Tell us who you are!
My name is Jen Wohl. I have over 20 years of nonprofit expertise, and leadership in system-level work, strategy development and advocacy, all of which has focused exclusively on creating access and opportunity for the most vulnerable children, families and communities.
As the current Director of Policy and Quality Initiatives at the Early Childhood Professional Development Institute at CUNY, I am responsible for a wide range of leadership, strategic and policy-related activities related to expansion of high-quality early education. I currently lead the development and implementation of many education initiatives, and work with the executive director to clarify, develop, and operationalize our strategic vision and promote organizational effectiveness.
Prior to this, I served as the Executive Director at the Adams Street Foundation, which exclusively serves one low-income public high school in Brooklyn, NY. There I fundraised, led strategic planning for program development, and engaged with a variety of stakeholders. And before that, I served as the Director of the Children Youth & Families Division at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development where I was responsible for taking Insight Center’s Early Care and Education work to scale, both on a statewide and national level.
I have authored a number of seminal reports including The Child Care Economic Impact Report: A Tool for Economic Development, was a featured contributor in the Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, and was also an Editorial Advisory Board Member of the Journal of Children & Poverty. My views have been featured in both the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. I received a B.A. with honors in English from Clark University and a J.D. from St. John’s University.
What does “Social Capital” mean to you?
I think of social capital as the way my networks and social relationships enable me to be the best I can be, both personally and professionally. Personally, without the support of my social relationships, I would never have had the courage to be a single mother by choice – undoubtedly my greatest personal achievement. Professionally, my business networks allowed me to explore new concepts, partnerships and strategies to help low-income people of color. It was through these networks that I was able to create an innovative peer-based learning community of 30+ national leaders to develop and implement strategies linking Early Care & Education to economic development.
What makes you successful in life/current job?
I believe my ability to integrate operational experience with strategic impact have played a significant role in my career development. My experience in strategic planning, and program development, design and management is widespread and on the operational side, I’ve managed budgets overseen financial operations, carried out all HR functions, and fundraised from foundations, corporations, governments and individuals. I also have extensive staff management experience. Finally, partnerships have been key to my professional growth. I’ve enjoyed interacting with various stakeholders — business leaders, government representatives, higher education officials and funders, and philanthropic and nonprofit organizations have sought my consultation in strategic planning, grant making and program planning.
In terms of personal qualities that have hindered by career growth, I would have to say sometimes I get to the heart of the issue without allowing my colleagues enough input. This can limit the impact of your work. I’ve learned over the years that every voice is important and adds value.
What are your aspirations as a 1World Mentor for the 1World Social Capital Program?
My aspirations as a 1World Mentor for the 1World Social Capital Program is to support my mentee professionally with an eye towards providing leadership, insight and support so she can grow and contribute to the extent of his/her abilities. My ideal mentee is someone who is passionate, determined hard-working and compassionate. She should have a sense of humor and a global perspective as well.
Do you believe there is a glass ceiling for young female professionals? If yes, how can we break it?
As for a glass ceiling, having only worked in the nonprofit and government field, I haven’t experienced a glass ceiling as a woman, per se, what I have experienced is a glass ceiling for nonprofit salaries, which translates in devaluing the important work I, and so many others, do every day.