Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Solutionary Women: Nancy Gruver

I was thrilled when Catherine Conover, the Assistant Managing Editor & Communications Coordinator for New Moon magazine, contacted me and suggested that Nancy Gruver, the founder of New Moon, would be a great Solutionary Woman to interview. Nancy is also the Executive Director of the nonprofit Dads and Daughters and the author of How To Say It To Girls.

Describe the work that Dads and Daughters does.

DADs makes the world safe and fair for our daughters. We do this in 3 primary ways: 1. resources, toolkits, tips and inspiration for fathers and stepfathers of girls on our website (our new site will launch in July); 2. Daughters: For Parents of Girls – the only bi-monthly publication for parents of pre-adolescent and adolescent girls; 3. See Jane, our program which is improving gender portrayals in children’s entertainment.

How did you get involved with Dads and Daughters?

It was founded by two fathers – Michael Kieschnick and Joe Kelly. Joe is my husband and so I got to make lots of suggestions at the beginning. In 2002, DADs asked me to become the Executive Director.

What do you enjoy the most about your work with Dads and Daughters?

I love working with men who use their influence and resources to make the world safe and fair for girls. And I love seeing how doing that enriches their relationships with their own daughters.

What is the biggest challenge in your work with Dads and Daughters?

Raising the funds to reach as many people as possible. Our staff is very small and efficient so our budget isn’t huge, but raising the money is constantly on my mind and my to do list.

How do you know you are making a difference?

We get stories from dads, moms and daughters telling us how our website and our Daughters publication have helped them. With See Jane, we are getting endorsements and action from the entertainment industry in response to our research and advocacy.

What keeps you motivated and inspired to do the work?

Hearing from fathers and stepfathers how they are changed by having a daughter and how much they appreciate and value those changes in themselves. Hearing from girls and women how much it means to be respected, valued and listened to by their fathers and stepfathers. Witnessing the “Aha moment” that fathers and stepfathers have when they look at the world through girls’ eyes and see sexism, inequity and unfair limits placed on girls and women.

What inspired you to start New Moon?

I was looking for ways to help my twin daughters have a better experience than I did in adolescence when I got the idea to create a magazine by and for girls. The first thing I did was talk to my daughters, who were 11 at the time, to see if they were interested, because I wanted us to work on the magazine together. Although I knew adults would be involved, I wanted New Moon to express girls’ voices and dreams and ambitions, rather than adult goals for them. That’s why we created a Girls Editorial Board to make the editorial choices.

What is the biggest change you've seen in girls as readers, as the magazine's audience, and in general over the past 13 years?

Girls still face a lot of the same challenges they faced 13 years ago. Much of the media aimed at girls gives them mixed messages about “empowerment” by implying it can be attained by buying certain products. And girls still get strong, harmful media messages that how they look is more important that who they are or what they do. But in general, today’s girls have more opportunities than they did 13 years ago in areas like sports and education. They benefit from our society’s increased awareness and acceptance of girls’ abilities in areas like academics, sports, and politics.

Your for-profit work with New Moon, and non-profit work with Dads and Daughters both work to make girls' lives better. For people who are trying to decide whether to start a nonprofit, or a company to create positive change, what advice would you give them?

First, hone your passion and mission to get really clear what you want to do. Then, look at the pros and cons of using both a non-profit and a for-profit to achieve your long-term goals. In the case of New Moon, I wanted to make it accountable to the girl editors and subscribers, not to grantors or to advertisers. In the case of DADs a non-profit structure seemed to fit the mission best.

If you know a Solutionary Woman who works at a nonprofit or NGO who you think I should profile, please email me at britt at brittbravo dot com with their name, organization and contact info.

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