W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Staff Highlight: Jill Zawisza

Jill zawisza

How long have you been working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.? 
As of April 2012, I’ve worked at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. for 5 years.

What do you do at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?
I’m the Executive Director, and that can mean different things at different agencies! At W.O.M.A.N., Inc. it means that I concentrate on helping the agency become cutting edge, and ensuring that the team is at the table when it comes to decision making, agency evolution, and budgetary considerations.

We have symbiotic roles at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. As a front line worker, your job is to advocate for the client. As a manager, your role is to advocate for the team. As an Executive Director, I think your role is to advocate for the agency. If an Executive Director can help ensure that the agency is secure via funding and community engagement, it bolsters everyone’s ability to succeed in their area of focus as well. I’m new to this role, but I’m hoping that I’ll play a part in making everyone’s jobs (relatively) easier!

How did you come into this profession?
When I was a Women’s Studies major in college, I started volunteering at an agency in Ventura County. The agency offered services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault. It just boggled my mind that someone who says they love you one moment could intentionally harm you a moment later. The injustice of it all resonated with me, and I felt compelled to stay a part of this field long after I left school.

What are you looking forward to as W.O.M.A.N., Inc. continues to grow?
As I’ve progressed in this field, I’ve realized that much of our movement focuses in on gender–serving women as the survivor and men as the abusers. Over time, we’ve found that when we are dealing with cisgender, heterosexual couples, that tends to be the case. However, we need to see the issue holistically and understand that domestic violence impacts LGBTQ communities as well. All survivors deserve (physically & emotionally) safe spaces to access services and to be a part of a community that values them. I’m extremely proud of the fact that the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. team is mindful of this. We focus on offering services to all survivors of domestic violence. I’m looking forward to strengthening these efforts at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Our little agency has changed lives, and impacted system change. Working here is exciting, challenging, and extremely gratifying.

What do you enjoy most about working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?
Pretty much everything I do. I even enjoy the things that aren’t inherent strengths of mine. I like leaning into my discomfort, and this new role has offered plenty of opportunities to do so! Otherwise, I really enjoy our team. Words can’t express my gratitude and respect for them as advocates, team members and who they are as individuals. I love using this new role to ensure that they feel supported and heard. One of my favorite parts of working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is enjoying the levity and fun atmosphere. I think people are sometimes shocked at how jovial we are! After 15 plus years doing this work, I’ve found that laughter is part of what keeps me going.

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