The Journal Gazette
 
 
Monday, September 27, 2021 1:00 am

Five questions for Cassie Beer

Director, Women's Fund, Community Foundation

1 You are the first full-time director of the Women's Fund for the Community Foundation. What will your new position entail?

 As the Women's Fund director, my role will involve working alongside our advisory chair and committees to develop the strategic vision for the fund under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. Implementing that plan focuses on research, education and advocacy priorities, which our initial study identified as economic security, young women and girls, and personal safety. My role is to facilitate the convening of voices and the collaboration of experts in our community to evaluate, reflect and adapt solutions to create a more just and equitable community for Greater Fort Wayne's women and girls.

 

2 Why was the job appealing to you?

The first answer is that I am a woman, and I have a daughter. I want a better world for her. The other reason is that I am a big believer in systems-level change. In my experience as the parent of a son with disabilities, I have seen that it is often societal norms, institutional barriers and structural inadequacies that keep him from experiencing the world in a more equitable and inclusive way: not that he is somehow broken or incomplete. If he cannot access a building because it only has a staircase and not a ramp, is he poorly designed or is the building?

I believe the same kind of questions and approaches can help us evaluate the current state of women and girls in Allen County. We know the women and girls of Greater Fort Wayne are resilient, educated and are active in the workforce. So if women are experiencing higher rates of crime, if our girls report higher levels of depression and anxiety, if we are still being paid an average of $15,950 less than our male counterparts, where is the system failing? Where in the cycle are we failing to provide support, encourage collaboration or missing an opportunity to educate? And, most importantly, what can we do about it? These are the questions that motivate me to get to work every day.

 

3 Why is a special focus on women's issues necessary in Allen County?

The last comprehensive study of Allen County women and girls was completed in 1974. We think more than 45 years is too long to go without assessing the well-being of more than half of our population.

Just the data from our initial study showing that one in three women in our county is a victim of domestic violence, higher than the national average of one in four, should be reason enough to focus on women's issues.

If we can move the needle to improve the economic security, personal safety and quality of life for women in Allen County, it will have ripple effects not just on individuals but the greater community as a whole.

 

4 What have you learned about the reasons women are supporting the Women's Fund?

The reasons for supporting the fund are unique from member to member, yet they are all deeply personal. One of my favorite parts of transitioning into this new role has been the opportunity to hear the “why” behind so many memberships: wanting a better future for a daughter, in honor of a sister who survived domestic abuse, being paid less than a man at every job. And it's not just been women supporting the fund! Many people have given to memorialize a loved one or because they believe in a brighter future for the women and girls of Greater Fort Wayne. The common thread has been wanting to play an active role in shaping a more just and equitable community, and that's what gets me excited.

 

5 You are also a singer and songwriter, with the band Rosalind & the Way. Are there common threads with your new role?

Storytelling. I've always written songs about the people and experiences that have most impacted and moved me, and I see this role very similarly. I just get to use my voice in a slightly different way and in new places, amplifying the stories our community needs to hear to empower us to take action.

One of my favorite songs to have written is called “Move On,” and the lyrics talk about standing in the middle of our city, looking out at the faces of people I know and promising to use my powers for good. If I was choosing a personal anthem for the work ahead, those words would be it.

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