Interview with Cathy Cloninger, vice chair emerita of Re:Gender

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Anne McPherson

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Kathy Cloninger, vice chair emerita of Re:Gender and an advocate for the recent merger, spoke with ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou, reflecting on the importance of the merger in preserving Re:Gender’s legacy and why research is crucial to securing lasting change for women and girls.

Sarah Degnan Kambou: The National Council for Research on Women, now known as Re:Gender, played a significant role in framing a women’s agenda in the United States by providing important data on the status of women living in the U.S. From among its many research initiatives, which do you consider to be Re:Gender’s most influential and why?

Kathy Cloninger: My involvement in the National Council for Research on Women and Re:Gender spans decades,  and there are many pivotal research initiatives that have contributed to an impressive body of work on understanding women and girl issues. In my professional life as CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, the Girls Report published a decade ago, was a transformational call to action for public and private sectors to tackle the serious issues facing girls development. The Report focused national attention on girls’ health, gender identity, adolescent and economic realities; and provided data to make a case that girls’ development was critical to national economic success. This report galvanized youth development professionals and policy makers to raise the national conversation and advocacy for girls’ wellbeing.

The Re:Gender Board took the bold move of merging with ICRW to elevate its research and policy agenda to a global platform and to promote healthy consolidation in a crowded sector. What would your advice be to other women’s organizations who are considering how best to secure their legacy?

The board members and staff are proud of the successful merger of our two organizations, recognizing that this was the most powerful way to serve our dual missions. Mergers may not always be the right solution in deciding how best to allocate precious (and often scarce) resources, but successful organizations need to continuously scan the environment to see who is doing similar work, who is best in their specific mission area, and learn from others’ best practices. An ongoing scan of this nature can be helpful in determining who are likely collaborators, advisors or partners.  And the board and staff need to always ask “what difference are we making” and “what do we uniquely add” to the broader mission of women’s and girls’ gender equality. Answering these questions can lead to bold strategies, and sometimes deciding that there is strength in a well-positioned merger!

As a new administration prepares to enter the White House, what issue would you prioritize for the ongoing U.S. agenda for women and gender equality?

It is imperative to create a world where women are valued equally and that leadership is seen as a multi-layered, multi-gendered. We need both women and men in leadership roles to tackle the global issues of poverty, racial and gender discrimination and to secure peace and prosperity for all.