Women's Foundation California | From Surina, CEO Women's Foundation California

From Surina

Gender Justice in our hearts, minds, and headlines

September of twenty twenty began my seventh year as CEO of Women’s Foundation California – and what a year it has been! Looking back at the last twelve months, I couldn’t have predicted the seismic shifts we are living through together.

In some ways, this has been a year of slowing down; I’m no longer criss-crossing the state to attend various meetings and conferences, I cook nearly all my meals at home, and do 99% of my work tucked away in my home office on Zoom calls and Slack channels. However, there is no denying that, on a deeper level, this last year I’ve witnessed profound acceleration. Deeply entrenched challenges we have needed to reckon with for far too long –  inequality along race, economic, and gender lines, the scourge of white supremacy, the crisis of climate change – are front and center in our hearts, minds, and headlines.

As the death toll from COVID climbs to the hundreds of thousands, we face the precariousness of our own lives and our deep interconnectedness. As fires rage across the West Coast and we are trapped inside as the AQI blasts into the triple digits for weeks on end, we see more clearly the dire nature of our climate crisis. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd  lay bare a long legacy of injustice and highlight the violence of white supremacy woven into the fabric of our entire country.  As hundreds of thousands of women leave the workforce to manage unmanageable amounts of caretaking and remote schooling, we acknowledge the realities of the gender pay gap and the imbalance of care. This past year has accelerated our shared understanding of these intertwined crises and turned up the volume on the urgency of this work.

From where I sit at Women’s Foundation California, there is also opportunity here.  This increased urgency highlights the things that we already knew to be true. We are well positioned to respond to this moment and shape our feminist future together. As I reflect back on the last twelve months, there are three truths that rise to the top for me: (1) We are interconnected, (2) We can take better care of each other, and (3) We need to both respond to the moment and play the long game.

We are interconnected. Coronavirus has made glaringly apparent that we are inextricably linked to each other and we must stand in solidarity with each otherThat means that when we take care of the people in our communities who are most impacted, whether by the virus of racism or COVID, we are all better off.

This is as true epidemiologically as it is politically. Our connection is a strength that serves us. Whether it’s through the work of California Women Rising or our Relief and Resilience Fund, we committed to working together to strengthen that connection and build something better for all of us.

We can take care of each other.  Love, safety, justice, and dignity are unlimited resources.  Over the last year we have been working to live out that truth in our work with everything from rapid response grants for COVID adaptations and organizational shifts to a four day work week. As we deepen our relationship to care in our work, we’ve seen increased donor participation and generosity across the board.

We need to respond to the moment and invest in our long term vision. The ability to respond to what is immediately in front of us and build towards the feminist future that we know is possible is a road we are walking together. We have invested more money than ever before in rapid response grants because we know so much is at stake. We also need to plan for what’s ahead of us and invest in our feminist future. We’re proud that our new partnership with FreeWill has inspired more members of Women’s Foundation California donor community, myself included, to make a will or trust. Long-time supporters, alums, staff and board members alike have made legacy commitments to gender justice and have joined our Ruth McGuire Legacy Circle to take care of those we love beyond our lifetimes. Having our will or trust documents in order and our feminist values written into them strengthen womxn’s economic well-being across generations and communities. We can rise to the moment and invest in the next generation of intersectional feminists. I know we can do both of these things because we already are.

I am deeply grateful to lead Women’s Foundation California through this moment of deep transformation and I know that whatever the next year, next election, next decade holds for us, we will find our way by listening to and investing in the people who are closest to the problems we face and the solutions we need.

With gratitude,