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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy: A Community Conversation

June 22, 2023 @ 8:00 am – 9:30 am
United Way of Southern Maine
550 Forest Avenue
Suite 100, Portland
ME 04101
207 874 1000

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy: A Community Conversation
Hosted by Women United, a giving circle of United Way of Southern Maine
Moderated by Laura Shen, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at WEX


Many of us relate to the idea of wanting to give back to our community. While in the realm of philanthropy, how can we play a role in advancing equity and inclusivity? How do charitable organizations seeking donations reach diverse donors? Through this discussion, we are hoping to open the doors to big-picture views on how individuals can engage fully and equitably in our community as part of giving back. This intimate conversation with leaders from local nonprofit organizations will explore:

  • How to engage donors of a variety of demographics.
  • Ways to create a philanthropy experience that feels special while being inclusive.
  • How personal experiences and bias may impact the way we show up.
  • Being mindful and culturally sensitive in considering the programs we invest in and community partners we collaborate with.

Join us in person to hear experts weigh in on these topics and to ask your own questions. This opportunity is open to all United Way of Southern Maine giving circle donors. Space is limited; advance registration required.

Visit uwsme.org/DEIphilanthropy to register.

Date: Thursday, June 22 8:00 am – 9:30 am (8-9 am panel, 9-9:30 am networking)

Location: United Way of Southern Maine Portland office, 550 Forest Avenue (Parking lot can be found off of Ashmont Street)


Please see below for an overview of our moderator and panelists.


Laura Shen, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at WEX

As the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Laura is responsible for articulation and global execution of WEX’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy as well as Corporate Philanthropy. She previously led strategy & planning for WEX’s Corporate Payments line of business.

Prior to WEX, Laura managed client engagements at L.E.K. Consulting, a boutique strategy consulting firm. Before consulting, Laura served in a Chief of Staff role at the World Bank covering the Middle East & North Africa and began her career at Citibank in New York.

Laura holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a Bachelor’s from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She is a Trustee of Georgetown’s George F. Baker Scholar Program and a Board Member at Rippleffect.




Lauress Wilkins Lawrence, Community and Equity Learning Partner at The Sewall Foundation

Lauress joined the Sewall Foundation in January 2015, after two decades as a faculty member in Religious Studies and director of Multicultural Affairs at Regis College in Weston, Mass. Prior to working at Regis, Lauress served on the pastoral staff of a Catholic parish in Roxbury and was a grant maker at Grants Management Associates in Boston, where she developed skills and expertise in community outreach, social justice, and philanthropy. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in Latin American Studies and completed graduate degrees at Boston University in Pastoral Ministry and in Biblical Studies.

Lauress devotes much of her energy to Sewall’s Healthy People Healthy Places program. She is committed to deep equity and community engagement, with special concern for marginalized communities and for the Earth. She serves on the board of Maine Initiatives and on the Grants Committee of the Maine Health Access Foundation. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the Wisdom Commentary Series, a 58-volume reference resource of feminist biblical interpretation; she is writing vol. 36 in that series, on Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. Lauress lives in Portland with her husband Mark and their Goldendoodle Teddy.


Jennifer Roe, Executive and Artistic Director of A Company of Girls

Over the past 25+ years, Jen has worked at/for numerous non-profits both in and around Southern Maine and New York City, primarily in the areas of marketing, administration and design. After starting as an ACOG volunteer 15+ years ago, she worked as lead staff for ACOG’s elementary school programs before moving into her current role in 2011. She feels incredibly lucky to have a job that can make such a difference, and really enjoys watching the girls grow and find their own creative ways to express themselves. Jen is also a certified life coach for teenage girls, and recently served for five years on the Board of the Maine Alliance for Arts Education.


Claudette Ndayininahaze, Executive Director of In Her Presence

Claudette Ndayininahaze has extensive experience as a culture broker in intercultural communication in both for-profit and non-profit sectors. As Executive Director of In Her Presence, she sits on multiple boards in Portland and is deeply connected to community-based initiatives across the city. As a community leader who has herself gone through the immigration process, she has a unique ability to anticipate challenges New Mainers face and utilizes her professional expertise to empower people and communities. A highly proficient negotiator, both intuitive and resourceful, she collaborates with executive leadership in businesses and develops organizational capacity and culture to promote opportunities for New Mainer success.


Kristina Powell, Executive Director of The Telling Room

Kristina has dedicated her career to community building, Maine-based nonprofits. She graduated from Bowdoin College with her BA in Anthropology, and for seven years she worked in admissions & enrollment at the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and then co-managed the study abroad advising department. At Bates College, she served as Associate Director developing and implementing new programs for underrepresented alumni, students, and their families. Kristina later managed the development team at The Center for Grieving Children, and in June 2021 received her MBA while serving as the Director of The Berwick Fund at Berwick Academy.