Attorney and women’s rights activist Fatima Goss Graves is president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, a legal advocacy organization fighting for gender justice, especially for those who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women of color, LGBTQ people, and low-income women and families.
Goss Graves is also co-founder of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which helps connect workers with lawyers who can help pursue justice in cases of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and related retaliation. She credits her family’s activism in the civil rights movement as the inspiration for her own trajectory to become the first lawyer in her family and an advocate for human rights and equality.
“I’m the first lawyer in my family. But I think I knew pretty early that I wanted to use the law for good. I grew up learning about the law through the stories of my father’s family, where they took on Knoxville, Tennessee, public schools successfully to desegregate them,” she says. “I’m excited that I’m able to bring a legal hat and an advocate hat to my work in a rich and vibrant movement that is reenergized and driving meaningful change for women in this country. ”
Goss Graves finds inspiration in seeing teenage activists exercise their power and shares her vision of a future in which women and girls enjoy full equality.
“I’m probably most excited and inspired by our younger activists, the high school-age black girls in Washington, DC, who we worked with to co-author a report that detailed the discriminatory dress code policies that DC had. They not only pushed the DC city council to change that law effectively, they then began negotiating directly with their schools for new plans that actually respected them. Equality, in my mind, really is that vision for women and girls to live and learn and work and really be who they want to be.”
Goss Graves is part of the #FutureIsHers multimedia series of interviews, essays, and more, celebrating the innovators, risk-takers, and change-makers the Ford Foundation has proudly supported and the impact they’ve had on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Despite the many challenges women and girls face, around the world they’re rising up. Determined and persistent, they’re leading the way in showing us what gender justice looks like, disrupting inequality and creating a world where social change is possible: The future is hers.