The Boston Women’s Fund is thrilled to announce the 15 women and gender-expansive leaders of color who comprise the 2023 Anna Faith Jones and Frieda Garcia Women of Color Leadership Circle (WOCLC)! In the 1990s, Anna Faith Jones and Freida Garcia led the Boston Foundation as the CEO and Board Chair and were the first women of color to occupy those roles in the foundation’s history. This program, initially run by the Boston Foundation with support from the Angell Foundation, was designed by a team of women of color leaders and is inspired by Jones’ and Garcia’s close partnership and vision.
“We are so motivated by the friendship and camaraderie that Anna Faith Jones and Freida Garcia were able to create despite the often unspoken pressures of being the first woman of color in a prominent leadership role,” said Natanja Craig Oquendo, Executive Director at Boston Women’s Fund. “Modeling that, we wanted to create a supportive space where women and gender-expansive folks could talk openly about white supremacy and the harm that it’s done in our community. The Women of Color Leadership Circle does just that, and we’re excited to continue this work.”
The WOCLC honors the leadership, strength, and resilience of women and gender-expansive individuals of color who do incredible work within their communities. The six-month cohort program provides these leaders a supportive space to advance their leadership journeys through group sessions and individual executive coaching by women of color coaches. But the content goes beyond a traditional leadership development program because Black and Brown women and gender-expansive individuals encounter unique barriers to leadership roles.
The 2019 Race to Lead report showed that in a survey of nonprofit employees, only 41% of women of color had a mentor within their organization, as compared to 52% of white men. Moreover, many women of color shared that they found themselves, and their ideas, often left out, ignored, or faced with hyper-scrutiny. Despite their interest in top-leadership positions, women of color were the largest group to share that their race had been a barrier to their career advancement.
Through our lived experience, we know the isolation and unique challenges many women and gender-expansive individuals of color face while moving within systems of white supremacy culture in the workplace. The program is designed to speak to these specific challenges. We envision the WOCLC as a safe space for belonging, fellowship, learning, unlearning, and self-care, where participants can share their challenges and frustrations and learn and grow from each other’s experiences.
"Women and gender-expansive people of color are leading at unprecedented levels. They are finally being recognized for their gifts, creativity, and abilities,” said Kelly Bates, President of Interaction Institute for Social Change. “In this program, they are given a break from isolation, critique, and stress. They immerse in a courageous community to transform oppression, trauma, and shame into power."
This year’s cohort features women from a wide variety of sectors. Members are from organizations small and large. Their leadership experience spans from first-time coordinators to executives, and the cohort’s varied identities reflect the truth that we are far from a monolith. In response to feedback from previous members of the Circle, we look forward to bringing the 2023 cohort together through a mix of virtual and in-person sessions. We are eager to witness the bonds they will form on this deeply moving and personal journey.
A listing of the fifteen members of the 2023 Circle is below. Learn more about the Women of Color Leadership Circle at www.bostonwomensfund.org/the-woclc. The 2023 program begins on January 26th.
Jada Alleyne, she/her
School Age Program Manager
Community Art Center
Jamila Gales, she/her
Girls Reflecting Our World (GROW) / Community Engagement
Celiana Guante, she/her
Human Resources and Operations Manager
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Health Policy Commission
Yarice Hidalgo, she/her
Misti Jaynes, she/her
Program Committee Chairperson
Women Thriving, Inc.
Rania Kelly, she/her
Alexis B. Major, she/her
Chief Operating Officer
Assistant Director of Programming
Dreamcatcher Initiative Inc.
Jennie McDonald-Brown, she/her
Executive Director of Development
Roxbury Community College
Cynthia K. Orellana, she/her
Office of Community Partnerships, University of Massachusetts Boston
Gina Josette Rivera, she/they
Director of Partnerships
Tech Goes Home
Ivanna Solano, she/her
Love Your Magic
Stephanie Taylor, she/her
HIP/SNAP Community Engagement Coordinator
Zahirah Truth, she/her
Lead Program Officer
Darlene Vu, she/her
Chief Operating Officer
Asian American Women's Political Initiative (AAWPI)
Alicia Whittington, she/her
Assistant Director of Engagement & Health Equity Research
Football Players Health Study at Harvard University