Today a Volunteer, Tomorrow a Leader: PLACE NYC

Shannon Edwards

Shannon Edwards

Founder, FromAtoSHE®

The volunteers of PLACE NYC rally for education reform.

It’s so very important for women to stay in the ‘game’ as leaders. Having children, running a household, bringing in income or taking a break; we are masters of multi-tasking. Which is why, even during a pandemic, that has seen women leave the workforce in droves it is inaccurate to suggest we ‘opt-out’. Women leader everywhere, everyday are great example of what this looks like. It’s worth looking around you to find the best examples, so more on PLACE NYC below.

The Volunteer Economy

Women are just 4.8% of the positions on the Fortune 500 and yet of all women in the US, nearly 28% volunteer. This contributes $102 billion of services to the economy (source: 2015 census). And a fierce passion for issues such as elections, our children’s education and pandemic recovery has only made women lead harder.

Women are just 4.8% of the positions on the Fortune 500 and yet of all women in the US, nearly 28% volunteer. This contributes $102 billion of services to the economy (source: 2015 census). And a fierce passion for issues such as elections, our children’s education and pandemic recovery has only made women lead harder.

We conducted a survey of women we knew to understand what was next and definitely volunteering ranked high. The University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy also shared last year historical perspective on how Covid may reshape volunteering. In fact, in our lower Manhattan community, US volunteering reached an all-time high post- 9/11.

The Local Case Study: PLACE NYC

Every community can share insight into how civic involvement, particularly by women, has soared. In our NYC community, there is not only a recovery to work through, but a number of citywide elections and changes in education to consider. And one thing we’ve taken notice of is how women tend to rise to the occasion and get in front of issue that matter to their families.

Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education (PLACE NYC) rose up, pre-pandemic, to advocate for NYC DOE’s Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). The test is used as part of the entrance process to some of the country’s best schools and has been a polarizing issue. Today, the organization advocates for a high quality, challenging education for all kids. But the point here is not the issue itself per se, it’s the commitment of the moms (and dads) involved and leading the organization. But the women, in particular, this type of work can put them in jobs that better resemble CEO roles.

In fact, one of the founders of PLACE NYC, is now running for City Council in New York City; an important, elected role. We spoke with Maud in late 2019 about this ambition (and have not only watched the path play out, but are involved in her campaign now).

And that takes us full circle to the point: women are leading. The are putting in the time, taking the risks and balancing it all with aplomb. Even if they aren’t as well represented in Fortune 500 boardrooms. It’s not one or the other when it comes to influence and outcomes.

Breaking it Down, The Opportunity in Volunteering:

It's a Serious Job: So Approach Accordingly...

Seems like a no-brainer, but believe you me, just as many women signing up to volunteer take it as seriously as they think the world does (and that’s NOT seriously at all). And that’s a clear missed opportunity. From honing management skills (and sometimes it takes pro-level skill to do this) to strengthening finance and marketing gaps, your role is important, and without-a-doubt, so is the organization that needs you. We spoke with non-profit leader, Stien van de Ploeg recently who has a perspective worth reading about. So show up, take it seriously and recognize what these type of opportunities can do for you.

Go Big Or Go Home: Don't Eschew The Top Job

This isn’t to suggest every job isn’t hugely important. But the key here is to not shy away from the big get…if you think you have the chops to lead…then go for the biggest role available to you. You need to believe in yourself and if you think you have the desire, enthusiasm to run, for, say, the PTA or the local Soccer Association, do it. Don’t shy away. And there are big opportunities to be had.

Non-Profits Can Have Large Budgets

Many volunteer organizations, including those related to schools, often generate more revenue than many small businesses. So it’s a big deal. And one that affords you the chance to work on both finance and compliance skills. It’s a significant and rewarding responsibility if there is the opportunity to decide on an organization’s budget allocation.

Public Speaking: PLACE NYC Founder Show How It's Done

Do you like to speak your mind…publicly? Whether it gives you a rush or you rush for the door, consider opportunities that are scary, that put you in front of people, and ultimately help you find your voice. You might be surprised who you are and the power of your influence. As the issues PLACE NYC advocated for became intense, the women in front actually got in front…of cameras. So, again, the opportunities exist.

Consider Running For Office...You Can Do It

As our friend, PLACE NYC co-founder and budding politician, Maud Maron has shown the path to community service can lead in City Hall. While Maud is also a lawyer, it’s the passion illustrated through volunteer education roles that introduced constituents to Maud as a leader. You might be surprised to learn how many PTA presidents actually go on to hold public office.

A spate of articles in 2008 highlighted Sarah Palin’s journey from PTA to city councilwoman to mayor to governor. And she’s not the only one; the much-in-the-news Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was also PTA president before she was a senator. The non-profit civic training ground, the Junior League, also has had its fair share of notable members from Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman elected to U.S. Senate.

So no longer just the butt of jokes about soccer moms or those in the PTA, volunteer leadership roles may just be how we get the next woman to the White House. Today Kamala Harris tomorrow you.