YWCA CEO Shares Insights On Race And Gender Equality

One of the greatest things about being a journalist is that you get to meet some truly extraordinary people. When you interview someone, and get inside their heart and mind, you get a unique opportunity to see who they really are and what they really stand for.

In my 20+ years in the field, I have had the opportunity to meet a vast range of people. From mothers and children who were fighting to survive in Africa, as well as men charged with the responsibility of leading the free world. All leave an impression, yet some truly move and inspire you to do better.

Case in point, Dr. Dara Richardson Heron CEO of the YWCA. I had the honor of meeting Dara several years ago, and have interviewed her on several occasions. Her wisdom, compassion, and brilliance leave an unforgettable impression.

As our country has been forced to take an honest look at blinding power of racism, and our inherent biases around gender, I believe Richardson-Heron's insights are vital to our conversations as we work to move beyond these limiting forces. No surprise, she was happy to share.

(Q) You've almost completed 4 years at as CEO at the YWCA. What has been most surprising?

Richardson-Heron: I am most surprised, and quite frankly, disappointed by the fact that our country and indeed the world has not yet achieved racial, social or gender equity despite the valiant efforts of YWCA's and other iconic organizations who have, for well over a century focused on these vitally important issues.

(Q) When you observe the ways in which this election has lifted the veil on some deeply divergent views on race and gender in this country, where do you think we need to focus in terms of raising awareness about domestic violence, particularly involving people of color.

Richardson-Heron: Despite the seemingly constant conflict we see about civil rights, immigration, and gender-based violence, many can agree that we are experiencing a unique moment in history for these conversations and - hopefully - develop lasting solutions for some of the problems facing women and communities of color. The 24-hour news cycle, social media, and emerging technologies like video streaming have given us not only unprecedented access to information but unprecedented public discourse. Women, communities of color, and advocates for social justice already know about the negative impact of sexism and racism.

At YWCA's across the nation we are working to make the most of this time and push for change, because injustice, violence and inequality are not red or blue issues - they are institutionalized and systemic challenges that impact every community.

(Q) What are some of the major issues you plan to initially engage with the new administration?

Richardson-Heron: The YWCA is the oldest and largest multi-cultural women's organization in the country. We have worked with Congress and presidential administrations for decades to put forth solutions to our nation's most pressing social justice issues. And the coming administration will be no different. We will continue to fight for racial justice and civil rights, empowerment and economic advancement, and health and safety. In each of these areas, we focus on solutions that help women and girls of color.

Solutions that will empower us all.