Why I joined the NH Women’s Foundation

It has a remarkable history and unbelievable potential for the future

I was raised by a single mom — a feminist — who instilled in each of her children grit and hard work. She didn’t give us the option of whether or not to become an activist. It was simply what we did.

I can’t quite pinpoint when I knew that I needed to use my education and my career to help those who might not have a voice, but clearly as I look back on my life, the personal has always been political. In many respects, I have stood on the shoulders of my mother and the other women who came before me.

Women have literally shaped who I am today. As a college athlete, I was a beneficiary of Title IX. I was the first in my family to go to college and am a proud graduate of Smith College. I have devoted my life to working on behalf of candidates, organizations and initiatives that I believed would increase opportunity for women and children.

It isn’t hard to see why I was attracted to the NH Women’s Foundation. 

I took this job because I see in the foundation not just a remarkable history, but unbelievable potential for the future. The NH Women’s Foundation is the only organization in the state advocating for gender equality and expanding opportunity for women and girls. We are uniquely positioned to have a robust advocacy and education program, as well as a powerful grant-making program.

Advocacy and philanthropy are not antithetical to one another. In fact, I would argue that having both makes us stronger. Done well, our advocacy and education work can dramatically increase our philanthropic dollars. We can expand our reach by making clear to a broader audience why increased opportunities for women and girls are so important to our state and our country.

Our philanthropic program can inform our education and advocacy work by listening to the organizations to which we grant our dollars about the issues that are most important to women and girls. I truly believe advocacy and philanthropy can go hand in hand, and I look forward to helping expand both. 

I’d like to look beyond advocacy and philanthropy for a moment. Think about what we can do to inspire young women and girls to become leaders. Like many of you, I was profoundly disappointed by the presidential election. For me, the results were personal, and I can’t help but think about what this election says about this country’s readiness to elect a female president.

I am also haunted by the fact that there are only a handful of women from both parties who are likely to be candidates for president in the coming years. It is time for us, whether Republican or Democrat, Independent or Green Party, to recognize that we need to significantly increase the number of female leaders in local, state and national politics.

I truly mean what I say — this isn’t specific to a party —this is about putting more women on councils, planning boards, legislatures and corner offices. Let’s use New Hampshire’s all-female congressional delegation as a springboard to becoming a national leader for empowering, training and supporting female candidates and office holders. 

We live in New Hampshire — politics is, in many ways, our commodity. We have the political connections, exposure and opportunities that most other states don’t have. No one is more suited than the NH Women’s Foundation to take this on. I challenge each of you to think about what you can do to help more women consider leadership roles.  

Tanna Clews is the newly named CEO of the NH Women’s Foundation. This article is excerpted from the speech she delivered at the foundation’s recent annual Women Building Community luncheon at which her appointment was announced.

Categories: Opinion