Q & A: Remembering women during Women’s History Month

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The Women’s Fund of Central Indiana celebrates and uplifts women both during and outside of Women’s History Month.  

As March comes to a close, the Recorder sat down with Tamara Winfrey-Harris, the president of the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, to discuss the state of women and girls in Indiana and her hopes for future generations. 

Q: You spent your first year at the helm of the Women’s Fund listening to community and stakeholder feedback. What, if anything, surprised you? What did you learn? 

Winfrey-Harris: I don’t know whether anything really surprised me. There’s probably never been a time when women have been more powerful and had access to more opportunity right now. But also, we are exceptionally vulnerable right now as well. If you look at the status of women in states and the report card that they do, Indiana has a D minus… Our question was, what do we need to do to serve a community of women and girls now to be relevant today? People told us a few things. A big one is that they wanted us to be bolder and speak up more about women’s issues. They told us that the areas that women said were priorities were health, and underneath health, the things they were most concerned about were reproductive health care, access to reproductive health care, infant and maternal mortality, and mental health — especially the mental health of girls and women — economic mobility, career development, and personal safety and intimate partner violence.  

Q: How do you respond to people that feel like gender-focused initiatives are exclusionary or discriminatory? 

Winfrey-Harris: Women are more than half of the population. So, any place, any space, any decision-making space where we do not represent at least 50%, is a space that’s not working, and it’s not serving the community. It’s not exclusionary today that we are a significant part of the community, and we want a community that works for women and girls. Until it does, until it works equally to women and girls, then it’s not working. 

Q: As an author, much of your work is in uplifting the voices of girls and women. How have you been impacted by their stories and experiences? 

Winfrey-Harris: I am never more inspired than when I’m in a room with other women, and fortunately, because of my new role during Women’s History Month, I get to be in rooms with a lot of them, and it continues to amaze me all that we have done and achieved even when we know we have inequitable experiences. Even when we know we don’t get paid enough. Even when we don’t have the access to reproductive health care that we need. Even despite the glass ceilings that we hit, like in all of those areas, women are still doing wonderful things. It makes me hopeful with what we might be able to do if indeed we were supported in the way we should be. 

Q: What motivates you to continue this work? What gets you out of bed each morning? 

Winfrey-Harris: I was gonna say caffeine. I want future generations of women to have an easier time than — I’m a gen Xer — so I want them to have an easier time than my generation had and then the one after that to have an even easier time. I don’t want to see us slipping backwards so we’re fighting the same fights that our mothers thought that they had won, and our grandmothers thought that they had won. I want us to be able to be great, and our families to be great and so until I feel comfortable that they will be, then I still have work to do. 

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Q: Whether past or present, who are some of the people here that are having a positive influence on girls? What makes their work stand out? 

Winfrey-Harris: I would love to give a shout out to all of the women who are running women and girls serving organizations, who are like I said, are often under supported, under resourced and the wonderful work that they’re doing, whether they’re larger organizations like you know the Girl Coalition and Girl Scouts, Women for Change just welcomed a fantastic new leader in Angie Carr Klitzsch. Then you have the smaller grassroots organizations that are working really, really hard. In like A Seat at the Table and the Centers for Wellness for Urban Women. Chris Paulsen at IYG who’s doing amazing work for the LGBTQ community, helping women, trans women and non-binary persons, like all of those women that I get to see and interact with on a regular basis inspire me and make me feel confident that we’re going to be okay. 

Q: How can people better support women and girls and women and girls serving organizations? 

Winfrey-Harris: I would say two things and one is listen. Listen to women. No one knows what we need and understands our experiences better than we do. Of late, people spend some time talking about our issues and talking and not listening to us, which is one of the reasons why we think it’s important to have the State of Women in Central Indiana report so we can actually shape what needs to be done.  

And I would say number two is as the people who are reading this think about how they use their time, talent and treasure to consider serving organizations because … we get very little of all around philanthropic giving. When you think about how you want to use your dollars, where you want to volunteer, how you want to use your time, think of women and girls serving organizations and put some attention there and on their specific needs. I think those are two things that would make a tremendous change — also vote. 

Q: As we round out Women’s History Month, is there a piece of advice, knowledge or inspiration you’d like to share? 

Winfrey-Harris: Don’t forget about us. I feel the same way at the end of Black History Month. I am a woman 365 days a year, and African American 365 days a year. We give women and girls all of this in one month of the year. But again, we are more than half of the population, not just locally, but globally and regionally. So don’t forget us, don’t make this a 30-31-day thing. Make this an all-year thing realizing that women and girls are an important part of our community. 

For more information about the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, visit, womensfund.org. 

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 3170762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.