Leadership in COVID19 — Getting Proximate

5 min readMay 20, 2020

Recently during a Facetime call, the person I was chatting with let out the fact that her pandemic life was in-fact pretty great. She is used to working from home, her pandemic-proof business is booming, and the ‘extra’ time has given way to cooking big, indulgent meals. Living in an affluent suburb with big homes, perfectly manicured lawns, and broad sidewalks, she said: “I’m sure someone is suffering, but I just don’t see it.

I few weeks prior a colleague wanted tips on approaching her boss who was asking women on the team to “be honest about their hours” and take a pay cut if they couldn’t swing a full 40-hours a week. Pre-pandemic expectations held, regardless of their new household and homeschool responsibilities.

Yesterday Inside Philanthropy published NoVo Foundation’s pandemic response — ending multi-year funding, reviewing every one of its current grants, and letting a full program team go amid the pandemic. The response from the philanthropic community was swift, with experts saying that the foundation is “doing literally the opposite of what all equitable, trust-based, decolonizing philanthropic practices tell us is right in this moment of crisis, by divesting from the lives and safety of women, girls and GNC youth of color, while whitesplaining the stock market… I’m no expert, but I hear,We are making a choice to maintain our wealth, rather than move money.’”

What would be possible if leaders, decision-makers, and those with wealth could get closer to the issues, and more proximate to the people being affected? You can’t solve, what you can’t see.

During this moment of chaos, I’ve been exploring identities — wrestling with the unequal risks and impact of COVID-19, and in it, seeing an opportunity to build a new normal with clients, collaborators, and community. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this time is that we need to get closer to the ground.

Because of social dynamics and historical factors — where we live, go to university (or not), and our professions — we have limited access to those whose identities are different.

For instance, in the current COVID19 moment, some of us live in neighborhoods with well-stocked grocery stores and easy access to a range of nutritious foods, while being fully aware that large portions of urban areas are looking at food shortages, and miles-long lines at food banks.


Dreamer, Do-er, Dissent-er // All things women and girls, equity and innovation Co-Founder @futurefor_us & Moving Beyond