Somewhere within the United States, at this very moment, Jane Doe is sitting in her cubicle at an office experiencing the pressure of the glass ceiling.
Although to this day women still encounter sexism, including in the workplace, Ruby B. Johnson has made it her mission to push for equality and women empowerment. To prevent female oppression and with a drive to help other women feel empowered like herself, Johnson created When You Believe Foundation, Inc. November 2010.
The 21-year-old Virginia Tech student majoring in mining and mineral engineering, also has a minor in women’s and gender studies. Although her studies reflect her enthusiasm to help women feel stronger and to appreciate themselves, Johnson’s passion stemmed elsewhere initially.
“I started to fall in love with so many things about life,” Johnson said.
Johnson was born in Sierra Leone and was raised there and Nigeria for most of her childhood. Eventually, her family moved to Maryland while she was in middle school. Required by her school to volunteer for a certain number of service hours while in the U.S., she became deeply involved with community service.
Johnson says she became passionate about autism awareness as well as helping the African American community through her philanthropy. But in general, she always knew the women’s movement was an important aspect of her life. She later attended a conference in 2010 where she saw young African American men and women speak about putting their own dreams into action.
“I thought to myself, ‘Well if they can do it, I can do it too’,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to start in my 30s. I wanted to do something now.”
Starting out like any organization would, Johnson admits that at first, she experienced a few challenges along the way. She laughs as she recalls collecting cans with her friends in the dead of winter in Blacksburg. She began by holding canned food drives and visiting women’s shelters in New River Valley. She said she distributed wherever she could and held health workshops for women.
Julia Rose, a senior mining and mineral engineering major, met Johnson through a class for their major, and she recalls joining WYBF because of its mission statement: to do outreach, raise awareness, provide assistance, enhance the lifestyle, promote self-sufficiency and empower girls and women in our communities.
“I feel as if today’s society encourages young people to just blend in and try to be like everybody else,” Rose said. “WYBF advocates for just the opposite — to uplift the individual as a special and unique work of art.”
With perseverance and help from her mother — who happens to be the organization’s adviser — and friends, Johnson saw her organization steadily grow. WYBF gained recognition not only at Tech, but also with well-known media outlets like MTV and AfroElle Magazine.