a corporate attorney, a lobbyist, worked as the Director of Governmental Affairs of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, was employed part-time as a consultant, opened an art gallery and, with three small children, focused on volunteering for a time. Now, I use every single one of my experiences and skills acquired over the decades. 

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When Work Resonates with Your Values: Maricella Herrera of Ellevate

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Maricella Herrera, vice president of Operations and Strategy at Ellevate Network, “a community of professional women committed to helping each other succeed.”

Maricella Herrera (courtesy of Maricella Herrera)

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I first started out, I thought my career was already laid out for me; I was going into my first job at a bank, I would rise in the ranks, get more responsibility, go to business school, go back to finance and keep going until I retired. It was what was expected. I never really understood that to be completely happy, I needed to find something that didn’t just intellectually stimulate me, but that resonated with my values. I didn’t know you could build a career in an area that was about doing good. When I first started out, social enterprises were nascent. Not many people were thinking about them. I wish I had known I could find my passion and what I’m good at in one place, and that it wouldn’t necessarily be what everyone else thought I was supposed to be doing, and that that was ok. My background is in business and finance, so knowing I can use those skills to make a difference in the world is exciting.

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Magic Awaits: Swatee Deepak on Girl-Led Change

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Swatee Deepak, director of With and For Girls (WFG), a collective that gives financial support to girl-led and -centered groups around the world and engages young women in participatory grantmaking panels.

Swatee Deepak (courtesy of Swatee Deepak)

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

How to best support mergers in the philanthropic sector adhering to the same values and care we place across our work.   

With and For Girls was initially incubated within a private foundation, Stars Foundation. In 2018, as a collective, we worked together with adolescent girls to identify a new home and chose Purposeful. What followed was a merger of WFG from Stars to Purposeful. Progressive philanthropy is filled with discussions about shifting power. Here we are, a funder collaborative, working globally across the global north and south and made up of established funders now being held by a grassroots-based organization with headquarters in Sierra Leone. 

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VIVA Girls: How MADRE Funds Girls on the Margins

Around the world, girls and teens are exposed to violence, environmental devastation, societal exclusion and harm, and other difficulties. MADRE is an international women’s rights organization that typically partners with women-led groups dealing with war and disaster. It is now stepping up to specifically support girls’ growth as they face diverse challenges through a new grantmaking program: VIVA Girls.

Girls from Columbia working with MADRE. (photo credit: MADRE)

With a focus on listening to and uplifting girls’ voices and solutions, MADRE wants to reach “girls from marginalized communities who endure many forms of discrimination; what some people would call ‘girls on the last mile,’” Executive Director Yifat Susskind says. Susskind offered us insights into how VIVA Girls works. MADRE plans to devote about $3 million to this initiative during the next three years.

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Feminist Giving IRL: Next Gen STEM Innovators

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Executive Director of 100Kin10, an initiative that aims to train 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in U.S. classrooms by 2021.

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

Talia Milgrom-Elcott (courtesy of 100Kin10)

I wish I had understood why it’s important to sweat the small stuff. Sweating the small stuff really matters. It means you care, it differentiates you, and it helps you learn about what you’re doing and how to get it done. I double-checked links, proof-read press releases and went over agendas minute-by-minute. But what I’ve learned, with perspective, is that the small stuff itself really is small. It only matters because, in total, it signals something bigger: that you care, that you’ve made the project your own, that you’re committed to excellence. It means you can be trusted to get your stuff done and get it done right. This doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. You can, and you will. And, that’s just fine. Because it’s about the trendline, and you’ve proven yourself someone who can be trusted. Realizing this makes it easier to see the big picture and experience joy in the work, too. 

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It’s All About the Divorce Gap: Ending Isolation for Divorcing Women

Edna Gomez-Green of the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation (Photo credit: Fresh Start)

Divorce is often a difficult process, and it disproportionately leaves women struggling with financial challenges. As we covered in regard to MacKenzie Bezos’ settlement, after a divorce, men’s standard of living generally rises by about 33%, while women’s drops by about 20%. Other studies have shown that women’s income after divorce drops by an average of 41%. These stats outline the divorce gap, one of many overlapping economic gaps women continue to face, including the wage, debt, unpaid labor, funding, investing and “pink tax” (consumer pricing) gap.

The Divorce Gap

There are many reasons women can find themselves struggling after a divorce; some stop working to raise kids during marriage and then find it difficult to re-enter the workforce and earn adequately. Others take on full-time caregiving for the first time after a divorce, which can conflict with their career paths and keep them from making enough to support their families. Some women haven’t chosen or been able to invest independently for the future and find themselves without a safety net or backup plan. The other financial gaps all come into play. Women are generally paid less, have more debt, receive less funding, invest less and are charged more for products designed for them. And the unpaid labor gap is significant here; women often take on care giving, housekeeping and other crucial contributions to families and societies that are uncompensated.

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What’s Good for Women is Good for the World: Riane Eisler

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features social systems scientist Riane Eisler, J.D., Ph.D., president of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS). Please note that Riane Eisler will be joining Helen LaKelly Hunt and other leaders for a webinar on September 12.

Riane Eisler (courtesy of Riane Eisler)

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d had a feminist consciousness. Instead, I just accepted the status quo when I embarked on my first profession, as a social scientist at an offshoot of the Rand Corporation, and then, after I returned to law school, as an attorney at a Beverly Hills law firm. I had internalized the cultural devaluation of women – so much so, that when the law firm’s senior partner praised me about how I handled a case, telling me, “You don’t think like a woman,” I thought it was a compliment! That was in the late 1960s, before I woke up, as if from a long drugged sleep, and used my legal training to end women’s subordination, including, through the LA Women’s Center Legal Program, which I founded, writing a brief to the US Supreme Court making the then radical argument that legal equality for women should be protected under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Since then, empowering women has been central to my professional work as a researcher, writer, speaker and organizer. 

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