An attorney who has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls, Fatima Goss Graves is president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, a longtime Ford grantee. She is also among the co-founders of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which addresses gaps in the legal landscape to help survivors who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace seek justice.

What makes the National Women’s Law Center unique?

The National Women’s Law Center fights for gender justice in the US courts, in state and federal legislatures, and really in our society. One of the things that really makes us unique is that we are lawyers but we are also advocates and researchers and storytellers and culture makers, and we have a deep sense that one of those tools by itself is never going to be enough.

Our work improves the lives of women and girls. But we put the lives, and really the futures, of black and brown girls at the center. And so that shows up both in what our work is and how we do our work. For example, in thinking about how to improve the workplace, it means that we are starting with the experiences of black and brown women, and that our solutions must ensure that the occupations they’re working in are improved. So, when we work toward closing the wage gap, we start with the fact that the wage gap for Latinas is almost twice as high as it is for other women. It takes an additional 11 months the following year before their wages actually catch up with the wages earned by white men the previous year.

What inspired you to choose a career in law?

I’m the first lawyer in my family. But I think I knew pretty early that I wanted to use the law for good. I grew up learning about the law through the stories of my father’s family, where they took on Knoxville, Tennessee, public schools successfully to desegregate them. I’m excited that I’m able to bring a legal hat and an advocate hat to my work in a rich and vibrant movement that is reenergized and driving meaningful change for women in this country.

NWLC has fought and won many battles since its inception in 1972. Can you talk about a few that you’re particularly proud of?

We’re the organization that helped push forward the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. We brought the Supreme Court case that established that Title IX protects against harassment. We brought and were able to win the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And since #MeToo went viral, we’ve been working with partners around the country to improve laws in 15 states.

One of my favorite wins was in our campaign around the Affordable Care Act. We were able to get the first ban on sex discrimination in health care. That was 10 years ago, and we’re still fighting to make sure it is not undermined by steps taken by the current administration.

Just recently, we were able to move a new law through the DC city council that would recognize and protect the right of every individual to access reproductive health care without government interference.

In 2018, you were one of the co-founders of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is administered by NWLC and provides legal and public relations aid to women who experience sexual discrimination in the workplace. Can you give us a report card on its progress?

We started with about 200 lawyers. I’m really excited to say that today we have over 700 attorneys around the country who’ve joined with us and are a part of our legal network for gender equity. They provide free advice to people who contact them. We’ve heard from and supported over 4,000 individuals, who we’ve been able to provide with attorney information, advice on how to tell their stories, and other resources. The majority of people we hear from identify as low-income.

The attorneys are also taking on cases. Our fund raised $25 million, and we’ve committed about $12 million of that so far to support over 200 cases. And almost half the cases we’ve been able to fund are cases that women of color have brought to us.

So the work we’re doing here is about helping those individuals, many of whom would not have been able to bring their case without the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. But it’s also about the broader change we’ve been able to wage in this period, and that kind of progress is harder to quantify.

What makes you excited about the work you do?

I’m probably most excited and inspired by our younger activists, the high school–age black girls in Washington, DC, who we worked with to co-author a report that detailed the discriminatory dress code policies that DC had. They not only pushed the DC city council to change that law effectively, they then began negotiating directly with their schools for new plans that actually respected them. And they did it in a way where they were co-creating the future of the school.

It was exciting and empowering for them, but it also meant that we were helping to do our part and seed this next generation of leaders. It’s given me great hope in the leadership of young people in this country.

What does equality look like to you?

Equality, in my mind, really is that vision for women and girls to live and learn and work and really be who they want to be, with safety but also with dignity and with bodily autonomy, with controlling the decisions about their own lives and their own futures.