On Thursday, May 5th, the hashtag #celebratewomen trended in New York. Twitter users united behind the voices and stories of the women being recognized for their leadership, resilience, ambition—and most of all fierceness—at the New York Women’s Foundation Celebrating Women Breakfast.
Long passionate about issues impacting the women of New York, I joined the board of the New York Women’s Foundation in 2012. I love the foundation’s mission of funding programs that lift women out of poverty, help them achieve their business ambitions, and ultimately lets them be whoever they want to be.
This is the tenth breakfast event I have attended, and each year is as inspiring and important as the last. While there is always much to celebrate—such as the accomplishments of this year’s honorees: political activist and feminist art hero Elizabeth A. Sackler and designer Tory Burch—it’s also a reminder of the challenges that are still faced by so many; challenges that prevent equal and accessible opportunity for everyone.
An example of this came from Cherno Biko, co-chair of the Young Women’s Advisory Council and a transgender woman of color. In her speech, Biko offered a poignant reminder that sometimes, for people such as herself, the only thing that can be celebrated is the fact that they are still standing at the end of the day. A lot has been achieved over the past few years for the LBGQT community, but there is still hard work to be done to protect and advance women such as Biko.
Since 1986, the New York Women’s Foundation has distributed over $50 million to more than 370 organizations in New York City.
The foundation was formed in 1986 to address the shocking reality that only 3% of philanthropic dollars went toward issues vital to women. Its goal is to fund women-led community organizations that improve the lives of women. Such as Faigy Gelbstein, who at the event shared her story of how Footsteps, a charity that helps ultra-orthodox Jewish men and women transition to mainstream society, enabled her to escape an arranged marriage, find an apartment for her and her young son, and build a new life where she is now in her third year of school at Brooklyn College.
Since its inception 30 years ago, the New York Women’s Foundation has distributed over $50 million to more than 370 organizations in New York City, funding a safer, freer, and more economically equal city, but there is still much to be done to ensure women have full autonomy over their lives, their careers, and their bodies.
The foundation’s annual breakfast is the largest gathering of philanthropic women in New York, with over 2,200 in attendance, and as each speaker shared her story, you could feel the inspiration and determination in the room thicken. To me, that’s what makes the foundation so special. Advancing the agenda of the foundation isn’t just about what you can contribute in dollars, but it’s how you raise your children, who you vote for, and how you take action to celebrate and advance the efforts of other women. After all, as the foundation’s chair Anne E. Delaney says, “this isn’t a packed house. It’s a powerhouse.”