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.”
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.
The game development world is changing. And it’s changing for the better.
At PAX Unplugged, held in Philadelphia from December 6-8, developers and fans alike gathered for a weekend of celebrating one of our favorite pastimes: analog board games. The atmosphere at this convention was different from others I’ve been to in the past. The excitement was there, of course, as was the kid-in-a-candy-shop feeling that permeated the Expo Hall, but there was an edge to the proceedings that I haven’t felt before, a conversation that started a few years ago and is turning into one of the most compelling threads in game development today.
For generations, games were seen as something of a “boy’s club,” an industry dominated by white, male players consuming games and media designed by white, male-dominated studios. While there is still much work to be done in this arena, progress is on its way.
The annual Women in Games European Conference kicked off in London on September 11, facilitating a conversation the games development industry has been itching to have since 2014.
Sexual harassment, assault, and unhealthy work environments for women, nonbinary individuals, and other marginalized communities are all far too common in gamedev. In recent years, allegations of harassment and assault have come to light, leading to major restructuring decisions from games industry giants like news sources Polygon and IGN, and developer Bethesda.
The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art of Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, Indiana recently received an estate gift of about $4 million from the late art historian and philanthropist Jane Fortune, who died in 2018. Fortune founded the non-profit Advancing Women Artists (AWA) in 2009 with a mission to research, restore and share women’s artwork, particularly in Florence, Italy. She was known to be a passionate explorer and advocate for the preservation of historic pieces by women and was affectionately dubbed “Indiana Jane” by the Florentine press, according to Smithsonian.com. The new gift to the museum consists of a collection of works as well as funds to back future research and initiatives that will support women artists.
Great news for theatre buffs in Rhode Island: a new collaborative, formed a year ago, is now taking off to produce more dramatic works by women. Named WomensWork Theatre Collaborative and headed by Creative Director Lynne Collinson, they will present a trio of plays about madness in 2019 and 2020.
WomensWorkRI Theatre Collaborative describes itself as “a creative collective designed to promote theatrical opportunities for women of all ages. A major mission focus is to provide leadership roles – on and off stage — for women over the age of 40.”
“WomensWork has chosen three plays – all written by women — that examine the ways madness manifests itself in women’s lives, whether from the strain of caring for a parent with a deteriorating mind, the seismic change brought about by midlife crisis, or the daily dread faced by women duty-bound to risk their lives for a tyrant,” said Collison, in an announcement rolling out the slate of plays to be produced over the next year.
Being a working artist
is demanding. Most artists hold other jobs to support themselves, which limits
their studio time.
“It’s a cycle. You don’t have the time to create the work, so you can’t create enough work to sell to support yourself financially, so you need to have the job, which takes up your time. It’s hard to get out of that loop,” says Rhode Island artist Kathy Hodge. Hodge is an award-winning artist with many exhibitions and shows to her name who also served as the Artist in Residence at multiple U.S. national parks. Because the gender gap is still prevalent in the art world, as in many sectors and professions, women artists like Hodge are in particular need of support.
Minority directors are underrepresented in
film at a degree of three to one, while women are underrepresented at a rate of
seven to one, according to UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report. There is clearly room for
progress here in terms of equality, especially for women who are black or of
another minority identity. Rapper, singer, actress, label president, author,
real estate developer and entrepreneur Queen Latifah is out to shift the
scales; she recently teamed up with Tribeca Studios and Marc Pritchard, Procter
and Gamble’s chief brand officer, to launch the Queen Collective (TQC). TQC has
a goal of “accelerating gender and racial equality behind the camera.” Two
inaugural documentaries backed by TQC premiered in April 2019 at the Tribeca
Film Festival, and they are now streaming on HULU.
While women fill most of the shoes in ballet,
leadership positions are still dominated by men, especially in choreography and
artistic direction roles. A nonprofit called the Dance Data Project (DDP) aims
to help more women in dance keep up to date with choreographic opportunities
and ascend the ballet leadership ladder. With this goal in mind, in April 2019,
DDP released a report on contemporary
opportunities in choreography, along with monthly spreadsheets and calendar
reminders of global deadlines. Earlier in 2019, it also published research on salary by gender for
leaders in ballet, finding notable imbalances in favor of men, especially in
Last evening, I had the pleasure of being a panelist on Take the Lead Virtual Happy Hour, hosted by Gloria Feldt. The topic for discussion was The Many Faces of Love: How Women & Philanthropy Can Change the World. Here are my responses:
What are the challenges for you in philanthropy?
