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Meet Emily Bush, Director of the Vermont Women’s Fund

EmilyBush new director QandA

The mother of four boys under the age of ten, Emily has devoted her career to elevating the lives of women and girls around the country. From working for political candidates to encouraging girls in STEM, she brings her extensive fundraising and changemaking background to the Vermont Women’s Fund as its new director.

Tell us about your path to this position.

I started my career in politics working for female candidates but always knew that I wanted to eventually transition to nonprofit work. One of my initial professional experiences was working for Reshma Saujani–I just love her. I worked on her public advocate race in New York. Following that, I worked at the Clinton Foundation for two years before Hillary Clinton ran for president. At that point, I got back in touch with Reshma and ended up moving to Girls Who Code, the organization she founded, to run individual foundation giving and events.

That was my entrée into a programmatic-focused fundraising role, and it was incredible. Girls Who Code works with middle and high school girls, teaching them technology skills and getting them set up with internships. Following these internships, these girls go out and get incredible tech jobs. Working there was the first time I saw the impact that an organization like that could have. Girls Who Code truly transforms lives.

After my second son was born, I took a few years off and did some consulting–so not really time off. After five years of long commutes and being in the office 9-5, I needed to have more time with my family. During COVID, much of my consulting work dried up and I started to feel inspired to go back to work full-time. I was seeing all these women leaving the workforce to care for their children–what we now call “the great resignation,” and was thinking about the long-term impact that would have. Watching that happen, I realized that I wanted to be back in the workforce full-time, focused on the issues that I’m most passionate about. It just took me a little while to figure out where I fit in.

And you eventually landed at the Women’s Fund. What role do you feel the organization can play in transforming lives for women and girls in Vermont?

There are a number of roles that I think the Women’s Fund can play and that’s something I’m still thinking through. What I can say is that I’m excited about what Meg Smith did with This Way UP. It’s a great opportunity to highlight women entrepreneurs and there are some important takeaways. Women want mentorship opportunities. Women want to connect with each other. There’s a lot of work to be done to continue building on that initiative.

With the Vermont Women’s Fund coming up on its 30th anniversary this year, it feels like an important moment to celebrate its enduring presence as a resource for women and girls and to look ahead, considering the issues and opportunities that are part of the big picture.

Big picture, why is that important?

It goes back to the Vermont Women’s Fund as a changemaking organization. The individual pieces of work are important because we’re thinking about the big picture. Everything ladders up to our larger strategy and mission. I think that movement-building initiatives, like This Way UP, are what will create enduring change for women and girls in the state. We do all these programs and grants to support the bigger mission and represent a bigger community of women and girls. We can highlight the issues that are important to them and where there are inequities in the state. Women and girls in Vermont need to thrive for Vermont to reach its full potential. I feel strongly that we are a voice for them and for the issues that impact them.

What do you see as the biggest areas of opportunity for the Vermont Women’s Fund?

There’s significant opportunity to get people in the southern part of the state more excited about our work. The issues impacting Burlington are often different than the issues that Bennington faces. We need to be looking out for women and girls throughout the state even if that requires hard work and new approaches. Right now, it feels like there are pockets of support, but we know that there is more opportunity out there. In the past, Women’s Fund events have been very successful, and I think people are hungry for more chances to connect in person. This will be just one way for us to expand our reach and to ensure that women feel like their voices are heard and to allow them to become more engaged.

Tell us something about you that I can’t find on your resume or LinkedIn profile.

I lead with being a mom; specifically, a mom of four boys. Women’s issues related to being a mom are close to my heart. Paid leave and childcare and two things I feel in my everyday life. It also feels like an important moment to highlight gender equity, not just for women and girls, but for boys too. It’s so important. It’s just not a great time to be a woman in America and it’s important for everyone to be part of that conversation.

I’ve been looking for a long time for something in my field that felt permanent, something where I could give back to my community. That was a big motivator for us moving back here. I went to UVM. I like to hike, mountain bike, and ski. We came back to Vermont during COVID-19 to live with my parents and bought a house in Manchester two years ago. Our boys are eight, seven, five, and three months old. They have spent more of their lives here than not. I’m so happy to be here.