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As Political Landscape Intensifies, So Does the Women’s Fund

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega As Political Landscape Intensifies, So Does the Women’s FundPhoto via Flickr.
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It’s no secret that the nation is severely politically polarized. Wearing a particular red hat can get the word “racist,” “misogynist,” and any other -ist word thrown at you. You can witness a fight over any post, tweet or comment, watch hundreds go up in arms over the style of shoe First Lady Melania Trump happens to be wearing, and observe arguments around the legitimacy, necessity and impact of human rights movements.

People are into politics, unapologetically. They’re ready to fight, ruin friendships, travel hundreds of miles to get to protests, and even sacrifice their lives to achieve whatever they identify as justice.

The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio has played a significant role in elevating women’s participation in politics and business leadership through grant making, advocacy and convening events. Their most recent gathering, Galvanize, brought together 500 women to discuss national and local policies through a gender lens. It followed an event similar in size in February — Statehouse Day — which assembled the area’s feminists to discuss gender issues and meet with legislators to voice their concerns personally.

In the years ahead, the organization announced it would expand on that role even more, advocating around issues like access to contraception, healthcare, medically accurate and comprehensive sex education, and more.

Filing into the Idea Foundry last night, about 120 women (and a few men) gathered to learn the next step for the region’s biggest, most influential voice in gender issues. After nine months of distributing surveys and receiving feedback, they found that “the community — you — you’re ready, and you want the Women’s Fund to be the organization that speaks to the woman who is defining success on her own terms,” said Nichole Dunn, Women’s Fund Executive Director.

Confronting and destroying gender norms is at the center of the Women’s Fund’s mission, and that effort resonates through their base. Over the last year, 1,000 of them have hosted and participated in Gender By Us, a toolkit that facilitates conversations about implicit bias and gender norms and expectations.

Markeisha Mason, Women’s Fund supporter and Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, said she’s implemented her own Women’s Fund approach in her interactions with the children she oversees. No longer can only boys move a heavy object, like a table — “The girls tell the boys, ‘No, it’s fine, I’ll move it’” — or join in on flag football.

For the teenagers in the program, Mason tests them on their willingness to ask for what they deserve. She poses a scenario where they make a decent wage, but then find out that their male counterpart makes $2 more an hour. The response she received was telling — the young girls were in agreement that it was wrong, but weren’t sure if they’d do anything about it for fear of being perceived as an “angry black woman.”

Equal pay, as well as paid maternity and paternity leave, are issues the Women’s Fund is strategically tackling in the near future, pledging to work within the small business community to assist entrepreneurs that desire an equitable workplace.

Moving forward, they’ve restructured their tagline, from “Advocate, convene and influence” to “Fiercely committed to igniting social change for gender equality.”

Dunn said, “Having a voice matters, and that’s what we’re here to do and to be.”

For more information, visit womensfundcentralohio.org.

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