Shira Ruderman: Show With Actions, Not Just Words

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Shira Ruderman, Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a private family foundation that invests in three primary areas of focus: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.

Shira Ruderman is the Executive Director of the Ruderman Family Foundation. (Image Credit: Ruderman Family Foundation)

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

I wish I knew philanthropy is a life journey that you cannot get separated from. I view it like parenthood, you learn as you go. Philanthropy makes you recognize your passions, skills, views on life.

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Janeen Comenote on How Native Feminist Values Can Guide Giving

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Janeen Comenote, Executive Director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition and Marguerite Casey Foundation board member.

Janeen Comenote, courtesy of Janeen Comenote

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

When I first started working in the nonprofit sector over 20 years ago, the concept of philanthropy was completely foreign to me and, frankly, intimidating. I wish I would have known then that my lived professional, personal, and cultural experience is an important story for philanthropy to hear. I think there is real power in sharing our stories with one another and philanthropy needs to hear our collective stories. When I first started my career, it was in a sort of silo, I was unaware of how invisible the Native community was in the larger philanthropic, and American, diaspora. I think, had I known then how profoundly that realization would shape my career, I may have utilized additional messaging about it earlier.

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Rajasvini Bhansali: Democratic Future of US Not Guaranteed

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director of Solidaire Network.

Rajasvini Bhansali
Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director of Solidaire Network (courtesy of Rajasvini Bhansali)

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

I wish I had known to counter any external and internalized messages about individual leadership accomplishments with the recognition that we are deeply interdependent on others for our success. I would have been even more vulnerable and drawn strength from my community and led in a way that created conditions for even greater connectedness amongst different organizations, networks, and alliances. Sometimes I focused on my own team and organization’s needs over all sectoral, movement building and ecosystem level concerns.  But if the ecosystem doesn’t thrive then each organism within it also suffers. So as feminist leaders, we have to continuously nurture the whole ecosystem.

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A Leader in Women’s Health Urges Donors to Lean Into Discomfort

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Dr. Anu Kumar, President and CEO of Ipas, an international reproductive health and rights organization.

Anu Kumar
Dr. Anu Kumar, courtesy of Dr. Anu Kumar

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

That the issues that I have chosen to work on, reproductive health and rights including access to abortion, are ones that will take generations to resolve. I naively thought that since Roe v. Wade was decided well before I came of reproductive age and the public health data were so clear about the health benefits of contraception and abortion for women, families, communities, and countries that logic would prevail and I would simply be running programs to scale up these programs. Little did I know that I would become a warrior for abortion rights!

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Shayna Hetzel’s Vision for Gender Equality: An Open Sky as the Norm

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Shayna Hetzel, Community and Social Impact Investment Director at the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. 

shayna hetzel
Shayna Hetzel, courtesy of Shayna Hetzel

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

 My greatest professional challenges, opportunities and successes have been rooted in unapologetic aspirations, insightful mentors and the brilliance of a team. I wish I had known early on how to set better boundaries and ask for help more often, because I have found that boundaries and help are leverage points for productivity, engagement and inclusion. And, fundamentally, community-based, purpose-driven work only gets stronger and bolder with focused, diverse and inclusive contributions. Asking for help not only builds in resilience and wellness for the individual. It also increases team capacity, levels up organizational competencies, and builds a more diverse and inclusive point of view.

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Chera Reid: “My Being and Doing are One and the Same”

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Chera Reid, Co-Executive Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation.

chera reid
Chera Reid, Co-Executive Director of Evaluation Roundtable at the Center for Evaluation Innovation, shares her insights on how we can become a more diverse community. (Image credit: Chera Reid)

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

I wish I had known that it was me, in my whole human self, that was what every organization needed from me. It was and is me that organizations are asking for. When I was starting out professionally, I was ready with my resume and eager to please. I worked hard to do more of what I believed senior leaders wanted me to do, and I kept parts of who I am to myself. Showing up wholly—head, heart, and hands—is what social change leadership requires. Today my being and doing are one and the same.

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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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Sharon Shapiro on Growing New Dimensions with Your Giving Quest

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sharon Shapiro, Trustee and Community Liaison at the Ruderman Family Foundation.

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

I wish I had known that philanthropy is a process and that there’s a strategy to giving. Growing up in a family that was highly philanthropic, we really didn’t talk about my parents’ giving and what it meant to them. We saw examples, but it wasn’t really spoken about in the house. Today, I try to teach my kids about philanthropy in a strategic way.

sharon shapiro
Sharon Shapiro is the Trustee and Community Liaison at the Ruderman Family Foundation. (Image Credit: Ruderman Family Foundation)

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

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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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