Women seeking feminist 

Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development (WORD), a feminist nonprofit with a mission to empower women, is on the hunt for an executive director. Although the organization is 17 years old, the new ED will be its first.

“Given the changes in the funding climate,” says Naomi Thornton, management team coordinator, “we really feel that this is a time when the organization needs a strong person out in front.”

WORD has never been structured as a “top-down” organization with one person at the helm. Instead, it has been led by a management team—one representative from each of its five programs—and a board of directors.

Hiring a single point person will be a management model about-face.

Last September, says Thornton, WORD lost a federal grant that had funded it (in partnership with other statewide programs) to the tune of $400,000 annually for the six previous years—“quite a large portion” of WORD’s overall budget, Thornton says. About half of those funds had stayed in Missoula. A strategic planning process was already underway at WORD, and the loss of funds only heightened the need for reorganization.

“We’ve been very, very strong at the project level,” says Thornton. The organization, however, lacked a single, central spokesperson, she says.

Betsy Hands, homeWORD’s community outreach coordinator, was a proponent of hiring an ED. “I saw project directors being overworked,” says Hands. Project directors lead their respective programs and also serve on the management team.

Hands and Stacey Ryan, president of the board, don’t seem overly concerned that an incoming traditional management structure will ultimately change WORD’s feminist culture.

“I think that totally depends on the person,” says Ryan.

She has seen traditional management models with inclusive directors. An evaluation process structured to solicit input from all areas of the organization is also in place.

The search for an ED is not limited to females, but WORD’s board, says Ryan, is currently all-female. Part of the purpose of WORD, says Judy Smith, one of the founders, is to show that women are good, competent leaders. (Smith herself prefers a non-hierarchical management model.) A male ED, she says, would have to be a “pretty unique person.”

“I always like to say that men are feminists, too,” says Hands.

Presently, even “feminist” male infiltration seems unlikely.

“So far,” says Thornton, “all of our applicants are women.”

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