Like everyone, my challenges are fundraising. I knew when I launched Philanthropy Women, I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed key stakeholders, so reached out for support from women who I knew who wanted to grow the sector of media attention for gender equality philanthropy.
For my own personal philanthropy, like many couples, I work in a team with my husband. Our giving has tended to center on the Episcopal church and related social justice initiatives, music education, and independent journalism. Now we also give to The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, and also to the Rhode Island Coalition against Domestic Violence. My husband and I also support organizations doing global gender equality work, and we have funded local arts initiatives for women and girls through a giving circle I formed, which I hope to do more with in the future.
How can a woman get started? And is there a way for her to align her job and a philanthropic cause she believes in?
My advice is to start small and celebrate new breakthroughs in the progress for your business development. In any business, it takes several years to get traction, to build your skills, your identity, and your reputation.
Also, be flexible with yourself. Change course if needed. I’ve seen friends decide to end their startup and go back to working full time, and sometimes that’s what needs to happen. Give yourself what you need.
For me, being a social worker naturally aligned me to pursue writing about social justice, and my interest in women’s studies goes back to both my undergraduate education at Hunter, and my graduate education at Smith. The internet is helpful for aligning your job and your philanthropy, since it helps connect you to a wider population and find the people who share your particular interest.
How can women make their contributions count?
The beauty of working in online media is that all of your efforts are documented. I encourage women to build their reputations online, whatever they do, as it is a powerful tool, and by default, your contributions are counted. It becomes easier over time to find the paper trail that leads to you, and the more you do online, the more that paper trail can show.
What have you learned from the women you’ve worked with?
From the women I have helped treat in my private practice, I have learned about the amazing resilience of the human spirit. The #Metoo stories coming out today help me realize how much women have suffered in silence through the years of my lifetime. Many important #MeToo stories are surfacing, and every woman has to choose for herself whether to make her story public and consider the potential legal ramifications. We all have to figure out how to navigate forward at our own pace.
From leaders in women’s philanthropy, I’ve learned to keep challenging myself. I do this by staying in touch with many remarkable women leaders in philanthropy, who inspire me with their attention to social issues, particularly the needs and rights of vulnerable communities.
What are the passions driving women in philanthropy?
I can only speak about gender equality givers, since that is the sector that I focus on. The passions driving gender equality women givers are outlined well by WPI’s recent report on high net-worth women. These women are driven by deeply ingrained values that often come from a religious upbringing. They’re very research-driven and yet empathetic. They’re risk-takers. They see the added value of philanthropy directed at women and girls. They are focused on systemic and structural change. All of these things make gender equality givers, in my opinion, the best givers. That’s why I study them and practice gender equality giving myself.
Is philanthropy a gender-neutral field? Are there parity issues here as in other industries?
Philanthropy is absolutely not a gender neutral field! Philanthropy exists within the patriarchy, and is borne of a capitalist economic system that, sadly, leaves many people locked out. As the stories are now surfacing about sexual harassment and abuse in the nonprofit sector, hopefully the sector will begin to recognize that there is much work to be done internally.
How has the philanthropic world changed—what issues have driven that change?
Philanthropy is starting to pay more attention to the pivotal role that women’s leadership can play within the sector. But more importantly, philanthropy is calling attention to the transformative role women can play in global economies, and within global health and public policy. It’s not a new realization, but there’s renewed emphasis on making gains in seeing the value of women’s leadership because we see under President Trump what can happen when an anti-feminist gets into the highest office in the country.
Opportunities and challenges women face in philanthropy?
I think what women offer the field is a stronger inclusive vision of the world, and this can be translated into opportunities not just in philanthropy, but in the crossover between socially responsible business and government collaboration. Women can be the bridge builders between the different sectors. They have the ideas and the mentality to change the world, but first they need to rise to critical mass in leadership. That is our big challenge now. To rise to that challenge, we need to ensure that more women are elected. That’s why we are seeing a lot of new investment in philanthropy in preparing women to run for office.
