Nicole Small: Supporting STEM Women with the IF/THEN Initiative

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Nicole Small, CEO of Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

Nicole Small, courtesy of Nicole Small
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

So many things. There isn’t enough room.  I wish I had known that it was going to be a long and winding road and that, looking back, it would all make sense and would be so much fun! 

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge? 

My greatest professional challenge is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to engage with all of the wonderful teams doing amazing work to advance our communities, both for profit and not for profit.  We are constantly trying to think about balancing strategic long-term initiatives with short-term needs, given that this pandemic has illuminated so many deep issues around economic and health disparities. 

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Jamie Sears of UBS: The Value of More Victories for Women in Biz

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Jamie Sears, Head of Community Affairs and Corporate Responsibility for the Americas with the global financial firm UBS, who also leads the UBS Foundation USA.

jamie sears
Jamie Sears of UBS discusses ways we can do more to support women entrepreneurs. (image courtesy of Jamie Sears)

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

Get practice using your voice, and don’t be afraid to use it. That was important when I started out and is still important now. I grew up as an adopted Asian American in a small town that was predominantly white and, from my earliest days, I did not feel comfortable speaking up.  Even as I moved through life and a career at some incredible organizations, I largely put my head down, did the work and thought it would speak for me. That is not how the world works if you want to have a big impact. I wish I had known the power of believing that my voice was worth something, and that the most powerful thing I could do is use it to advocate for myself and for others. Ultimately, it’s about having the confidence to know that you are contributing to the world. 

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Gwen Tillman of Tides on Investing in Women: It’s Simple

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Gwen Tillman, Chief People Officer for Tides, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator.

Gwen Tillman
Gwen Tillman, courtesy of Gwen Tillman
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

By the time I took a sabbatical from working in the technology sector, I was burned out. I didn’t realize how burned out I was until I allowed myself some time to step back and figure out what I wanted my life to be about. As one of the very few Black women in my field, I constantly drove myself to perform at 1000%, and I think that’s true of many Black women who feel the systemic pressure to constantly prove themselves. What I wish I knew early on in my career is that none of us can function at 1000%, when our bodies and our souls are functioning at 50%. We have to be better advocates for our own well-being because nothing is worth risking your health. Find a career that is consistent with your values and an organization that grants you the grace to live a balanced life and feeds your soul, at the same time. I am happy to say, I have found that at Tides.  

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What Robin Ganzert Knows About Creating a More Humane World

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Robin Ganzert, Ph.D., president and CEO of American Humane.

Robin Ganzert, courtesy of Robin Ganzert
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

When I first started out in the philanthropy space, I wish I had known to stay laser-focused on an organization’s mission. There are a lot of distractions that can cause people to stray away from their organization’s key outcomes. It takes effort to ignore the noise. By using measurable outcomes to gauge mission success, you can make a meaningful difference in building a better world. I think that my ability to zero-in on the mission helped in the organizational transformation of American Humane. If I had recognized the importance of prioritizing the mission from day one, I would have made a larger impact immediately.  

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Nicole Boucher on the Unique Power of Women’s Lived Experiences

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Nicole Boucher, vice president of Way to Win and senior advisor to its 501(c)3 effort, Way to Rise.

Nicole Boucher, courtesy of Nicole Boucher

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

What you most often see in philanthropy are people with high education degrees, family philanthropy full of people who grew up with privilege and wealth, generations of parents who attended college, etc. My own background doesn’t reflect that. Early in my career, there was a time when I hid who I was to belong. I would nod along in meetings as if I knew what they were talking about, and then rush home and Google and study up late into the evening to catch up. I now see that the power of my lived experience is one of great value in solving our nation’s most pressing problems, and the insights and strategies that I bring to philanthropy can go to bat with any Harvard Kennedy School graduate!

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The BitGive Strategy to Support Women Via Crypto-Philanthropy

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Connie Gallippi, Founder and Executive Director of the BitGive Foundation, which supports cryptocurrency-driven philanthropy. 

