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Women Who Inspire Change: Joanne N. Smith
When I realized I would be twenty minutes late to the interview, I almost turned around and went home. Why would someone hire a me as a community organizer when I hadn't lived in New York City long enough to get the timing right on the subway? Fortunately, I stuck it out anyway, apologizing profusely for my transit bumble. That's how I learned Joanne Smith isn't a stickler for being on time, and the next day I was offered the position at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE).
Working with Joanne changed my life, and not in that fluffy, abstract kind of way either. She and I worked side-by-side—when I say 'side-by-side' I mean that quite literally—every day for five years. Then, because we apparently can't get enough of each other, we co-wrote a book during the following two. This time we were living on opposite sides of the globe.
Anyone who has built a lasting partnership can tell you that making it work ain't easy. You have to negotiate things like dissimilar styles and sensibilities, time constraints, competing interests, and differing opinions about the best way to move a project forward. But the rapport Joanne and I developed through the years made our working relationship an enormously enjoyable and instructive experience. She was the boss who became my mentor, and now she is my friend.
It is fitting that I express my admiration Joanne on International Women's Day. A Haitian American feminist and staunch advocate for the rights of girls and women, Joanne's dedication to social justice has touched the lives of many. She is an inspirational woman from whom I have gained the strength, insight, courage, and support to positively impact the lives of others. She makes sure I remember to prioritize self-care and checks me when I fail to act with humility.
Growing up in a house full of women, I learned how powerful we can all be when we confront a common threat. I owe Joanne so much gratitude for looking beyond my transit-induced tardiness and including me in the crucial work she and others are doing at GGE. Her compassionate courage makes every day less of a struggle, not only for me, but for all girls and women.