An Interview with Leah Fox-Greenberg, Director of Operations & Development, Junior League of Memphis
Through the local collaborative efforts of Stand Beside Her Memphis, many women and girl serving organizations have come together to strategically tackle key issues that disproportionately affect girls and women. Through this collaboration, many amazing organizations have joined, taking a seat at the table. With shared values of propelling women and girls forward, we are excited to highlight Leah Fox-Greenberg, Director of Operations &Development at Junior league of Memphis. To quote from the organization’s vision, the Junior League of Memphis puts a “focus on the development of the potential of women. We believe women are change agents in the community, and perceives women as catalysts for lasting change in the Mid-South.”
What does it mean to you to develop the potential of women?
I have a renewed engagement and respect for developing the potential of women from my work with Junior League of Memphis (JLM). At JLM, when we talk about community development and support, many automatically think of donating money. Donating money is important, but it isn’t everything. I believe what we do is more integral towards benefitting the city than just donating money. We believe time, what a person does in their hours before, after work, or whenever they can, is just as valuable as the dollars they spend. We focus extensively on most effectively utilizing our members’ talents. We look at their strengths and where they have potential to grow. We will sometimes ask them to step out of their comfort zone because we want to give them the chance to learn and grow. We see empowering women more than just in training but also getting these women out of their comfort zone. Giving them experiences they wouldn’t normally experience in day to day life. We have found this makes for a more well-rounded and active person in our community.
Who has been influential in developing you?
It takes a village! I had a mother and father who were both social workers who believed in and loved working in the nonprofit world. My mother ran an organization called Operation Action – She was a geriatric social worker. My father was an activist in many ways. He was on boards of several organizations – developing the Playhouse on the Square, the Jewish Community Center, and more! All this to say, nonprofit has always been in my blood. It was no shock when I began development work in Chicago and eventually here in Memphis. Along the way, beyond the support of my parents, I’ve realized I need both mentors and colleagues. June West from Memphis Heritage and Kevin Dean from the Alliance of Nonprofits are a couple I’d like to shout out. I am the first to say I don’t know everything. I will often call other executive directors and nonprofit professionals for guidance and often receive calls from others. That’s what’s so great about Memphis. Our community is focused on collaboration.
What are ways women can support developing the potential of other women?
You don’t have to be in my position or on the board to affect someone’s life. It is easier than that. It could be something simple like a random act of kindness. I’m a cook – so make them a lasagna! Beyond that, be the connector. You may not be able to solve every problem, but connecting others to the right services and supporting them along the way can be just as impactful. It’s not about the amount of money you have. Being a connector is more. At the heart, that’s what Junior League is as well. Through Junior League, you become a connector within your community. It’s the easiest way to help other women rise.
What drew you to Stand Beside Her?
The power of these women organizations. The mission of Stand Beside Her Memphis is synonymous with everything we try to do at Junior League through our programming. I love the collaborative efforts of Stand Beside Her Memphis. In other cities I’ve worked in, the first thing nonprofits will do is say, “Oh gosh, you’re trying to come after our donor dollars!” That’s not what we are trying to do at all. We are trying to be a resource for all women and girls. If you are in this city to help women and help girls, how can you say no to that? It can be so easy to ignore the issues at hand. As women, we need to bring up the issues like poverty and education and not hide from them. It takes great women organizations to start that conversation and begin making change. If we are not going to do it, who’s going to?
What is Your Stand Beside Her Story – something that inspired you to support women?
The first job I had out of college was in the correspondence office of Governor Sundquist. I was one of very few women. I began noticing little issues here and there. Some of them because I am a woman. Others from being Jewish in the South. And just being different. I’m 6 feet tall. I didn’t go to a major state school in the south. I went to school in the Midwest. I’ve always been a little bit different. A little bit loud. A little bit mouthy. As my mother would say, “You’re very out there, Leah. You may want to tone it down.” Fast forward to working in an all-woman organization, I realized, I don’t have to tone it down. There are a lot like me out there. We are all amazing professional women. So often women are told to tone it down. I’m done with it. I think a lot of us are done with it. This is why I love Girl Scouts. I get to be a Brownie Troop Leader and see my daughter learn through Girl Scouts and through powerful female teachers that she doesn’t have to tone it down. If we can keep that up, we can truly make change in our culture. I’m not saying you don’t have to follow the rules, but I believe you can make some of the rules. I believe women can be advocates for themselves and for others! We are finally getting to a point where women feel okay to be the loud voice. I see it in my daughter. I see it in Junior League. It’s okay to be that person who doesn’t tone it down. When I graduated college and first joined the work force, I felt the need to be demure and watch what I say. Thank goodness this is changing. Speak up, speak out! That’s really what Stand Beside Her is about. It’s about community involvement and empowering women. The more we can get that out there, the better the entire city will be. I firmly believe that women are going to be the change agents. It’s not going to be city council. It is going to be our local organizations. Most of them are run by women. That’s who is going to make change. By bringing them together, this will make it happen faster.