Addressing Inequities: A Top Priority

with Angela Williams of United Way Worldwide

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing racial inequities across the nation, leading some organizations to rethink how they support communities in need of assistance.

Angela Williams recently took the helm at United Way Worldwide, becoming the first Black woman to lead the organization. She joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss UWW’s revitalized agenda through increasing diversity in leadership and prioritizing equity.

Posted on:

Mar 31, 2022

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color highlighted long-standing racial disparities across the nation. With higher case and mortality rates, greater job loss and food insecurity, and persistent barriers to access to health care, Black and Hispanic Americans fared far worse than their peers throughout the pandemic. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. As the nation continues to grapple with the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way Worldwide, the nation's largest nonprofit, has a new CEO and a revitalized agenda aimed at making equity a top priority. Angela Williams is the first African-American woman to lead the organization, and she joins me today to tell us all about it. Angela, thank you so much for being here.

Williams: Thanks, Tetiana. It's a pleasure to be here.

Anderson: So, United Way is, of course, one of the widest-reaching organizations in the nation. Talk to us a little bit about your work. What are your key focus areas?

Williams: United Way Worldwide is comprised of 1,100 local United Ways around the world, operating in more than 40 countries. We are your neighbors. We are the ones that work in community to not only raise funds that we distribute to partner agencies, those that are helping to solve our community needs and coming up with solutions that make life better for individuals, families and the community more broadly. And additionally, United Way's also provide services.

Anderson: And how is the organization able to serve in all these various communities around the world where it actually does have presence? Explain how that works.

Williams: United Way has some tremendous corporate partnerships. For example, we have what is called Ride United. This is a partnership with Lyft to offer individuals a ride to go to a job interview, to get a COVID vaccine, or to just help with transportation for any important life moments that they need assistance with. We also have a relationship with DoorDash for individuals that aren't able to get out of their homes but need food. DoorDash has been delivering food from local food banks to individuals in their homes. So, it is these strong corporate relationships that enable us to do what we do in addition to individual donors and volunteerism. So that's how we, as your neighbors in communities, show up and are able to really assist with coming up with creative solutions.

Anderson: So, you're obviously all about connections. And in the United States, that also means the 211 network, which is integral to that. What is that, and can you share an example of how that works?

Williams: 211 is an amazing system that I hope that everyone knows about. If someone has a need, they can dial 211 and an operator will pick up the phone and assist that individual with that need in connecting them to supports and services. Let me give you a great example. There was a young man, a disabled veteran, whose stipend had been changed and he was unable to make his rent payment. He was on the verge of getting evicted. He dialed 211, and one of our operators was able to connect him through our central Maryland local United Way to get rent payment, and he was able to stay in his home. So those kinds of things are extremely important in a way in which we as partners in local communities can help others. So, if people dial 211 in 96% of the United States, they have coverage and they can speak to one. They may even have a mental health issue or they may have need for food or how to get transportation for a doctor's appointment. In so many important ways, 211 is there to connect with people.

Anderson: At the end of 2021, you took over as the head of United Way Worldwide. You are the first Black woman in this role in the organization's 135-year history. How do you plan to chart a course for the future, and how will your background inform that path?

Williams: I think that that happens in two ways. Number one, bringing to the job my own lived experience as an African-American female. Secondly, I've hired a very diverse executive leadership team, and they also bring their diversity to the table as we lead this wonderful organization into its second century of service. We are about advancing the common good. We want to elevate voices, create solutions for communities, and we're excited to be able to do that. And we want to do so in a way that impacts future generations because that's important. And the last thing I would say is we focus and want to continue to focus on community resiliency. So in that way, I'm really excited to be at the helm of United Way Worldwide and to walk alongside some great leaders in local communities, as well as my own team.

Anderson: And, Angela, I know that people are going to have questions. They're going to want to know more. What's your website? Where should they go?

Williams: Our website is www.unitedway.org.

Anderson: Angela Williams of United Way Worldwide, thank you so much for being here.

Williams: Thank you, Tetiana. It's been a pleasure.

Anderson: And thanks to you as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson. ♪♪

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