Supporter Spotlight: Christine Lussier

WOMEN'S WAY
WOMEN’S WAY

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WOMEN’S WAY wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of our staff, Board, committee members, donors, partnering organizations, Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) members, grantees, and community. In our Supporter Spotlight Series, we are highlighting the individuals who have helped shape WOMEN’S WAY into the Greater Philadelphia region’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to advancing gender and racial equity.

For this edition of our Supporter Spotlight Series, we had the opportunity to interview our 45th Annual Celebration Gender Equity Champion, Christine Lussier. Christine will receive the Gender Equity Champion Award on May 18th for her deep commitment to the advancement of women, girls, and gender and racial equity, and her steadfast support of our mission and work at WOMEN’S WAY.

Read on to learn more about Christine and what inspires her most about WOMEN’S WAY!

How did you first get involved with WOMEN’S WAY?

Christine Lussier (CL): I truly believe there was a little bit of serendipity involved. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I would sometimes park down at around 20th and Arch. There was this mural there that was a tribute to WOMEN’S WAY’s 20th Anniversary. I would see it a lot and it made me curious to learn more about the organization. As I learned more, I found WOMEN’S WAY had a mission I could really get behind.

When I was getting married, we wanted to share our wedding gifts with a charity in honor of our marriage. We chose WOMEN’S WAY and that’s how it all started. It wasn’t long after that I was invited to join the WOMEN’S WAY Board where I went on to complete two full terms as a Board Member.

From your perspective, how has WOMEN’S WAY changed over the years?

CL: In my second year on the WOMEN’S WAY Board there was a bit of an organizational crisis, and I was asked to serve on a strategic committee as a result. On this committee, we reached out to communities to see what they wanted, what was still relevant about WOMEN’S WAY, and what a new organizational model could look like that would better serve the community. A lot has changed since then, and it was really exciting to be a part of that change.

Additional exciting changes came to WOMEN’S WAY in 2017 when Diane Cornman-Levy came on board as Chief Disruptor. The Gender Wealth Institute was introduced, for example. I really think the organization is going in the right direction, and I’m very impressed with the leadership at WOMEN’S WAY and how it has evolved over the years.

What is it about WOMEN’S WAY that most inspires you?

CL: I feel very energized by the important work WOMEN’S WAY is doing. We had a meeting recently for the Gender Wealth Institute where we listened to interviews with Financial Coaches from the Financial Coach Training Program and participants from the Change the Narrative Fellowship.

The Financial Coach Training Program strengthens the financial health of women and girls by training service providers in financial coaching, and the Change the Narrative Fellowship is empowering women with lived experiences of economic insecurity to share their stories and inspire change.

It’s really remarkable how these programs are impacting different women and building leadership. Those who participate realize that they can be leaders. I know for a fact that they’re going to be changemakers.

What do you hope to accomplish through your work and support of WOMEN’S WAY?

CL: For me, there has been a change from the original impetus that drove me to get involved with WOMEN’S WAY. The ultimate goal for me is not just to bring women on par with men anymore, it’s to create a better society. To do this, we need to focus more and more on gender, poverty, and economic inequities. We need to address institutions and systems like systemic racism.

We also need to address the impacts of trauma from all of these systems. In my work with yoga, I’m learning about the nervous system. When you learn how trauma works — what people have gone through and how that impacts them- you can’t just say someone should have known better or they should just change their circumstances. It’s not that simple. When you combine what’s happening in the body as a result of trauma plus systemic injury — it can seem hopeless.

But I don’t want it to be hopeless and that’s why I remain committed to WOMEN’S WAY and this work.

Where do you believe WOMEN’S WAY is currently making the largest impact?

CL: I think one area WOMEN’S WAY is currently making a big impact is through their programs to educate people about gender and racial inequities like the Closing the Gender Wealth Gap Series. I also believe the Financial Coach Training Program and Change the Narrative Fellowship are making an incredible impact. This work is not just fluff, not in any way. From grantmaking to education to research to programming, all of the pieces of WOMEN’S WAY fit together and are making a holistic impact in the region.

What about WOMEN’S WAY keeps you motivated and involved?

CL: There is no quick fix to advance gender equity and end poverty. We certainly need people who deal with immediate needs like shelter and food services, but it can’t just be about that. We also need to elevate solutions and empower individuals to become changemakers. WOMEN’S WAY is doing this work. I may not see the full benefits of this work in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working to put up the resources and be a part of this long-term solution.

What do you wish others knew about WOMEN’S WAY?

CL: There is something about WOMEN’S WAY that is so inspiring. That’s why I love bringing people to WOMEN’S WAY events like the Annual Celebration. I wish more people could see the power of what is happening here. There is a need for direct service but what we’re trying to do is create lasting, transformational change. Alleviating someone’s suffering is extremely important and so too is getting to the root of the issue so that there is no more suffering.

There’s so much in the world that distracts us. Whatever it is you want to focus on you should, but what each of us needs to do is truly focus and commit ourselves. It is incumbent for everybody to do their part. In philanthropy, some people think it’s okay to only give to an organization for five years and then go find somewhere else. My question is: why? Certainly, if an organization is not doing good work you should not stay with them, but if they’re making an impact, why should you leave?

Commitment from an organization’s supporters and advocates is so important for organizations to make a life-changing impact. Change takes time and resources. It’s so important that people commit and dedicate themselves to an organization so we can each be a part of that agent of change.

What are your hopes for WOMEN’S WAY?

CL: I hope that, eventually, WOMEN’S WAY has a national presence. I believe that what we are learning needs to be replicated in other cities. I hope we become an example of a successful program that is helping women and families get out of poverty and have better opportunities.

For the long term, I hope WOMEN’S WAY is still here and will continue to adapt to the current needs — exactly as it’s already shown it can successfully do. And, finally, I hope it continues to have great leaders like Diane so that it can continue to thrive, grow, and serve women and families of this community and beyond.

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WOMEN'S WAY
WOMEN’S WAY

WOMEN’S WAY is the Greater Philadelphia region’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of women, girls, and gender equity.