Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Lucina Di Meco, Senior Director of Gender Equality and Girls’ Education at Room to Read and author of #ShePersisted. Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World.
- What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
It’s more important to do what you truly believe in and makes you happy and excited, than what you think might look good on your resume. To a young woman in my field I would say: do the meaningful work that you enjoy doing, and trust that something good will come out of it.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
Both as Senior Director for Girls’ Education and Gender Equality at Room to Read, and as a researcher and author on women’s political leadership, my work is so strongly related to my values, personal mission and interests, that I find very hard to say no to new projects and initiatives. Sometimes, I know I run a real risk of burning out. This pandemic has been teaching me that sometimes I need to slow down and gain greater acceptance of the things I can’t control.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
I deeply believe in the urgency of achieving gender equality globally and improving women and girls’ opportunities. It’s personal, political and professional, all at the same time. I love being part of a movement that is helping us to get there faster and could not imagine myself working in any other field.
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
As a woman, working in the gender equality field feels very personal, as I have myself experienced many of the inequalities that I’m trying to address professionally and can relate to many of the challenges that women all over the world face. At the same time, being a woman should by no means be understood as a necessary – or sufficient – condition for working in this field. A more gender equal world would benefit everyone, and I wish there were more men actively involved in this fight.
5. Do you think your gender identity has affected your career?
Working internationally, it can be really hard to balance personal life and a job that is often very demanding, requiring international travel, as well as late evenings and early mornings calls to accommodate different time zones across the world. Right now, like so many working moms, I’m juggling conference calls and a workload that hasn’t decreased, while supporting my son’s remote schooling. This pandemic is exacerbating the existing gender inequalities in our society, and I hope it will inspire a change in the social norms and structures around domestic responsibilities, or women will continue having a really hard time balancing career and family.
6. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
Philanthropy has an incredibly important role to play in achieving gender equality by investing in the most crucial and underfunded solutions – understanding they might not always be the most popular, or the simplest. While many governments and companies will feel comfortable with investments that focus on short-term outcomes, philanthropists have the obligation to be one step further and make investments that are truly transformational and bold.
7. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
While the pandemic has made apparent the greater social and economic vulnerability women face all over the world, it has also brought to light great examples of women’s leadership – and why we need more women in decision-making roles. In the future, I would like to see greater investments in fixing systems that are creating or reinforcing existing gender inequalities, as well as programs promoting women’s and girls’ leadership. I also hope that we’ll begin to understand gender equality as everyone’s interest and everyone’s opportunity, as opposed to a “women’s issue”.
Lucina Di Meco is a senior expert, advocate and writer on women’s leadership and gender equality globally. She is Senior Director of Gender Equality and Girls’ Education at Room to Read, as well as the author of #ShePersisted. Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World, an investigation of the relationship between women in politics & social media.