Editor’s Note: This interview in the Feminist Giving IRL series features Laura García, President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. Greengrants connects grassroots activists in under-served and under-funded communities with the resources and mentorship they need to fight for environmental justice, water rights, healthy ecosystems, and economic empowerment for women and families.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
When we are young, many of us begin our careers feeling insecure and that we are not valuable professionals in our workplaces. This insecurity has a lot to do with an organizational culture that exploits people who are young and inexperienced, without recognizing their value.
As a woman, I was raised to be quiet and hide my strengths and intelligence. Then, I started to realize that I could reconstruct my identity. I learned more about my power to influence and contribute to improving the workplaces for myself, and for women coming up behind me. I wish I had known that I had that potential because it would have made things easier for me, but also because I would have been able to do my work better.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
To continue pushing the boundaries in traditional philanthropy so that we can contribute to the social change the world needs right now. Along with so many, we’re challenged by the urgency required of us. We’re still figuring out the right strategies to make philanthropy more helpful and useful for those social movements that are pushing for change.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
I couldn’t imagine navigating everything we’re confronting, from the climate crisis, the vast inequalities, discrimination, social injustices, to the pandemic’s effects, without the inspiration of all the incredible people we work with across the globe at Global Greengrants Fund. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to share a project that gives me so much hope, that feeds my inner self, while we witness so much injustice everywhere. I wouldn’t know how to deal emotionally with the issues we confront if I was far away from the incredible stories of change, the heroines and heroes behind them, and the social movements I’ve known throughout my career.
The inner peace my work gives me not only inspires me to give my best. It makes me happy, it allows me to enjoy life even if I know the revolution is far from accomplished. Like the title of that great book says, what is the point of revolution if we can’t dance?
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
My identity as a woman is not a static concept that informs my work and everything else. I would say that both things, my gender identity and my work, are constantly informing each other and in constant dialogue. However, something that perhaps more clearly informs my work is an understanding of gender that I have gained throughout my career in the feminist movement.
My life experience as a woman growing up in Mexico City in the 1980s and 1990s helped me understand some of the things that I want to change and work for. Through feminism I have learned not to take social systems for granted, not to think that structures are unchangeable. On the contrary, gender inequality and all other oppressive systems are human inventions, which means they can be transformed. This is perhaps the greatest gift feminism has given me, as it enabled me to see that the power and possibility of social change resides in society itself.
5. Do you think your gender identity has affected your career?
As a feminist, I have discovered how my gender identity affects all of my life and not just my career. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t understand gender as I do now. There was often something that made me feel uncomfortable in a workplace that had to do with my position as a woman. I’ve experienced sexual harassment, being mansplained to by my male colleagues, fighting to have a voice, and being questioned about my looks and clothing. As I acquired more and more experience, I learned from good and bad bosses and started forming my own identity as a professional woman.
Patriarchal culture affects how you create your identity, and I would probably not be where I am now if it was not for the opportunity to understand how gender inequality affects us all. That was essential for being able to construct my place as a career woman based on my strengths and real potential, and not my gendered role as a woman or the stereotypes that affect me.
6. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
For any social change, including gender equality, I see philanthropy as a powerful vehicle to push and to accelerate transformation. Philanthropy alone cannot drive change, but it can be a catalyst for social change. Progressive philanthropy has proven to be not only a factor in social change but a key enabler, financial and otherwise, to push these agendas forward.
I also see a lot of opportunities in advocating for more gender equality within philanthropy. Our world also lives with unequal practices that inhibit women from leading in critical grant-making decisions. Even if we’ve made significant strides towards diversity, economic equality, and inclusion, I believe we have the responsibility to do much more and to become the example of the change we want to lead.
7. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
I have learned from gender equality movements that changing oppressive systems is not just a possibility but something that only depends on us and nothing more. In the next ten years, I see these movements inspiring the same way they once inspired me and leading change with the support of many more people who are joining them.
In these past ten years, I have seen that more and more young students lead change in their universities. I have seen marches in the streets grow exponentially. There are more women environmental defenders linking their work with gender justice. A ton of economic studies are modeling how growth and prosperity will never occur if we continue not to give economic value to unpaid care and domestic work, done primarily by women.
These and many more changes are already pointing towards unstoppable progress in gender equality, led by social movements. In these next ten years, gender equality movements will continue to grow and create more impact.
About Laura García: Laura is a Mexican feminist who has advocated for human rights, social justice, and civil society throughout her career. Before joining Global Greengrants, Laura served for seven years as the Executive Director of Fondo Semillas, a Mexican nonprofit organization that finances grassroots organizations to achieve gender equality. Laura has vast experience in grassroots philanthropy, human rights, and movements for social justice, and she has co-created networks to promote community philanthropy in the Global South. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Peace and Security, from King’s College, London. She currently serves on the boards of Oxfam Mexico, Justicia Transicional MX, and El Día Después.
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