Already accomplished, Britt Vaughan added another laurel to that list when she was elected Director of Zonta International this past June 28.
Zonta International, which was founded in 1919, in Buffalo, New York, is a leading organization of professionals who are building a better world for women and girls.
Today there are more than 27,000 members in 62 countries who work together to make gender equality a worldwide reality.
Additionally, since 1923, Zonta International has provided more than $46.3 million to empower women and girls and expand their access to education, health care, economic opportunities and safe living conditions.
Vaughan, who along with her father were born at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, will serve as a board director of Zonta International and the Zonta Foundation for Women over the next two years.
What was it like being elected for Vaughan, who has worked in Burbank for over 15 years, with the majority at the Burbank Boys & Girls Club and is a member of the Childcare Committee, Burbank Youth Task Force, Sunrise Kiwanis, Leadership Burbank, Leadership Burbank Alumni Association Board, Zonta Club of Burbank Area and a member of the Burbank Young Professionals?
“It was quite an honor, and I was honestly very surprised to have been voted into this prestigious position. Zonta is on the precipice of making critical organizational changes and it has already been great fun working strategically with women across the world to ensure Zonta’s long-term viability, especially as our mission seems more important than ever,” she said. “In our club’s 86-year history, the Burbank Club Historian believes I am the first member of the Zonta Club of Burbank Area to serve on the international board.”
What is Vaughan’s job description?
“Throughout the biennium, the board will provide critical oversight of and fiscal responsibilities for the operations of Zonta International and the Zonta Foundation for Women; create and implement a strategic plan; and, along with our team at Zonta headquarters, administer and manage our international projects and educational awards,” she explained. “As an International Director, I work with Zonta Governors from across the globe, supporting them and their work locally.”
Vaughan added: “I am the liaison to our Young Talents team, an incredible group of young women who are identifying how Zonta is responding to the needs of young women and supporting them as members,” she said. “I am also part of two “workstreams” that are diving into organizational structures and processes in preparation for our strategic planning session. The whole board is very forward-thinking, and it makes me excited for Zonta’s future.”
Vaughan, who attended Notre Dame High and earned a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge in English with honors, a master’s in Children’s Literature from the University of Reading in England, and a second master’s in Public Administration with a Non-Profit emphasis from CSUN, envisions significant leaps happening for Zonta International.
“Globally, I am hopeful to see an increase in the number of women in decision-making roles (the c-suite, politics, and board rooms); a collective understanding of how climate change especially adversely affects women; and a decrease in violence against women including working towards ending child marriage and raising awareness around domestic violence and trafficking in persons,” she said.
How was Vaughan, who has spent a significant portion of her professional career in the nonprofit sector, working mainly in youth and workforce development and is presently a grant writer for nonprofit organizations, introduced to Zonta International?
“In 2009, I attended the Zonta Club of Burbank Area’s Woman of the Year event because a friend was named Woman of the Year. Meeting so many incredible and accomplished women that day who were members of Zonta, I knew after that, it was a group I had to belong to,” she said. “From my local club, I became more involved in our district. In 2018, I ran for and was elected to the position of Lt. Governor of District 9, supporting clubs in California, Arizona, Utah, Hawai’i, and Nevada. I then became Governor of District 9 in 2020, right at the start of COVID. It was a very interesting time to be in leadership and was yet another very valuable learning experience.”
Vaughan continued: “Encouraged to stay involved at higher levels by other Zonta members, I submitted an application for the International Board and was elected in June of this year. Eleven individuals were running for seven director positions, and I was barely voted in, ranking No. 7 in the number of votes received,” she said. “I believe that my election to this position shows that Zonta and its members are looking to the future and are ready to be a 21st century catalyst for women’s equality. For me, I know that serving on this board amongst talented women from Asia, Africa, and Europe will be one of the most rewarding and formative experiences of my life.”
Women and girls have made important strides, but there is more work to be done.
“Although progress has been made, many of the challenges that have been facing women for decades are largely unresolved. Equitable access to health care, education, wealth, and decision-making positions of power remains a challenge, especially for women who have been historically excluded because of race, class, physical ability, and sexual orientation,” Vaughan noted. “Most progress has only been made for certain women, not all women, and addressing that is pivotal to true success.”
In many ways Title IX has improved the lives of women and girls. What does Vaughan see as its benefits?
“As a millennial, I honestly can’t even imagine a world before Title IX! It was groundbreaking for women in sports and I think it has paved the way for professional women’s sports and women’s participation in the Olympics,” she pointed out. “I was just at the last home game for Angel City Football, and it was inspiring to see so many people supporting women in sports and all the families with their young girls. Without increased participation in high school and college sports, we wouldn’t see the high level of professionalism in women’s professional teams that we do today like our amazing Angel City players. While Title IX is known for having transformed women’s sports, it also did much more, and I think we must remember all of its other accomplishments in banning discrimination based on sex for all federally funded education programs.”
Living in Southern California where the Rams claimed the most-recent Super Bowl title and the Dodgers winning the World Series in 2020 and the Lakers winning the NBA championship that same year, Vaughan knows and likes sports.
“I have played sports all my life and remain “playful” in a variety of physical activities. The opportunity for women and girls to have access to sports is critical in developing key life skills,” she said. “Sports teams teach valuable life lessons, acting as spaces where women and girls learn it is okay to be strong, competitive, determined, and to strive for excellence while also learning how to work as a team, support one another, collaborate, and communicate. Sports also teach us it’s okay to take pride in success as well as how to handle failure.”
A forward thinker, Vaughan has her own philosophy that’s helped guide her.
“I was recently asked to give a personal motto as a Zonta International Director and chose a quote by [Persian poet] Rumi: “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” I believe that my success so far in my life is because I have always been supported; my whole life, I have been told I can do and be anything I want,” she said. “This kind of support has led to many personal successes. I know I want to be that person for others, especially women. I want to encourage and empower others; help them see their strengths; act as a sounding board; and to be a champion for their success.”
Everyone needs inspiration and Vaughan has hers.
“My cousin, Shanna Warren, has had a very big impact on how I see the world and how I live in it. She has always believed in me and pushed me to be the best version of myself,” she said. “She taught me about the importance of commitment, of keeping your word and acting on it, knowing your value, giving back, the power of generosity, and so much more. She is a role model for me and the Burbank community. She is the most fearless and determined person I know.”
Warren owns a bachelor’s in political science from CSUN, a master’s in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University and is the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, and also started the Burbank Nonprofit Coalition.
What advice would Vaughan dispense to other women and girls?
“Be bold, brave, passionate, and fearless,” she offered.