In this blog feature for Women’s History Month, we connected with Jenna Ray – Deputy Executive Director, Community Impact and Naomi Sadighi – Deputy Executive Director, Operational Sustainability at GiveMN.

Read on to hear about Jenna and Naomi’s insightful take on advice, equitable workplace cultures and policy.


What advice or support has been most valuable for you in your career? 


Naomi: Throughout my career, I’ve worked with several strong female leaders. Each of those experiences were critical to forming how I want to show up in my career each day. I found that I thrived with leaders who gave me opportunities and were clear with expectations, which isn’t always an easy thing to do. Some of the most meaningful advice or examples I have received was seeing for myself and experiencing exactly how I didn’t want to show up as a leader. Those experiences taught me so much and I want to say thank you to those individuals – they’ve encouraged me to do the opposite and be the fullest version of myself.  

Jenna: There are perceptions of what a successful leader looks like, and I’ve learned that it’s our responsibility to create space for all women and gender expansive people. A leader I once worked with told me to lean into what I do – which is focusing on the quality of care, leading with my heart with radical empathy. I’ve come to learn that softness is my strength. When I heard that for the first time, it changed the way I showed up as a leader. 


What is needed to create equitable workplace cultures? 


Jenna: I work from an abundance mindset and believe fully that individual success is shared success. There’s enough for all and success is achieved through our collective actions. Equity also trickles from the top down, and it needs to be reflected in a set of organizational values. At GiveMN, we value and embrace equity in action. Additionally, there is an opportunity to create equity in the workplace when it comes to project management and being transparent about who is doing what work. I believe when we let people take credit and celebrate their work, we are developing future leaders.  

Naomi: When you think of who works in nonprofit organizations, it’s primarily women and people of color, both marginalized and underpaid groups. There’s a mindset that these individuals get paid in other ways – but fair pay in the workplace is critical. We need to stand up and advocate for ourselves. We need more salary transparency. 

This is also something I think about a lot when it comes to recruitment. How do we get our information out there? Do our benefits allow people to join us? How do candidates find us and is the process accessible? What kind of questions should we ask? This is the first step to show that our team is open to a diverse workforce – from the beginning of the hiring process throughout an individual’s employment. What are your organization’s values? At GiveMN, we radiate our values each day in our workplace – operate from abundance, connected to the community, equity in action and courage to try.  


Do you think certain policies would make an impact on equity for women? 


Naomi: Yes, paid parental leave. We collectively need to support motherhood. As a nation, we need to appreciate that women around the world have a different experience than men when it comes to things like sexual violence, workplace violence and domestic violence.  Additionally, I’ve noticed that organizations often undervalue work of women and the idea of caretaking – and when the two intersect, you create an environment where women are not valued.  

We also need to welcome femininity in the workplace – which is something we typically dislike. If someone is bubbly, wears a pink suit, is more nurturing or has feminine energy – that’s not always embraced.  

Jenna: I agree. Look at what this adds to work – it’s impossible to measure but easy to see. People understand that parenthood is a choice – but it’s also an identity. We need to collectively advance equity in the workplace for parents and all caregivers. Expanding on the word “caretakers” and creating a policy overall would bring broad awareness to the value of caretaking.  


How can others be a mentor or resource to women in their networks? 


Naomi: When I see an opportunity, I immediately think about how I can make it easier for people to access it. I feel this particularly for younger women. I love to share job opportunities, complete resume reviews, offer to practice interview questions or to meet for coffee. I’ve seen women in my network flourish with a little support.  

Jenna: We want things to be better for the next generation of leaders and we need to say no to the idea that “her success is my failure.” The more we can do to make things easier, the better. This shows women holding up other women and using our positional power. We also need to use this positional power to bring forth non-traditional candidates and to open doors for people. This takes confidence and lots of energy. Overall, we need to turn down the chatter in our heads and support one another.  


We love collaborating with women like Naomi and Jenna. Stay tuned for our next Women’s History Month blog post soon.

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