Key Hires to Advance Women’s Equity Initiatives and Deepen Reach into Alabama Communities

Today, Women’s Foundation of Alabama (WFA) announced the arrival of three new leaders to support the organization’s statewide expansion and bolster its mission to accelerate economic opportunity for women across Alabama. The cast of industry experts includes Zhaundra C. Jones, MBA, Vice President, Philanthropy and Learning, Blakely O’Connor, Ph.D., Research and Development, and Bryna Reid, MBA Director of Communications.

With the strategic growth of its team and operations, WFA aims to extend its impact and work deeper into Alabama’s communities, with a focus on reinforcing its grantmaking, research and advocacy pillars.

“I came to this organization four short years ago with a vision of building the most powerful philanthropic and leadership voice for women that Alabama has ever seen. Backed by a dynamic Board, team, and supporters, we set out to reach new heights,” said Melanie R. Bridgeforth, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama. “Expanding the talent structure of Women’s Foundation of Alabama is more than a personnel decision. It’s a chance to ensure our operational capacity matches the momentum we’ve achieved. From maternal health to childcare, workforce development to equal pay, now is the time to reinforce the Foundation’s research, legislative advocacy, and grantmaking to better tackle the most pertinent issues affecting women in our state.”

As Vice President, Philanthropy and Learning, Zhaundra C. Jones will lead the next bold iteration of WFA’s philanthropic strategy and community impact. Jones will also steer WFA’s grantmaking portfolio, and local, state and national foundation relations – serving as liaison to philanthropic, non-profit, business and community partners, peer foundations, and civic and research institutions. Jones joins WFA with more than 15 years of experience from the boardrooms of Fortune 100 companies to public relations on the red carpets of Hollywood. As a highly requested thought leader and speaker, she has provided community leadership on numerous local initiatives, including community revitalization and asset-based community development to small-business ecosystems and impact investing. Prior to WFA, Jones served as Senior Program Officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. During her tenure, she managed of robust portfolio of grants, initiatives, and special donor funds to support greater equity and inclusion while creating viable, economic opportunities for people of greater Birmingham (with a focus on incorporating voices who have often been left out of conversations). Her ability to work at the intersections of theory and practice also landed her in the Aspen Institute community of fellows.

Blakely O’Connor, Ph.D. will direct WFA’s research and development, leading the strategy, production, dissemination, and evaluation of WFA’s research initiatives. Through systematic examination, she will help WFA analyze and measure the challenges to achieving women’s equity in Alabama, as well as evaluate potential solutions to those problems. A Harvard graduate and engineer, Dr. O’Connor joins WFA with nearly 10 years of research experience in academia and industry, and a personal goal of addressing women’s health and equity from a scientific perspective – combining educational outreach, policy change, and structural improvements to build healthier environments where women can live and thrive.

As Communications Director, Bryna Reid will leverage her 10+ years of public relations, strategic messaging, media relations, cross-cultural marketing and community engagement experience to shape and drive public relations strategies that increase awareness of WFA’s mission and impact. Reid will spearhead communications campaigns that educate donors, partners, grantees, volunteers and other stakeholders on WFA’s work to achieve gender, racial and economic equity for women statewide. Prior to WFA, she served as Associate Director at Markstein, an integrated communications agency, and has worked with various organizations across corporate, non-profit and civic sectors, including Red Mountain Park, UAB, REV Birmingham, United Way of Central Alabama, Teach for America and more.

Today’s announcement follows WFA’s seismic shift from serving the greater Birmingham region to the entire state – including the 2021 name change from The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham to Women’s Foundation of Alabama. The expansion continues to be met with thoughtfulness and enthusiasm by the organization’s Board of Directors, donors and community allies.

“Women’s Foundation of Alabama has been able to build visibility and amass the influence necessary to stand in the gap for women of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, races, geographies and lived experiences. Now, it is time to solidify and scale,” said Brantley Fry, Chair of the Board of Directors for Women’s Foundation of Alabama. “Ensuring that this is a movement – not just a moment – requires the organization to take its team, relationships, tools and resources to the next level. The Board supports the growth of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama with full force.”

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