Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Frances Sykes, President of the Pascale Sykes Foundation. The Foundation partners with nonprofits that serve working, low income families to increase their stability — financially, in relationships and in well-being.
“Hope is setting a goal and moving toward that goal, taking steps toward the future. That’s what gets families and individuals through challenges of daily life and makes a difference in the community.” – Frances Sykes, President and CEO, Pascale Sykes Foundation
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
When I established the Pascale Sykes Foundation, I knew the goal and focus. I knew to choose trustees with expertise in several areas. I knew accountability was essential. But I knew next to nothing about nonprofits. I wish I had known more about the nonprofit world.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
Currently, my greatest challenge is to prepare our grantees for the Pascale Sykes Foundation’s sunsetting. After nearly 28 years in service, we plan to close the Foundation in 2022. It’s been a labor of love, but I want to make sure our grantees have secured funding to continue doing their work in our communities. That’s what matters most to me – not losing that continuity because working together for working families is a formula that really works.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
I enjoy the intellectual challenges. I enjoy brainstorming with others to create novel solutions, test them and modify them as appropriate to partner with working families as they achieve stability.
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
As a woman, wife and mother, I acknowledge the absolutely essential contributions fathers make in children’s lives. Women as well as men are capable of leading a household. But both adults and children need at least two caregivers steadfastly in their lives to provide emotional support, stability and to serve as role models. These relationships are all intertwined and meaningful.
5. Do you think your gender identity has affected your career?
Many nonprofits are headed by white women. I firmly believe that men in comparable positions currently receive higher pay. This pay gap is nothing new, but it still raises alarms that we’re having the same conversation today as we were having after World War ll. However, overall, I think my lack of experience working in the nonprofit sector and my personality affected my career more than my gender.
6. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
I believe we must encourage more people of color to enter the philanthropic field and provide greater access for them to move up in those organizations. It’s been well-documented that there still remain a small percentage of people of color in executive director and CEO roles. This racial leadership gap is solvable. Let’s provide training and connections that will lead to true diverse leadership.
7. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
The gender pay gap is still an issue, but I hope we’ll continue to see movement in the right direction. Women are now the majority in college, in medical school, law school, in seminaries, and just about every area except the military, engineering and math related professions. Ten years from now more women than men will be doctors, lawyers, pastors and leaders in the professions. Stay at home dads with no or part-time jobs will become the norm. This will be a cataclysmic societal and cultural change.
About Frances P. Sykes and the Pascale Sykes Foundation: Frances P. Sykes is the President of the Pascale Sykes Foundation. The Foundation, which opened in 1992, partners with nonprofits (grantees) that work directly with working, low income families to facilitate their stability — financially, in relationships and in well-being. chief supporter and advisor. Based in New Jersey, she is a leader and champion of the Whole Family Approach that seeks to empower, through collaboration with communities, all members of a family to work together to set goals, establish stability and plan for the future they imagine.
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