Connie Gallippi
Connie Gallippi, courtesy of Connie Gallippi

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

Prior to founding BitGive, I worked in another profession for 15 years. It was another world, so to speak. Entering the budding Bitcoin industry in its early years (2013), I wish I had known more to expect the challenge of aligning the perspectives of those in finance and tech with a vision of revolutionizing global philanthropy. 

In my previous career, I worked with environmental nonprofits in California, advocating within the California legislature, and state and regional agencies. It was a challenge, but eventually we were able to get them to see the benefits of investing in natural resources. Shifting the perspective of tech- and finance- driven people to see how we could dramatically improve philanthropy, and to then take action and invest in our innovative approach, has been more of a gap than I anticipated; however, we are making great strides with our work and through our partnerships, and I can see a significant shift in sight!  

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Increasing Women’s Food Security: Jessamyn Sarmiento of WFP USA

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Jessamyn Sarmiento, Chief Marketing Officer of World Food Program USA. 

  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 
Jessamyn Sarmiento, courtesy of Jessamyn Sarmiento

Sometimes it’s good to break the rules. When you first start a career, everyone tells you how things are done. That’s the way it is. Here are your parameters. Don’t color outside the lines. I learned over time not to take this so seriously. There’s a lot to be said for trusting your own judgement. You can do things differently and will end up being much more creative. Instead of adhering 100 percent to “the right way” all the time, focus on what you believe to be your best ideas. Make your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t let others box you in. 

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Fully Showing Up for Women: Ana Oliveira on Focusing Funding

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation Ana Oliveira. This interview was completed in late 2020. 

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

Ana Oliveira
Ana Oliveira, courtesy of Ana Oliveira

From the time I began my journey at the New York Women’s Foundation to now, I’ve learned the challenges you can face in philanthropy when being most responsive to transformation and justice. I came to The Foundation because it is an inclusive place with a commitment to equity and justice, with an emphasis on centering the needs of our grantee partners and the communities they serve. Those elements have allowed me to fundamentally understand how to carry out our philanthropy with transparency, respect and partnership.  

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Lead With Love: Elena Marszalek on the Feminist Climate Movement

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Elena Marszalek, Managing Director of Del Mar Global Trust, a private foundation dedicated to the environment. 

Elena Marszalek
Elena Marszalek, courtesy of Elena Marszalek

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

I started my career in philanthropy as the only employee of Del Mar Global Trust, a newly established family foundation focused on the natural environment. Although I had previous experience working in climate change, I had little experience in philanthropy. I felt both hopeful and overwhelmed. 

Joining Rachel’s Network, a community of women environmental philanthropists, broadened my knowledge of complex environmental issues, and significantly improved my ability to select and monitor grant recipients. Networking with other women with similar goals and interests helped my career in numerous other ways, for example sharing information about projects that as individuals we would not be aware of. Perhaps most importantly, I have access to other members with many years of experience who offer advice and mentorship. As in all professions, you learn through experience. 

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My Survival Is Worth Funding: NCRP’s Brandi Collins-Calhoun

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Brandi Collins-Calhoun, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Senior Movement Engagement Associate.

Brandi Collins-Calhoun, courtesy of Brandi Collins-Calhoun

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

I’m not sure that there was anything I could do to prepare to enter work that would be grounded in philanthropic feminism, especially knowing that the radicalization of mainstream feminism hasn’t happened across all movements and sectors yet. However, I wish I knew the weight of the shift from my life as an organizer fighting for my survival and safety to be centered, to my current role petitioning that my survival and safety is worth funding. I wish I knew how to find the balance and show up for myself through that process. There is often guilt and weight that comes with centering my needs in this work because this fight is so much bigger than just me, but I am reminded that Audre Lorde named that, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That balance between holding the sector accountable and caring for myself is a radical act that is necessary for me to continue the work.

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