The first time I fell in love it was with a girl in India, just a little younger than me with a smile that could light up a room. I was 8 years old, and for only $1 per day I could help her get clothes and shoes, three meals a day, and a backpack for school. $1 per day was more than my allowance, but if I recruited my friends and classmates, and maybe a few adults, together we could change her life. It was my first lesson in the “power of us.”
My first love – and that early lesson in connectedness and empowerment – became the spark for my educational and career choices. I completed a degree and certification in nonprofit management and have helped start three nonprofits over the past 17 years. My passions have revolved around connection and relationships — helping nonprofits find the resources they need to change lives, and trying to empower girls and women to be the world they want to see. For many of us, there is not before us a well-worn, trustworthy path that would lead us to success in our professional and personal lives AS WOMEN. We have been privileged enough to be born into a society that is open to our progress in many arenas: a world that often embraces our creativity, follows our leadership, and considers our ideas. Those women who went before us in the women’s liberation movements paid the price for allowing us the choice of having careers, and taking part in the great balancing act that is being a wife, a mother, a friend, and a boss all at the same time.
But, as Leora Tanenbaum writes:
“We are caught in a threshold between two paradigms, the old and the new…In the workplace: We need to compete like a man to get ahead. And yet: it’s important for women to share, to be cooperative, and to be nice – otherwise we are evil witches.
What about the source of our identity? Becoming a full-time wife and mother is a woman’s finest achievement, we have been taught. But at the same time we know: a woman needs a career to pay the bills and to feel fulfilled, regardless of marital and parental status.
With all these mixed messages, women are in perpetual vertigo – no matter which path we choose, we are going against something deeply ingrained in us, against a path that many other women we know are following, a path our mothers may have followed, even against a path that we may have followed ourselves in the past.”
These paradigms are what brought Girlforce into existence. As I sat one afternoon with four close friends, bemoaning the difficulties of juggling work and home, being a boss and being a mom, creating memories for my children and still squeezing in some work time while they napped on a Saturday afternoon, not to mention taking time for myself (I hadn’t had my eyebrows waxed in weeks, my best friend pointed out), trying to maintain romance in my relationship, and finishing my masters, I anguished, “I wish I knew how to do this. I wish there was someone who had been there and could say ‘this is what worked for me.’ I wish we didn’t have to figure all this out on our own, and I wish I could tell other women who are feeling the way I am that they don’t have to go it alone and that I have faced some of their same challenges.”
In that moment, the spirit of Girlforce was born. What if there was a place where we could not only be mentored, but mentor others? Where women could come together and share their experience, and help each other learn, grow, succeed, and achieve. What if relationships were considered important metrics of success? And what if we could band together and join forces to impact our community and the world?
Girlforce was established in September 2013 as a group in the Power of Us Hub. The Power of Us Hub gave us a wonderful gift – the foundation and support we needed to address some of the issues women in nonprofit technology face. It gave us an opportunity to relate to one another, to learn from one another, and to help each other connect and grow. A year and a half later, we have seen some success. We have over 1000 members in our group in the Power of Us Hub. We have completed 8 certification study groups. Dozens of women have been mentored. Hundreds have collaborated. We have worked together on a project pro-bono for a nonprofit. We have shared hugs and laughs at events in San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin. We have provided hundreds of answers, and countless words of advice and support. We have commiserated with each other, and have celebrated each other’s victories. We have grown. Hell, we have CONQUERED!
Our goal at Girlforce is to create a safe and supportive environment where women can, in the words of Oprah, “BE WHO THEY ARE.”
Our idea is to change our world one person at a time. We all have something to teach, we all have something to learn. No matter what our path, there has been someone who has walked a similar story.
Our mission is to empower nonprofit women in Salesforce to be fearless leaders in technology.
Our vision is to see women in nonprofits becoming Salesforce Certified, mentored, and advancing their personal and professional lives. We want to see Girlforce members impacting their communities, giving back to the greater good, hearing and being heard. Our vision is to be a part of each other’s stories.
We believe we can accomplish our dreams. We believe impossible dreams can happen. We have hands to reach out and pull others up. Join us. #WeAreGirlforce
About Joni Martin
Joni Martin is a nonprofit advocate committed to building the capacity of nonprofits through technology. Joni has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Service Leadership and Management with a certificate in Nonprofit Management and Community Organization. She is the Dallas Chapter Leader for NTEN and serves on the board of the Nourish Collective. She has her dream job serving as a Salesforce consultant for nonprofits. She works remotely for Now IT Matters, changing the world from her back porch on nice weather days. It doesn’t get much better than that.