We had the good fortune of connecting with Heidi Basch-Harod and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heidi, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
The concept of work-life balance is one that I find myself constantly chasing after and, admittedly, didn’t always recognize a need for.
As a nonprofit leader, the work that I do is not a day job, it is more a lifestyle. There are few moments where something in my environment doesn’t remind of the importance of the work that I do, or that there is more to be done. The work for me is very personal and always feels very urgent. I serve as the Executive Director of Women’s Voices Now, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization using film to drive social change that advances women’s and girls’ rights globally.
At Women’s Voices Now, our aim is to bring attention to the fact that the roles women and girls play on screen — or the lack of roles they play—perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes that keep women and girls from reaching equality throughout the world. As well, the lack of opportunities for women behind the camera — who are telling stories that challenge the status quo on the roles of women and girls — keeps us in this cycle of mis-representation and under-representation. In addition to these many obstacles, stories of women and girls are simply not told or shared enough. If they were, we would be farther along in our quest for the equality of women and girls because more people would understand, have empathy, and outrage for the ongoing injustices that women experience simply because of their gender.
In the context of this pandemic — when domestic violence is on the rise, women are having to remove themselves from the workforce to care for children, and they are being laid off first — this is exactly the time to ramp up the work that I do; in hopes of contributing to the efforts that may help to prevent a major regression in women’s rights.
On the experience of this pandemic and the concept of work-life balance, as the mother of three small children, finding balance, or something resembling this, has been required of me in order to survive. Since March 2020 I think I have come to understand: If I want to enjoy a quality of life, work-life balance is absolutely imperative. Working in the nonprofit industry with the aspiration to make the world a better place, it is very easy to never stop working. Our world is a very broken one and there is much healing that can be contributed to. So there is always another email that can be sent, another person to connect with, another opportunity or resource to share, a strategy to put on paper, and so on. While my work often feels like my entire world, in fact there are other beings in it. There is my husband, my three children, and our home that has served as our refuge and shelter on a level I never could have imagined outside of an experience of quarantine. These too are realms of my work — work that I do with pride and love.
Work makes me feel good and useful, and gives me a sense that things are moving in some direction. When I view all the different spheres of my life as parts of my work, then it’s easier for me to see the need to balance my jobs. Some weeks one job needs more hours, like when my kids have school projects or illnesses, and when piles of laundry need to be folded and put away exactly how and where I want them to be. Other weeks, Women’s Voices Now requires more of my time to complete lengthy planning sessions, website updates, meetings to expand the Women’s Voices Now network, and so on.
I strive to do all of my jobs well, but there is no question: I CAN’T DO IT ALL, ALL THE TIME. The balance, then, comes in learning how to prioritize, to acknowledge my limits, and to constantly check-in with myself. Burn out is always within reach. I’ve had to train myself to recognize the signs and then skillfully reconfigure the balance.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
There are many ways to do good in the world. For me, from my early teens, I felt most drawn toward the struggle for women’s equality. I understood, saw, and experienced that the world and its possibilities are limited, obfuscated, and sometimes just assumed to not be of interest to girls and women. Even when I have drifted away from the focus on women’s rights to some other social justice issue, I always found my way back to the stories and experiences of women within those struggles.
In serving as the executive director of Women’s Voices Now, and developing the organization in partnership with talented and passionate allies in this work, there are many challenges. Spreading awareness on the fact that women’s equality will be out of reach until there is a culture shift in all corners of the globe isn’t an easy mission. It is easy to look at all of the policies, incentive programs, political quotas, and educational opportunities that women have today and draw the conclusion that women’s rights are on the rise. But the statistics on violence against women, and how quickly women are now falling behind after just eight months of a global pandemic tells us otherwise.
How can all of these hard-earned gains so easily disappear in so relatively short a time? Again, it’s a matter of acknowledging a global culture that sees and treats women and girls as less than. Both blatantly and unconsciously (a paradox, I know), we perpetuate gender-based stereotypes that generalize the character and roles of women and girls. In a media-flooded world, these harmful stereotypes are constantly reinforced by the media that we consume. Media, then, is both the problem and the solution!
Unlike in the past, today we have so many choices and access to media outlets and content creators who thoughtfully portray the lived experiences of women and girls. We need to remember that as consumers we have a tremendous amount of power. When we choose to watch and share films, as we do in Women’s Voices Now, that truthfully portray the realities of women and girls (both their triumphs and their struggles), at the same time we are supporting and implementing the much needed culture shift that will result in the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being that for the past six years I’ve been very close to home while having three babies and running a non-profit organization, I don’t get out much, and not much past Redondo Beach, where I live. It is probably one of the better kept secrets of Los Angeles County with a beautiful and clean beach, friendly and independent restaurants and cafes, and cute traditions like a Halloween festival and Holiday parade every year. Save for 2020, and this wild ride of a pandemic that we are living through. But if someone were looking to take it down a level for a week, it would be enjoyable and invigorating to come to this beach city in Greater Los Angeles.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There is no one person that carries Women’s Voices Now entirely. It is a creative and focused work environment in which I have the unique role of facilitating the collaborative processes of the team, our boards, and the many volunteers in the United States and abroad. And I acknowledge with gratitude and humility, the participation of our audiences and beneficiaries who engage with the films and programs we run.
And I wouldn’t be able to messily re-negotiate a work-life balance on a weekly basis without the partnership of my husband, who reminds me to value what I do and to stay committed.