Meet Kelly Sheard: The New Director of the Gender Wealth Institute

“Shift, transformation, change. Sharing power, building power, rethinking power.”

This September, the Women’s Economic Security Initiative (WESI) is transitioning into the new and improved Gender Wealth Institute (GWI). Led by Kelly Sheard, the new Director of the Gender Wealth Institute, GWI strives to close the gender wealth gap in the Greater Philadelphia region by advancing research and practical solutions that build wealth for women who are economically insecure.

Below you will hear from Kelly herself as she describes her reasons for joining the WOMEN’S WAY team, the why behind her work and her vision for the Gender Wealth Institute.

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I. Why this work?

“Building a movement requires shifting people from spectators to strategists, from procrastinators to protagonists.” — Alicia Garza

Amidst the clamor and noise, I am inspired by those voices challenging structural racism. They urge us to open our eyes and grapple with “the house that Jack built”, the construction of injustice, the rotten foundation in which oppression, violence, domination, marginalization and disenfranchisement shape, influence and direct the lives of women. Structural racism to me is both a museum of horrors and a monument to sickness, yet I am stubbornly, improbably and gratefully inspired by those who insist that we take a look. We need to examine the way the nails, caulk, stone and bricks were fashioned together to incubate a sickness that continues to pervade and shapeshift through the times. Seeing may not be believing, but it can be a reckoning for some. For others, seeing might mean witnessing- witnessing their lived experiences, their truth. In any event, seeing allows us to vision and refashion a revelation of freedom for all of us. We start and end with the least among us.

II. Why WOMEN’S WAY?

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”- James Baldwin

I am encouraged by an organization that attempts to call a thing, a thing. I am inordinately curious about the potential in this act; is WOMEN’S WAY beginning the long, slow, but necessary journey of truth telling? Are we asking the questions that demand thoughtful answers; “Which women? Who have we left out when attempting to answer this question in years past? And what way? Towards equality, or justice or liberation all together? What is the measurable, practical, tangible difference between these concepts for women in this area?” To be invited to come alongside those attempting to reconcile these answers, and to lead the Gender Wealth Institute in the often messy, iterative and challenging process of achieving gender equity is an enormous privilege. If all that is needed is faith the size of a mustard seed, then I suppose I must similarly only require the faintest flicker of hope. I have seen enough to yoke my mule alongside the other fighters, and am eager to find more community for the journey. Will we able to count you in the number?

III. Who am I?

“I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad”

-Ego Tripping, Nikki Giovanni

There is so much significance in naming- imbued with meaning of those who came before and pointing to that which is yet to be. In moments of doubt, I have found solace in names and meaning; finding greater clarity in precision, uncovering a previously obscure knowing. It is important for you to know that I am the daughter of Nancy and Joshua, who come from Rubye, Robert (Marzett), Florence and Louscie, who descended from Orabelle, Joe Leslie, Lillie and Manuel and Abetine, James, William and Minnie. And so on, and so on, but those “so ons” matter. They matter because this means I am both a miracle and frighteningly ordinary, drawing from a legacy of resistance, survival, tenacity, and determination but also saved by the grace of a spirit and heritage that is beyond one blood line. I come bearing the strength, complexities, failures and flaws of the whole tribe. Committed to welcoming others in, creating pathways out, reimagining the goals and most importantly, doing right by you all, the community I strive to serve. My responsibility is to the shoulders of the giants I stand on, and to you, the giants among us.

IV. What can you expect from GWI?

“Liberation is a group participatory project”- Tracey Corder

Shift, transformation, change. Sharing power, building power, rethinking power.

What is our work, together? The Gender Wealth Institute will take the lead in creating, developing and nurturing spaces of transformation. This looks like evolving our thinking and our work in the areas of impact, equity, representation and policy. This looks like providing incubation space for what works- as driven by the needs, voices and perspectives of those shut out of the conversation. This looks like inviting communities into the conversation- what are we missing? Who is missing? What do you need?

We are building on lessons learned, successes and roadblocks. Expect us to meet the call with courage and boldness; remind us that commitment is often romanticized but is most often hard work, come alongside us as we fight through the noise and muck to create the present and future we so richly deserve.

See you there.

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Stay tuned for the official launch of the Gender Wealth Institute (GWI) later this month! Visit our website to join us in the movement towards advancing gender equity and creating a world where all women and girls thrive.

WOMEN’S WAY is the Greater Philadelphia region’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of women, girls, and gender equity.