Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

LGBT leaders take sabbaticals


GSA Network Executive Director Carolyn Laub. Photo: Courtesy GSA Network
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Leaders of two of San Francisco's best-known LGBT-related nonprofits are on sabbatical, and a recently released report suggests that's a good idea.

Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center, are taking months-long breaks from their posts this summer.

In a May 19 Facebook post, Laub announced she'd be leaving for three months, beginning June 2.

"It's been an honor and incredible privilege to get to be part of such a powerful youth-led GSA movement working for racial, economic, and queer justice," she said. "... I'm looking forward to some time off to rest and reflect on the past and the future!"

In an interview, GSA Network deputy director Laura Valdez said the sabbatical is "a great opportunity to reflect on the trajectory" of the organization's work, among other benefits. It's also a chance to consider "the next opportunities for her leadership and the work of the organization."

Laub may be on her way out.

The board of the organization, which helps LGBTQ students and their allies organize GSA clubs focused on creating safer schools, among other activities, is preparing to bring in an interim executive director. There are two finalists. An interim director is being brought in because the group "has grown significantly" and the amount of work "really necessitates" bringing someone in for the position, said Valdez.

Asked whether Laub is coming back, Valdez said, "As of now, the only decision that has been made is that she is on sabbatical for three months." Laub had wanted to take a sabbatical, but the board wasn't able to make it happen until recently, she said.

In an email, Andrew Uehling, GSA Network's board chair, expressed support for Laub, saying, "This sabbatical is a time for reflection for both Carolyn and the organization, and an opportunity for Carolyn to rest and recharge after 16 years of serving as founder and executive director."

Valdez said Laub is being paid "at her regular salary." She wouldn't disclose that figure but the group's tax filing for fiscal year 2012-13 lists her reportable compensation from the organization as $109,207.

Davis, the head of Transgender Law Center, also announced his sabbatical on Facebook.

"In just over a week, I am going on a three-month sabbatical," he said in an April 30 post. "It's time to take a breather after seven years at Transgender Law Center, and 16 years of trans activism! ... Thanks for the amazing colleagues who are making this possible!!!"

Kris Hayashi is heading up the Transgender Law Center during Masen Davis's sabbatical. Photo: Courtesy TLC

In an email, Transgender Law Center deputy director Kris Hayashi, who's heading the group in Davis's absence, said Davis "more than deserves an opportunity to rest and recharge" and called sabbaticals "critical."

"In my over 20 years of movement work I have seen too many amazing leaders burn out and leave," said Hayashi. "This is about showing the same care for ourselves as advocates as we do for our communities."

In an interview, C. Nathan Harris, the group's development director, said, "I think Masen has been a really remarkable leader." Under Davis, Transgender Law Center has become "the largest organization in the country advocating for transgender rights," said Harris.

He agreed that the director taking a sabbatical could offer a good opportunity for other staff to show what they can do.

"I don't think [Davis] would have taken the time had he not felt we were capable of taking up that mantle of leadership in his absence," said Harris, referring to himself, Hayashi, and legal director Ilona Turner.

Harris said Davis is spending time with family and friends during his break, and he's "absolutely" coming back.

He said the organization's sabbatical policy allows for Davis and other full-time staffers who've been with the group for five or more years to take two months of paid sabbatical. Additionally, Davis is taking a month of paid vacation.

According to Transgender Law Center's 2012 tax filing, Davis's total reportable income from the group is about $97,000.

The report "Creative Disruption – Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector" says a survey found that, "A sabbatical can act as a dry run for a future leadership transition. The experience can clarify what the ED's responsibilities actually are – important information when looking for a successor."

The findings from the report, by Deborah S. Linnell, Third Sector New England; and Tim Wolfred, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, are based on surveys of 61 sabbatical awardees and 30 interim leaders, among other sources.


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