In 2007, when Vanessa Freytag became the executive director of The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, she wasn’t just taking a job. She was accepting her calling. “I decided this was the work I really wanted to do, and I made a big life change,” she says of her decision to leave the corporate world and enter the not-for-profit sector.

Freytag joined The Women’s Fund after 15 years in banking and seven years as owner of W-Insight, a consulting business that helps companies develop strategies and programs to effectively market and sell to women. Although taking the reins of a non-profit organization may not have seemed like the logical next step for a successful entrepreneur, in many ways Freytag believes she was destined for the role.

Throughout her adult life, Freytag has always made helping women succeed a priority. Her personal desire to help women coincided with her professional life when she spearheaded Bank One’s efforts to capture women’s buying power by offering services tailored specifically to female business owners.

Before she was hired to work at The Women’s Fund, Freytag was the volunteer chair of the organization, which provides strategic direction on women’s issues and acts as a conduit for fundraising and grants for local programs dedicated to helping women and girls. “We want to improve the status of women and girls in Cincinnati in several areas — improving economic status, growing strong girls and developing women’s and girls’ leadership,” Freytag says.

In 2005, Freytag was involved in The Women’s Fund’s landmark research effort called the Pulse study. “First and foremost, the Pulse study is the first study to benchmark in a really analytical way the issues facing women and girls in Cincinnati,” she explains. Shortly after the results of the study came in, “we started to understand that due to the scope of our work, we needed a full-time organization,” Freytag says. Everyone agreed that Freytag would be the natural choice to lead the organization.

The results of the Pulse study have particularly inspired Freytag to help single mothers overcome the challenges they face. “There are a range of issues impacting the economic security of women in our community, particularly when you look at single mothers and the complexity of improving their economic security. You can have the best job programs in the world, but you aren’t going to move them forward until you address other issues,” Freytag explains.

Freytag’s mission certainly doesn’t end with her work at The Women’s Fund. She carries it to the home front as well, imparting daily lessons to her two sons. “I want my boys to grow up in a world that values women and girls,” she says.

She also wants them to learn at least her take on the age-old question of why we were put on this earth.

“I consider that really easy,” she says. “I believe we’re put on this earth to make it a better place when we go. I believe it’s as simple as that.”