I have been pondering women in nonprofits all my LONG professional life…I’m worked for them, worked beside them, worked with them and worked in spite of them. 74% of the workforce in nonprofits is female, but too few of these nonprofit goddesses get their due…in my opinion – and hey, this is my blog – so my opinion matters!
Sally Shipman was one of my first she-roes. Sally taught my son to swim in her pool in Tarrytown in Austin, TX. Sally was President of the first board I ever served on and she was a wonder. She made the grouchy, mean-spirited Treasurer give the teachers a $.25 an hour raise (to $3.75 if memory serves). He who did not have a child at the school and never darkened the door to see the wonderfully creative & generous teachers and the sometimes terrible, sometimes delightful kids Sally made more respectful and generous. I was the only one who was an active parent on the board, but I was young and so often didn’t trust my own voice to defend those she-roes…Sally led us firmly, but fairly – made the meetings come to something, respected the interests of the kids, the teachers, the parents, our church where the program lived…we had real discussion and made sound decisions. I got good training. Sally went on to serve on the Austin City Council and I felt good about living there partly because I knew Sally.
I have known a number of she-roes and I realize that one of things that elevates a woman to she-ro status for me is her effective, fair voice…I admire Joyce Rothermel here in Pittsburgh. Joyce is a straight shooter. She always tells me something important and painful and that I don’t know about the lives of the poor and yet is a peaceful, consistently kind presence anywhere. She’s fierce, but loving. I love that in a person!
We are also lucky to have Shirl Regan of the Women’s Center and Shelter among us. Shirl told her story recently at a Bayer Center Open Space. She tells a story of suffering and humilation turned to one of service and strength because of her courage and determination to live a life that matters. Her honesty was exemplary…we’re all better off because Shirl lives in Pittsburgh.
I think we are supposed to seek to admire others as one of our life tasks. A few years ago, I was interviewing national nonprofit leaders and I was sad and more than a little disturbed when I would ask them about their heroes and sheroes and one after another said “I don’t have any”… That is poverty true and simple. Our lives lift up when we see each other as admirable, noble and true!
So if you don’t have some heroes and sheroes – go get some! And please tell me who they are so I can join in the song!
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