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?
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.
When the world stops, life keeps going — especially for communities where social isolation and living off of savings are not viable options.
It’s a well-known fact that COVID-19 has made life at the bottom of the social pyramid even harder. Women and girls around the world, particularly in communities of color, are among the hardest hit by the ripple effects of the pandemic. The news reports address loss of income, life, and community, but the lesser-known impacts should not be forgotten.
Access to healthcare, particularly for women, was already a commodity difficult to come by in certain parts of the world. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, women and girls’ access to contraceptives, feminine hygiene products, and maternity care hangs more precariously than ever before.
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.
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.
A new research paper exploring how COVID-19 gender policy changes have helped female scientists and improved research quality was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research shines a pandemic-inspired light on how self-identified females are specifically impacted by COVID. Their job roles as scientists are being redefined and their increased caregiving roles are taking priority.
The results of the study, although unsurprising in terms of perpetual gender inequities, are unique to today’s world. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) initiated their “COVID-19 funding competition” in February of 2020, and found fewer females applied. Those that did apply, were also less likely to be approved.
When it comes to maximizing our financial impact, there is often an “either/or” approach to leveraging wealth. Do we use our dollars to fund a philanthropic effort, like a campaign or organization dedicated to women and girls, or do we turn our funds toward investment opportunities, like supporting companies with a strong commitment to diversity?
As new forms of giving spring up to meet the challenges — and opportunities — of a digital society, we are able to move further away from that attitude of “either/or.” There are ways to stretch our donor dollars further — through two types of collectives that maximize impact.
In the same ways that traditional philanthropy has been historically dominated by white, older, high net worth men, feminist philanthropy has a noticeable population gap in younger age groups. Young women, in particular, in an era of crushing student loans, underemployment, and uncertainty in the face of COVID-19, are noticeably absent from a movement dedicated to their wellbeing.
This is not to say that the younger generations aren’t pulling their weight. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Young activists like Greta Thunberg and Sarah Goody are leading the way to revolutions in social justice and culture change. LGBT+ and POC youth are standing vanguard against discrimination, homophobia, and rollbacks of minorities’ legal rights.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Brandi Collins-Calhoun, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Senior Movement Engagement Associate.
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.
2021 is shaping up to be a year of momentous change for gender equality movements. Here at Philanthropy Women, we’re taking a moment to look back at 2020 — a tumultuous year, to say the least, but one in which we realized the true impact of our organization and our work around the world.
The 2020 Philanthropy Women Media Impact Report offers a look into a year of incredible growth, progress, and partnership. Based on 12 months of publishing, this report breaks down our successes as a news outlet from a variety of perspectives, and offers an excellent look not just at our impact, but our role as a connector and facilitator for networks, campaigns, and conversations within the feminist philanthropy sphere.
If you’ve wanted to form an impact circle but aren’t sure how to get started, Invest for Betterhas the program for you. Applications are now open for the Spring 2021 Cohort of Invest for Better’sCircle Leader program. Kicking off on February 11th, this free training program offers the resources and know-how for women to form, lead, and grow their own impact investing circles.
Invest for Better is a national initiative aimed at helping women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital and mobilize their money for good. It is non-profit and non-transactional, designed to address the “aspiration gap” between women’s interest and their action by overcoming obstacles to participation, and building trusted peer communities.
On Thursday, January 28th, the Girls Leadership team and representatives from Open Access, TPG, Morgan Stanley, the National Hockey League, and TIME’S UP gathered to discuss the changing face of the American workforce. Based off of the organization’s pivotal Ready to Lead report, the second of Girls Leadership’s three roundtable discussions focused on the implications of the report’s findings on the workforce of the future.
The report details leadership supports and barriers for Black and Latinx girls and exposes the factors that make it difficult for these girls to rise into leadership positions. External challenges like the tendency for school systems and workforce upper management to be dominated by white employers, leaders, and authority figures, represent a major barrier to Black and Latinx girls carrying their own torches of leadership into the future.