Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts welcomes new CEO

VANESSA PABON-HERNANDEZ

VANESSA PABON-HERNANDEZ

Staff Report

Published: 06-15-2024 2:01 PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts has appointed Vanessa Pabón-Hernandez as CEO, effective June 17.

A Springfield native, Pabón-Hernandez succeeds Donna Haghighat in the key role for the philanthropic organization.

Under Haghighat’s leadership, beginning in 2017, the Women’s Fund developed innovative programs, sought out partnerships, increased grant-making, grew its corporate and individual donations, and focused on racial equity and trust-based philanthropy. Haghighat was also integral in the launch of the Young Women’s Initiative for girls and young women of color in Springfield and the Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub.

Pabón-Hernandez began her 25-year career as a marketing strategist in business for herself and later served in roles that include program director for the YMCA North End Youth Center, founder of a community-based digital storytelling center and executive producer at New England Public Media. She left NEPM in early June after 14 years to accept the position with the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.

“I want to make a meaningful impact that’s less about program development and more about supporting the people who have the ideas,” Pabón-Hernandez said in a statement. “I’ve been the one who has been dreaming big and creating programs of impact. Now, I want to support the dreams of others.”

Luzed Guzman Romano, current treasurer and incoming board co-chair for the Women’s Fund, said the board is excited about the opportunities that Pabón-Hernandez’s experience, determination and leadership present.

“We are all confident Vanessa’s leadership will drive the organization forward, continuing its mission to support and empower women, girls and gender-expansive people in the region,” she said in a statement. “In many ways, Vanessa’s life experience mirrors the reason why the Women’s Fund exists.”

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