Women as integral to the fabric of our work, inside and out


As the largest infrastructure organization for sharing social sector knowledge and more than nine million data points about who’s funding what and where, the Foundation Center takes great pride in housing an equally sizable team of programmers, data specialists, designers, and other technologists.

Unlike most of the tech sector, more than half of those team members are women.

These women from diverse backgrounds bring a culture of curiosity and learning, of empathy with our end users, and of a unique thoughtfulness in developing new approaches and solutions.

We see these characteristics throughout our data and tech team and beyond, and one would be hard-pressed not to credit the influence brought by the women on the team.

We can debate if the stereotype that women have more emotional intelligence than men is valid, but one thing is for sure: we benefit from a high level of it on our data and technology team and beyond.

Foundation Center has women-led and women-focused initiatives at all corners of our organization.

Leadership from our social sector outreach team build camaraderie and strategy together through cooking at a team retreat. 

We both embrace a gender lens, and live it.

The social sector at large has shifted efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, but at Foundation Center, we have a long tradition of practicing these values and is especially evidenced with our strong women leaders.

A year ago, to celebrate the International Day of Women, we held an all-staff discussion on this topic, which led to lively conversation about everything ranging from our terrific health care, to our gender diversity throughout the organization at all levels, to how women are celebrated in the home countries our staff hail from.

Our male colleagues were willing attendees and thoughtful in their own additions to conversation, underscoring the welcome absence of ego or divide.

But most days, we don’t need to discuss a gender lens; we simply honor it across all of our work. Women make up the majority of the nonprofit sector (69 per cent), and so we inherently work in the service of women every day.

In fact, 73 per cent of the people who come to our main library hub in New York are women.

Many of the projects and special data sets that we work on are focused on women as a population, such as our Equal Footing portal that looks at women’s economic development in central Africa, our support of the International Network of Women’s Fund’s data collection, and partnership with Mama Cash on GrantCraft’s resources about inclusion.

And across all of our other projects, our staff — both male and female — are thinking about how we can lift up women’s voices. When our web designers and project teams are building a new platform, for example, they bring their own backgrounds and human curiosity to the table through meetings with partners and curation of information.

Empathy and connection ground all of the work that happens in our regional resource centers, as we leverage human-centered design to inform everything from our trainings to special initiatives to one-on-one technical assistance.

It begins with our colleagues; on a recent staff retreat, our social sector outreach team’s leadership gathered in Atlanta and opted to stay together in an airbnb, where making breakfast together laid invaluable groundwork for thoughtful teamwork.

From mutual appreciation and camaraderie across staff comes the ability – and desire – to innovate and play together as we tackle various social sector challenges.

Our culture driven by nurturing and empathetic instincts is one that makes it okay to fail, so long as we can learn from it and move forward.

As a result, we’re a dynamic organization whose most powerful solutions often come from the bottom up.

Our trainings for grantseekers, global capacity building initiative, qualitative research curation, transparency tools, website design, social media, public events, and electronic grant reporting systems are just a few of the myriad aspects of our work that are better because of our women and the broader culture that they collectively promote.

And still, we are quite aware of the challenges of women in our own backyards, in the wider social sector constituency, and in the world at large.

Where we see power imbalance and injustices; where we see wage gaps; and when we observe unfair or inappropriate behavior, it is our commitment – and call to action – that, especially in this sector, we bring to light these issues where they are visible (or invisible but known), and that we continue to draw on the strength and power of how women exist in the workplace and the world.

Through our data, our projects, our programs, and our relationships, we will continue to both lift up and empower women and the approaches they take to making change in this world.

Will you join us?

Zohra Zori is vice president for social sector outreach, Renée Westmoreland is managing director of web design and development, and Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at the at Foundation Center.

Click here for more content, written to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018.

Tagged in: #IWD2018

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