While community-based organizations are best positioned to address a multitude of entrenched issues, we have found that women in these organizations frequently lack true participation and agency. Many women leaders – including organizational Founders and Executive Directors – confessed that they struggle with low self-esteem and prefer to have men to represent the organization at meetings or trainings. As a prominent woman leader expressed, “I want help with public speaking and self confidence, many times I do have answers but I feel like they’re not correct.” This lack of voice limits the potential for inclusive, sustainable community change.
FCDE developed the Elevating Women Leaders initiative to strengthen leadership skills, cultivate mentorship relationships, and build a supportive, intergenerational network of women development professionals. Our inaugural cohort convened 20 women grassroots leaders for monthly “power circles” consisting of trainings, peer-learning, open discussions and experience sharing. The power circles focused on key themes identified by the group such as building confidence and overcoming fear, effective leadership styles and strategies, conflict resolution and team management, avoiding burnout, and mentoring other women in the community and workplace.