An Interview with Myra Brown, Vice Chair of the WOMEN’S WAY Board
As we reflect on our last 44 years of service, WOMEN’S WAY wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of our staff, board members, committee members, Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) members, partnering organizations, grantees and more. In our new series “Supporter Spotlight,” we are highlighting individuals who have made a substantial impact within our organization through service, involvement, and commitment that has helped shape WOMEN’S WAY into the leading non-profit organization committed to advancing gender and racial equity in the Greater Philadelphia region.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with longtime supporter and Board Member, Myra Brown, who recently was appointed as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. In the interview, she discusses how she initially became introduced to the organization, her passions for economic wealth and pay equity advocacy, and her vision for the future of WOMEN’S WAY.
What initially led to your involvement with WOMEN’S WAY?
I first learned about WOMEN’S WAY in the early 2000s from my colleague Claudia Curry who was a board member at the time. She invited me to an event that was very empowering but many of the women attending did not look like me. She asked me to become involved, but I was a bit intimidated. Fast forward to 2018. I was a recipient of Joan Shepp’s award for Women of Style and Substance. Diane Corman-Levy, the Chief Disruptor at WOMEN’S WAY, was in attendance. She approached me stating she had read my bio and wanted to meet for coffee to discuss and explore opportunities for me to work with WOMEN’S WAY. She gave her card to several other women that night and I was the only one to follow up. That meeting (we both had tea) was powerful, exciting and engaging! I had recently started NWON Opportunities, LLC my workforce development and placement company. NWON was working with the same communities that WOMEN’S WAY serves. Diane and I had similar ideas on how to move WOMEN’S WAY forward in fundraising, economic wealth, and support around pay equity. And here we are today!
You recently made the decision to increase your engagement with WOMEN’S WAY and step up as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. What led to this decision?
Time is a major investment when making a commitment at this level. As a member of the local business community, I have worked tirelessly during the past year to stabilize my businesses after the pandemic shutdown. My energy was solely devoted to those efforts. Now that my businesses are thriving, the time is right for me to step into the role. The current Board of Directors at WOMEN’S WAY is the most passionate and diverse group of professionals I have interacted with during my three years as a member. I am excited to engage with the board and define the Vice Chair as a helpful partner and informal sounding board to the Chair. I am committed to providing support, feedback, act as chair for subcommittees with vacancies, and co leader for strategic projects. My passion is the work performed on the governance subcommittee. Governance is responsible to identify new board members, develop the board, and ensure it functions in a healthy way. This is most important as we strive to live the WOMEN’S WAY mission and infuse the theory of change in all that we do.
With the new year approaching, what changes and areas for growth do you hope to see within philanthropy in the future?
I would love to see more women and people of color managing philanthropic funds. Those who evaluate the effectiveness of grant requests should reflect the communities served. Due to the pandemic, I believe there will be more of an emphasis on grants to organizations that serve homeless communities, women, children, formerly incarcerated, and providing job training to the unemployed. I think we will also see more individual giving with concepts like Giving Tuesday driving the funding landscape. Many employers will have more available funds due to reduced post pandemic operating costs. As a result, they will be able to increase their budgets designated for philanthropic activities. This could be the bases for a surge in funding before the end of 2022. Philadelphia employers care about the city and want to provide support by addressing the challenges residents of the city face.
What has been the most energizing thing about being part of the WOMEN’S WAY community? What have you learned or gained?
The Board and staff are amazing, driven, and energetic. They think outside of the box and are results focused. The Board is culturally and talent diverse. The combination is a wonderful mix of emotionally intelligent individuals with mission driven vales working to improve opportunities for the community. *Drop mic!*
As a business owner it is refreshing to step away from my daily operations and to work collaboratively with others on shared ideas and goals that are unrelated to my normal work. I have learned to listen more and I have a better appreciation for our differences and similarities.