Last month I had the opportunity to advocate, in a very public way, for the end of rape culture on college campuses. As an appointed member of the newly seated State Task Force on College Campus Sexual Assault, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams invited me to appear on the air for an in-depth interview.
This was one among many, many highlights of my work at YWCA Bergen County.
This month I marked my five-year anniversary as Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Bergen County. Leading this organization, pursuing its urgently important mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, and collaborating with its outstanding community of staff, legacy staff, supporters, and long-time members has been such an immense privilege. I am grateful.
I am also proud.
Looking back, I believe—working together—we have done much to enrich the lives and experiences of hundreds of Bergen County women, girls and families.
Back when I assumed the CEO position in July 2011, the YW—like all good women—was primed for a makeover. It was a fantastic opportunity to update our programs and make the organization more reflective our community—its needs and its residents.
This theme of change and relevance and our emphasis on eliminating racism and empowering women has guided my leadership from the start. Today, five years later, we are beginning to realize the benefits of these tough choices and mission-driven decisions.
When I began, we had some important programs in place around the empowerment part of our YW mission. However, there were opportunities to do more in the area of social justice, the “eliminating racism” part of our mission. In fact, The Record’s late great nonprofit reporter Harvy Lipman challenged me about this very issue. I set out to make our mark on this painful, complex area. We began an annual Racial Justice Award program, recognizing individuals and organizations that were making a difference, creating social harmony and equality. We also began our Courageous Conversations series, inviting the community to listen to social justice thought-leaders and to share their thoughts, fears, and questions.
In January two things happened that signaled to me that we are heading in the right direction. First, YWCA Bergen County received the Lee Reid Award from the Bergen County Martin Luther King Birthday Committee. And then, later that month, the national YWCA launched its new branding campaign, YWCA: On a Mission, an expression of the US organization’s commitment to refocus its effort on the mission, a decision that paralleled our approach.
I knew we are doing something very right. Today, we continue to be the largest childcare provider in the county. We are on the frontlines in the battle to change the so-called rape culture on college campuses. We are inspiring new leaders in our Empower U(niversity) Girls Leadership Academy, we are getting unemployed women back to work. Those are just a few highlights.
Five years ago when I signed on to lead this YW, I knew it would be a brave, exciting, challenging and rewarding journey. I was right and today know we still have a way to go. But our vision is clear, our steps steadfast. And I can’t wait to see what we look like when we get there.