Advice for women looking to break into this world?
Be kind to yourself and to others. Build your authority over time by your ongoing kindness, as well as your strict attention to the ideals of justice and equality. Value all of your feelings, particularly your anger about injustice. That anger is telling you something important, and when employed strategically, it can fuel social change. That is part of what #MeToo is teaching us — the importance of valuing our own anger.
Recommendations for women seeking leadership roles. What was your secret to making it?
Persistence through difficulty is key. Not every day is a barrel of laughs. There is drudgery in every profession, and some people need more outside structure to function at their best professionally. But there is also great value in building your career as much on your own terms as possible, so that in the end, you are the sole owner of what you have built. The traditional trajectory to leadership for someone in my profession is to work for several decades in a large agency or in government. Instead, I chose to become an independent provider for my clinical services, and from there realized that I could use the knowledge and experience I gained in my practice to add to the data on vulnerable people. At the same time, I could become a more visible public advocate for gender equality.
I look for opportunities to tie my daily clinical practice work directly into the work we discuss on Philanthropy Women, and because I specialize in treatment for survivors of physical and sexual abuse, there are many opportunities for me to tie my work into my philanthropy. I also specialize in financial social work, helping people pay attention to how their financial lives impact their emotional lives and relationships, so again that ties heavily into gender equality and how women wield their power with money.
Learning how to laugh as much as possible can be a key component to sane living, particularly in today’s regressive political and social scene. The Ms. Foundation for Women recently hosted its 22nd Annual comedy night, calling it “Laughter is the Best Resistance,” where Gloria Steinem did stand-up. Meanwhile, women like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are moving into the executive producer role for hit comedies like Grace and Frankie.
With all this emphasis on comedy, you might think that this is what the Harnisch Foundation‘s new program, Funny Girls, is all about. But there’s more to it, actually. Much more.
Jenny Raymond, Executive Director of the Harnisch Foundation, agreed that it’s a ripe time for women in comedy in a recent conference call with Philanthropy Women. “But Funny Girls isn’t teaching girls to be funny. It’s boosting and bolstering girls’ leadership skills. That being said, Funny Girls is experiencing the power of humor through improv, and paying attention to it.”
Funny Girls teaches leaderships skills through improv comedy to girls in grades 3 to 8. The curriculum focuses on teaching five key leadership skills —collaboration, agility, resiliency, empathy and self-awareness — as outlined by this video. Funny Girls is teaching the value of listening, persisting in difficulty, and collaborating, which will pay off in both healthier living and more women’s leadership over time.
It’s currently being implemented through five partnerships, four in New York City and one in Richmond, Virginia, and hopes to deepen those relationships and add new ones in other geographic areas. The Foundation is staying in close touch with all its partners so they can learn as much as possible about things like cultural variance and program effectiveness.
“I went on a site visit in a primarily South Asian community in Queens, New York and it was so fascinating to see, culturally, how the girls responded to the curriculum in similar but different ways than I saw in the South Bronx the week before,” said Raymond. Offering the curriculum to others remains an important objective for the foundation, which aims to make Funny Girls as widely available as possible.
As part of the program, the Harnisch Foundation is training artists from within organizations and the community to implement the Funny Girls curriculum. One of the Funny Girls partners, DreamYard, is implementing the program in the Bronx. “Several of the organizations we are working with not only offer Funny Girls, but are also focused on social justice issues, and advancing the work that gets at the root of inequality that these girls are facing,” said Jocelyn Ban, Communications Specialist for theHF. “For example, DreamYard is investing in girls not only to be leaders, but also to be a part of the solution to the problems they face in their communities through the arts.”
2018 will mark the 20th anniversary for the Harnisch Foundation, and adding Funny Girls to its portfolio has been a big shift for the organization, which has not traditionally done programmatic work. But it connects the foundation importantly to its own roots — investing early and building out the pipeline for women leaders at every level of society. “This builds on the foundation’s history of investing in the leadership of women. Now we are putting a stake in the ground for supporting girls and investing in their leadership journeys, too,” said Ban.
Editor’s Note: Ruth Ann Harnisch, Co-Founder of the Harnisch Foundation, is a lead sponsor for Philanthropy Women.