Today, on our final day of the most recent cohort of our Women's Re-Inspiration Program, we handed each participant a tiny glass elephant with its trunk raised triumphantly in the air. Without pomp or circumstance, this "graduation" ceremony doesn't look or sound like any other rite of passage, but it does carry some significance. As part of a matriarchal society, elephants band together in times of crisis, take action to help each other through challenges, communally rear young, and demonstrate great compassion and collaboration. Without reading too much into the analogy, women are similarly excellent conveners and collaborators, and demonstrate incredible empathy and willingness to help one another.
Our Women's Re-Inspiration Program journey began one year ago this month, with a group of ten women, a 3-session program, and a sketchy aspiration to help successful private sector professionals to leverage their skills for meaningful work on behalf of nonprofits and social enterprises. One year and 30 graduates later, the 6-session intensive program has become a positive force swimming upstream against a strong current of gender inequalities-- wage gaps, glass ceilings, and rising rates of highly-educated women leaving the workforce...only to face major barriers to re-entry later on.
The program exposes participants directly to social sector organizations, through a series of site visits, speakers, workshops, and networking events, educating them about the varied and expanding opportunities that exist among purpose-driven organizations beyond just traditional nonprofits. Not sure how different foundations evaluate the impact of their grants? We hosted an entire training day at a foundation, and included two impact assessment sessions led directly by portfolio managers. From lunch sessions with NYC's most innovative social entrepreneurs to an interactive workshop on earned income, the program included several venues for the participants to be "re-inspired" about how they might be able to make an impact through one of these mission-driven orgs.
The most inspiring part of the program surprisingly wasn't the service project at Per Scholas, a wonderful nonprofit teaching tech education in the Bronx, or the lunch discussion with Chid Liberty, founder of the first fair-trade apparel factory in Africa. It was the cohort-- a group of ten perfect strangers with diverse and divergent personal and professional backgrounds, who over six sessions divulged insecurities and failures, admitted unfulfilled aspirations and half-baked next steps, and lent each other wisdom, patience, camaraderie, and contacts. As facilitators, we created hours of professional development content, hired coaches, arranged speakers, and assigned readings, but could never have offered the intrinsic value of shared experience and collective energy that the cohort provided for one another.
Armed with their tiny elephants, which will take residence on desks and shelves in home offices and new work desks over the coming months, these women will now go forth into the social sector. Some seek full-time jobs, while others are looking for better, more deliberate ways to work with the impactful organizations in their communities. Some have MBAs and/or JDs, with decades of proven success in the private sector, earnest interest in learning, and a deep desire to engage in meaningful ways with those making a difference in the world.
They'll be tremendous assets to the organizations lucky enough to land them, and we're thrilled to call them the newest members of our Inspiring Capital alumni ranks!
If you're a mission-driven organization who is interested in hosting, speaking to, or networking with future or past cohorts of our Women's Re-Inspiration Program, please let us know by filling out this form:http://www.inspiringcapital.ly/program-partners
If you're a woman who might be interested in joining a future cohort of our Re-Inspiration Program (starting again in NYC in September, and expanding to North Carolina, Connecticut, and Westchester county this fall), fill out this form: http://www.inspiringcapital.ly/womens-program-info