The Monotony of Indecision
April 22nd, 2008The "Monotony of Indecision" was the title of a paper I wrote when I was in the 7th grade and won a writing contest sponsored by The Detroit News. I have to say it really was good and I worked very hard on it! This memory from decades ago popped into my head earlier today. I remember having a difficult time trying to think of a topic for the theme paper so I wrote about the process of writing and throwing away scads of paper as I became increasingly frustrated. * Just a note, I am a rabid recycler and this was back in the 1960's when the Greatest Generation recycled but us Boomers were a bit more wasteful! It was pre-Earth Day times!
Where is this going you are asking yourself? For some time I have wanted to address the obvious about the inner workings of this Foundation but somehow I held back. Should I or shouldn't I? The monotony of my indecision is over and here it is: We are an all female staff. Yep all 21 of us are female. We have had males on our staff and we also have had male interns who have joined us from time to time.
This has not been by design I will tell you that. We pay competitive salaries that are not extravagant by a long-shot but we do attract the best of the best. We have worked hard on this and it is paying off quite nicely. Years ago a board member noted that we needed some men to even things out. I sighed and just kept moving forward. We are a very collaborative group of professionals and our respect for one another is apparent. We value innovation and while this could be questioned, we do value inclusion.
In a previous post I wrote about our work with another organization regarding cultural competency. A couple of comments were posted on another site that noted our femaleness and that I had no room to make comments on this topic. Not wanting to defend our record, I know we need to address these issues and yet I am not going to back down on my view. We are working to continue to diversify our staff in a variety of ways along with moving the needle on the gender issue.
The interesting thing I have experienced is the possible perception of this organization looking through the lens of knowing that we currently are led by me - a female - joined by 20 other females. Are we viewed as an organization to be taken seriously? I'd like to think so given our remarkable track record as a funder, community leader and builder and successful resource developer! Would a male leading this organization help with the perspective? I have no idea but there is an increasing amount being written about how female leaders are marginalized, many times in subtle ways and sometimes not so subtly!
Of course these issues are getting national attention now with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fighting for the Democratic Presidential candidacy. And the feelings that people have in that regard can bleed over into other areas. But I have not experienced that yet or that I know about.
I am aware and I am working to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion, cultural competency and diversity. And no I am not going to launch into "I am woman hear me roar." However, I am not going to play second fiddle either. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is a dynamic organization working to help grow our area, our region and indeed the state in meaningful and sustainable ways.
Have I told you lately. . .
April 5th, 2008that the Grand Rapids Community Foundation staff is nothing short of phenomenal? No probably not and now I will rectify this! I have been known to say to staff, "we are here for but a moment in time so let's make hay while we can!" In other words, don't waste time because sharing your talent and wisdom while on staff gives us the opportunity to give back to our community in so many ways. It is much more than a job! We are fortunate to be here and we can follow our dreams to continue to strengthen and grow this grand community.
Periodically I write about the work that we do and try to point out why this work is so important and why I am so passionate about the value of this community foundation not just in a financial sense. This can be overlooked which is understandable and I need to make this much more clear. This isn't just charity - it isn't just philanthropy - it is bold community leadership.
This entry was inspired by the actions and tenacity of Ruth Bishop who is our Education Program Officer and who has been with the Foundation for more than 15 years. I'm convinced that Ruth never runs out of great ideas and "stuck in a rut" is NOT something that anyone would say about her! She is completely devoted to her work that encompasses our ever expanding array of Scholarship offerings and programs, the Youth Enrichment Scholarship Program that brings experiences to elementary students who would not have otherwise have the opportunities offered them, the Excellence in Education program honoring great ideas from students and teachers in the public and private schools in the city of Grand Rapids and much more. Her work does not begin and end with these programs. However, at the time of students applying for scholarships, our website is at its most popular!
Ruth was recently telling me that she has a particularly difficult problem to resolve involving a bright and engaging student at one of our area high schools. This student wants to become a physician and has the dream of attending a renowned state university. She has the academic standing, the moxie - that indefinable "thing" that is a good predictor of success and much more. And she also has Ruth's attention.
All good ingredients you might say to make this story have a happy ending. Well not quite. It seems that this student is lacking a foreign language and that is the stated barrier to gaining admission. This student grew up in a home where the Spanish language is the primary language. According to Ruth, she has overcome barriers before and certainly speaks English probably better than many. My bet is that both languages are like her primary languages.
Ruth is not resting on her laurels on this one and while we do not get this involved with every student applying for scholarships - don't have the time nor the person power to do so - it does point out that there is something not quite right here. Whether this will turn out the way it should remains to be seen.
What it does demonstrate though is how our staff team is trying to bring together the power of our education programs to aid in achieving some key goals in our community and in our state:
* Student achievement in the city schools will match or exceed those of the suburban schools including raising the graduation rates.
* Preparing students for admission to college/university/higher education and to graduate successfully.
* Attracting and retaining college graduates to the West Michigan community.
No more study is needed. No more strategy development is needed. No more "let's take another few years and see how we are doing".
Ruth wants action and results now. She wants to ensure that all students have access to the right guidance to point them in the direction of college and what is required prior to applying and receiving the disappointing news that they don't meet the requirements.
Her passion - her smarts - her knowledge along with being supported by the Foundation will make remarkable strides for all students. We just need to make sure that all the tools, resources, and will are there to make it all happen. Thank you Ruth!