By Rebecca Davis, Kristen Hecht, and Maggie Moore
On January 21, 2017, people around the world, including members of the B. A. Rudolph Foundation family, gathered to march – not against the election of one man – but because they believed in a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all, one in which the human rights and dignity of each person is protected and our planet is safe from destruction. The Women’s March was an impressive and historical moment of solidarity, the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history. 2017 began with a bang.
Ten months later, the leaders of the Women’s March convened 5,000 women and allies at the Women’s Convention in Detroit, Michigan for a weekend of workshops, strategy sessions, inspiring forums and intersectional movement building. The goal was to ensure that the March was more than just a moment in history, that it became a movement.
Knowing that the March and the Convention aligned with the B. A. Rudolph Foundation’s mission to increase female leadership in public service and policy making, the Foundation sponsored the event and sent several staff and board members to participate.
From left to right: Rebecca Davis, Maggie Moore, Molly Buford, and Kristen Hecht
As the year comes to a close, Rebecca Davis, Kristen Hecht, and Maggie Moore reflect on their experiences and share four lessons learned:
The Women’s Movement is Intersectional
Women are not solely defined by their gender. Their race, religion, education, hometown and many other factors create a person’s identity. Before the convention, Rebecca says she knew the definition, but now knows how to look for it, be respectful of it, and really consider it as an important aspect of organizing. For both Maggie, this has important implications for the Women’s Movement. If women aren’t one dimensional, neither can their platform or their approach: it must be a coalition. Different groups that may only have one aspect of their mission in common, can – and should – work together, coordinate, share goals, and create an inclusive culture.
For example, many organizations work towards increasing female representation in elected offices. The B. A. Rudolph Foundation doesn’t work with candidates or campaigns, but does work to ensure that women have the opportunity to begin careers that build towards that goal through early professional development. We also help level the playing field so that elected officials have diverse staff, those working behind the curtain that help write and shape policy. By partnering together, our power is magnified. All women need a tribe and so does the movement.
Watch Maggie introduce the convention’s panel on intersectionality here.
Panel on intersectionality
It’s Not Just a March or a Movement, It’s a Conversation
Change doesn’t happen overnight; the world wasn’t instantly better the morning after the Women’s March, but it can mark the beginning. Change can start small with uncomfortable but important conversations with family members and friends about injustices we have hardly noticed each day for much of our lives, and the privileges we take for granted and don’t even realize exist. Rebecca is working towards making these conversations more normal and ongoing, because it leads to a larger cultural shift and tangible positive change. “I think it starts with having that first, maybe tense, conversation. Then another, then another, and then acting and participating.”
The Most Powerful Argument is Your Story
The most compelling argument you can make isn’t necessarily the big statistic or the well-researched report on the issue you care about it. It’s why you care about it. At the convention, we talked to a lot of women and learned why they attended the convention, why they’re working on their particular social justice issue, and what kind of future they’re trying to create. Knowing their why reminded Kristen of why she works for the B.A. Rudolph Foundation and why it champions the educational and professional development of women. “The ‘why’ is what creates passion, it’s what inspires others to join your effort, and it’s what sustains you when challenges emerge.”
B.A. Rudolph Foundation Board and staff meeting with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
A Movement is a Marathon, Be Sure to Rest and Recover
Self-care is incredibly important. This year has been a ceaseless tide of small and large battles, filled with pain, stress, frustration, and anger. Easy techniques like writing in a journal, breathing deeply, eating well, and exercising can all help to prevent burnout, mitigate stress, and refocus energy. Too often self-care goes out the window the busier we become, resulting in diminished focus, sharpness, and effectiveness. Self-care helps us to be the best version of ourselves, which is critical for the Women’s Movement. As Kristen put it, “How can we tap into our individual strengths, develop as leaders, and mobilize for change if we neglect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being?” As we head into a new year, remember that a movement is a marathon and not a sprint. Taking time to focus on one’s well-being is just as important as our activities related to the movement.
About the authors:
Rebecca Davis is a co-founder and board member of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation. She currently serves as its development director, overseeing the organization’s general long-term growth and fundraising efforts. In addition to her work with the foundation, she is a trained genetic counselor and works as a consultant for the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation, an organization providing support to families of people with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. She is a 2008 graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.
Maggie Moore is a co-founder and board member of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation. She currently serves as its communications director, coordinating communications and partnership efforts. In addition to her work with the foundation, she works as a communications officer for the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She graduated from Syracuse University with master’s degrees in international relations and in public relations and holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from Tufts University.
Kristen Hecht is the program director for the B.A. Rudolph Foundation, wherein she oversees the Foundation’s scholarships, applications, events, and day-to-day management. Kristen’s background is in non-profit management, with experience in the areas of organizational governance, program management, event planning, and communications. Kristen graduated from American University with a master’s degree in international politics and holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of North Texas.