Diane Cornman-Levy: Chief Disruptor at WOMEN’S WAY

Interview originally published on May 15, 2023, in Be-Roll News as a part of the “Dream Job Alert” segment.

WOMEN’S WAY is dedicated to leveling the racial and gender playing field by educating people on inequities, creating solutions that address root causes of oppression, challenging harmful narratives, and investing in women entrepreneurs. WOMEN’S WAY brings women’s voices to the forefront and provides direct, impactful support that leads to lasting change.

What does a Chief Disruptor’s job entail?

WOMEN’S WAY is all about advancing racial and gender equity and addressing the root causes. We are disrupting systems that are grounded in oppression and intentionally causing harm to marginalized communities. Our work attempts to bring us to a point of equity where all women can thrive and experience freedom. “Chief Disrupter” seemed like a fitting title since I am working to disrupt and dismantle the systems that cause inequity. This work gives me hope for our country and allows me to work with people from all walks of life who want to make this world a better place where everyone is heard, seen, and valued.

What is WOMEN’S WAY’s strategy for advancing women’s rights?

We do a lot of education because people have to understand what the gender wealth gap is and its historical and root causes. If you don’t know how something was built, it’s hard to know how to fix it. We’re intentional about teaching from an intersectional perspective and centering women with lived experiences. It’s vital to hear their stories and solutions since they are most impacted by exploitation and inequities. Everything we do involves collective action and collaboration to drive learning and strategy. Mobilization is the next key piece— we have to mobilize people to take action and raise money to invest in potential solutions. We tell funders where their money should go based on what we learn from those impacted by injustices.

What do some of these potential solutions look like?

A big part of it is narrative change. We know what we have to do to promote equity in this country, but we lack the will to make it happen. The mental models of decision-makers are shaped by narratives about women that are stereotypical, harmful, and untrue. We challenge those dominant, oppressive narratives and replace them with stories of the resilience and brilliance of women and sharing the history of how these inequities developed. Narratives have a lot of power over how people understand the world, and we want women to use their stories to create change. Another critical piece is providing financial coaching for women that addresses hidden barriers like gender norms, domestic violence, and economic abuse.

Can you tell me about your work with entrepreneurs?

There are a lot of inequities in entrepreneurship, which many people think of as the way out of poverty. The fastest growing entrepreneurs in this county are black and brown women, but they get less than 1% of venture capital funding. They don’t have access to wealthy friends and family to jump-start their businesses. We are disrupting that system with our investment fund, which drives pre-seed capital to women of color entrepreneurs. We use a blended capital approach, meaning that we can provide a grant, a loan, or an equity investment depending on individual needs. The investment fund has transformed lives and businesses, and we’re continuing to raise money for the cause.

Link to the original interview here.