Ruth McFarlane

Ms Foundation for Women


Growing up, Ruth McFarlane wanted to make a difference—as her fully realized self. As a closeted teen from a conservative family in the Midwest, “I used to follow the careers of these brilliant lesbian civil rights lawyers: Urvashi Vaid in New York and Kate Kendall in San Francisco.” After graduating from Cornell Law and practicing for several years in the corporate sector, McFarlane went back to school for her master’s in social work. She then served as Director of Development & Community Engagement at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and as Director of Programs at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. The move to non-profit work allowed her to use her background in law, as well as her people skills “to work on behalf of LGBTQ+ people facing the toughest challenges of their lives,” she says. “I didn’t know this career path was out there, but I found it by following my heart.” McFarlane now oversees fund development and communications as Chief Advancement Officer for the Ms. Foundation, an iconic organization founded in the 1970s by white feminists that pivoted in 2017 to focus on positively impacting the lives of women and girls of color. McFarlane considers this new mission “a watershed moment for the feminist movement” and is proud, and grateful, to be a part of it. “As an out lesbian, a committed ally to transgender and gender expansive people, an immigrant, and a multiracial person who identifies as a Black and South Asian woman, the most rewarding aspect of my work is being all of me, all the time, and making the circle bigger for as many other people as I can,” McFarlane says. “I love what I do. And that is a privilege and an honor—every day.”

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