I can be described by those who know me as a reluctant CEO. When Layli (my former boss and Tahirih’s founder and visionary leader for over 25 years) decided she was ready to start on a new journey, I was prepared to do anything I could to help ensure the success of her replacement. I knew the next Tahirih CEO had to be someone who understood its values, culture, and mission execution, and was invested in its success. Turns out, the Board of Directors believed that the person was me!
Though I’d already been at Tahirih for seven years, I recognized that leading the organization would be very different than working for it. Of course, there would the typical learning curve being newly responsible for the organization’s service to its stakeholders: the clients and service seekers we are here to support; the staff who are the organization’s beating heart; and the partners who are invested in our success. I had a lot of questions. What was working well, and what needed improvement? Where can I support those already achieving so much? And how do we know we’re getting it right?
After two years, I’m pleased to say I’ve been impressed by how much we are getting right. We’re closely focused on our mission to serve immigrant women, girls, and other survivors of gender-based violence. We are truly guided by our organizational values, such as a belief in the oneness of our humanity. And we use consultation to make well-informed decisions and strive for transparency in process and outcome.
And still, we’re finding ways to improve upon our already exceptional standard of care and service to those who seek our assistance on their path to safety. After a period of growth to multiple locations, followed by the isolating effect of the pandemic, we’ve been focused on unifying the staff and operations of the organization, knowing that working together will help us to be more efficient. We are driving even stronger commitments to diversity, equity, and staff well-being. And we are deepening and broadening partner relationships to bring all of you closer to our work.
On a personal level, when I accepted this role, I was also well aware of the unique challenges that women of color leaders of non-profits face. Phew! It’s a lot. And this role continues to push me to grow and learn every day. I admit that I struggle with my confidence and self-doubt, which is a vulnerable place to be. But I’m not alone. It is not uncommon for leaders who look like me to struggle with these same issues. I am actively working on my inner voice that reminds me to remain confident in myself, so I can be vulnerable, listen actively, incorporate feedback, and let go of ego and defensiveness. This is required more in my leadership now than ever before. Thank goodness for the amazing people at Tahirih and members of the Board, who keep pushing me; I know we’re in this together, every day.
So, as I reflect on my two years as CEO of Tahirih, I feel incredibly grateful to lead a vibrant, effective, and sustainable organization that continues to make an important mark in survivors’ lives and in the communities around us. Thanks to the brilliant and dedicated people working here, and supporters like you, we’re well on our way.