Heidi Gerbracht will be at Cause Camp 2020 presenting on how diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial to your organization’s success.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
As immediate past board Chair of an organization striving to empower women to run and win political office, this quote from Lilla Watson, an indigenous female activist from Australia, has always resonated with me.
While a few of my identities are marginalized ones, I am white, and benefit every day from the racist system that we live in. Annie’s List also functions within that system, although the organization’s mission is to identify, challenge, and ultimately change unfair systems at their root. In order to do that successfully, we have to be conscious of the ways discrimination and systemic racism against people with various identities intersect. We also have to examine how we may sometimes replicate these systems in our work, and make an ongoing commitment to learning and doing better.
When I became board chair, I wanted to spend my two-year term working on these fundamental issues, in order to build a multiracial coalition that could wield all of our strengths and knowledge in a truly intersectional way to help lift us all up. I can tell you this: I was (relatively) young and inexperienced as a Board Chair, and I made mistakes. But I worked hard to use my mistakes as opportunities to learn, and I’m proud of the real progress we made.
In the last 15 years, Annie’s List has recruited, trained and supported progressive women seeking office at both the state and local levels. During this time we have raised $15+ million to support these women and have helped them win more than 130 races. As part of its success, Annie’s List had always supported candidates that were women of color, or part of the LGBTQ community, or working class, or a combination of these and other non-dominant identities.
However, in order to really maximize our successes, our organization needed an overhaul in terms of not recreating unfair systems through our Board membership and procedures, within our staff, and through the way we do our work. The first and most important step was to identify and connect with others on the board and staff who also held this same North Star ― and I was lucky there were many of them. One is our brilliant Executive Director, Royce Brooks, who will be co-presenting with me during Cause Camp 2020. Another important tip is that this work and the organization’s commitment to it must be on-going ― it’s not a one time fix. I’m looking forward to sitting down with Royce and you all at Cause Camp to talk through the details and share all the tips and tools that we learned in the last few years (and are still learning!).
The reality is that Annie’s List won’t be able to help women get as far if we don’t make a deep and abiding commitment to not just surface-level diversity, but also to real equity and to lifting up and weaving the perspectives, wisdom and knowledge of the most marginalized throughout our work. I believe this is true no matter what your organization’s mission is. Our liberation really is bound together.