According to the Library of Congress, Women’s History Month began as Women’s History Week in 1982, when Congress authorized the president to proclaim the week on March 7 of the following year. Five years later, Congress designated the entire month to celebrate the contributions and achievements women have made throughout American history.
This year, United Way of King County celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing some of the women who have helped make our work possible–from current and former staff, to board members, to grantees, to those who helped lead our events and campaigns. We’ve asked several of those women to share their knowledge and wisdom on International Women’ Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreaktheBias. What steps do you believe we should take to create a world free of bias?
“Shared responsibility and accountability for the work of anti-racism. Connecting interpersonal actions (dialoguing) to structural/systemic/institutional change.“
“There has to be acknowledgement that people have conscious and unconscious biases and we have to work at changing those biases simultaneously, on both an individual and structural basis. We have to give people grace to meet them where they are, even when we do not agree. We have to deliberately create avenues for diverse voices to engage in discourse. We can’t foist our beliefs on others – we have to educate and lay the ground work and expectation for acceptance of others on a human level. In doing so, we will set the stage to eradicate bias.“
“I think the keys to a world free of bias are deep listening, acceptance, and understanding. Intolerance of any kind stands in the way of these steps.“
“Acknowledge it exists – personally and within our institutions and structures – and commit to undoing it. We’ve seen that when we are complacent, it is easy for our world to move backwards in this work. There is no shortage of resources available to help people change their thinking and the way their organizations’ operate. Being persistent and consistent in that work is critical.“
“I believe that some ways we can #breakthebias we should be okay with naming our bias so we are aware of where we need to make change, celebrate our differences rather than create barriers, and increase your circle. Be willing to share space with, learn from, and build relationships with people outside of people who look like you.“
“We need to question our assumptions and keep asking why not?“
“Consciously examine our reactions and motivations when we interact with people from a background different than ours. Becoming aware is the first step towards breaking our biases.“
“We must return to our roots – and by that, I mean we need to work, consistently and persistently towards an anti-colonial world. Much of the bias that exists, exists because colonization has actively removed people from their humanity, hence why they are able to dehumanize so many people and pass judgement.“
“I think visibility is key. Always seeing examples of the same type of person doing certain types of work or chores reinforces stereotypes.“
We need so many more BIPOC, particularly women, in all areas of leadership and influence – in private, public and nonprofit sectors.
“We can create a world free of bias when we step outside of our comfort zones, when we open our minds, when we work on our weaknesses and biases, when we commit to being a whole human…to embracing and respecting the humanity and dignity of all.“
“Continue to have conversations about race andintersectional biases. Continue to listen to those with different opinions than your own. If we only engage with people who see the world as we do, we won’t engage in conversations that serve to break down existing biases.“
What types of challenges have you faced in your career due to being a woman? How did you address those challenges?
“I want to be specific that many of the challenges I have faced are because I am a Brown woman – and an outspoken one at that—which is the antithesis of white supremacy and patriarchy. When you find yourself at the intersections of multiple inequities you, have to have a multifaceted approach to the work and world. Having a strong spiritual/ancestral connection, strong and sustained mentorship, and remaining authentic to myself and journey have been ways I have been able to address challenges.“
“Being a woman in data/research was more of a challenge when I first started in 1998. A lot of external vendors would only take direction from my male supervisor, who would saltily refuse to answer and keep referring them back to me. These same vendors would call me a troublemaker when I would try and elevate my complaints to their higher ups. My work being presented to the board by someone other than me. Oh, the list goes on! I addressed these challenges by always being impeccable in my work and NEVER quiet. I also had male colleagues/allies who always provided back up/believed me and believedin me.“
“I think often about what it was like for HarrietTubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer and others who faced the double sting of being Black and being a woman in a world that celebrated neither. I draw strength from their examples when I face challenges in my career – challenges like under-compensation and disregard.“
“I don’t feel I’ve had many challenges due to being a woman. And for that, I’m grateful.“
If you could give advice to your adolescent self to prepare her challenges women face in the corporate world, what would you say?
“You are persistent, not annoying. You are a leader, not bossy. You are direct, not a b*tch. You have well thought out opinions, ideas and solutions; you are not a troublemaker. All the choices you are making? Those were the right ones.“
“Every room is meant for you. Speak up. Even when it’s hard. Take a breath and share your voice.“
“I would tell her that she has everything she needs – within her, in her family, in her ancestry, and community – to take on the challenges of this world. She just needs to listen.“
“Be true to yourself; Lead with character; Always believe in yourself; Even when the odds are against you, keep your head to the sky.“
“I would suggest she always seek to collaborate and join forces with other girls and women. I would tell her not to be afraid to share her struggles with those she trusts, so they can work together and learn from one another how to overcome barriers. I would tell her that I guarantee others are having similar struggles as she or know someone who is, and they will be thrilled to not feel so alone.“
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
“Being engaged in work that provides access and opportunity to our neighbors in need.“
“Connecting with people and supporting civic service and diversity and inclusion efforts.“
“CCW creates opportunity for young people by supporting them to explore the “real world” as a part of their educational pathway. Seeing the transformation of each person and the people around them as a result of this experience has been a true joy.“
“The stories of what’s happening in community, especially hearing something we did or a connection we made had impact. Learning a volunteer connected to a mentoring organization was a great mentor plus recruited other mentors and is now on their board. Hearing a Project LEAD alum asked really tough questions before joining a board (we train them to do that!). Or that our funding helped an organization get health insurance for its staff and one member just welcomed a healthy new baby. And the stories also help us know how much work there is still to be done.“
“I consider it a blessing to do the work that I get to do every day. I am in awe of our team each and every day. They are brilliant, dedicated to the mission, and each person has a story that has brought them to this work. It is an honor to work alongside this wonderful team and community toward positive impact in our community.“
“For me it’s all about showing up for each other. I love being in community with so many others doing what we can to care for each other.“
“I love that my work focuses on what I’m so passionate about – issues of social and racial justice.“
Who are some of your role models, mentors or inspirations?
“My mother, former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Civil Rights activist Coretta Scott King, Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojouner Truth, character actress Patricia Hayes, former First Lady Michelle Obama.”
“My parents, my peers and my friends“
“So many women, and locally three Black women in philanthropy come to mind. Ruby Love I’ve known over 25 years – a former United Way employee, entrepreneur and philanthropy consultant who is always my ‘go-to’ when I need advice or ideas (she knows EVERYONE and everything). C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser formerly with Satterberg Foundation and always speaks truth to power and is a strong mentor and support to young Black women coming up in the field. And in the “next generation” Morgan Dawson the new co-CEO at Threshold Philanthropy that is disrupting philanthropy with a focus on Black and Indigenous healing.“
“I have many role models both that I am in relationship with, in my family, in community, and those I watch from a distance. My maternal and paternal grandmothers were some of the strongest women I know. Both raised their family in Mobile, Al. My paternal grandmother lived to be 100 years old. She lost her husband young yet still put all 7 of her children through college while cleaning the homes of others and baking as her “side hustle” to make ends meet. My maternal grandmother took her youngest 4 children (out of 11) and moved to California and purchased a home on her own and left this earth having paid off that house on her own. My own mother and father are role models of kindness, grace, and love. Their love for each other and for community. While there are many men I admire who inspire me. This Women’s History month I also must add that there are local women in our region including Vivian Phillips, Harriett Walden, Chief Carmen Best, and Phyllis Campbell to name a few. These women are strong, resilient, and brilliant and lead this community with love.”
“Locally: Technology Access Foundation Co-Founder Trish Millines Dziko. Nationally: Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.“
To those who help make our work possible, thank you!