Meet Karen Hanrahan, President and CEO of San Francisco’s GLIDE Foundation

Winter 2023: A Note from Karen Hanrahan, President & CEO, GLIDE Foundation  Hello, and welcome to the website dedicated to helping more people understand the importance of social justice and what they can do to make a difference starting today. On the pages of this site, you’ll learn about the powerful work we are doing at GLIDE Foundation in San Francisco, which I believe is a model for what can be accomplished around the world. 

To get us started, below, you’ll find an interview I did with my friend and publicist, Hope Katz Gibbs for her online magazine, Inkandescent Women. She will be helping me spread the word on this website and through op-eds, interviews that I will do with leaders in the social justice community, and more. 

Invitation: If you are working in the equity and social justice community, we look forward to hearing from you about the work you are doing. I am also looking to share all of our stories as I speak to organizations worldwide as a keynote and panelist. Please send emails and invitations here.

I am incredibly proud, honored, and humbled to be heading up GLIDE. I look forward to raising our voice even louder and to collaborating with more organizations around the world. — Karen

A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Inkandescent Women magazine When it comes to defining what it means to be a Truly Amazing Woman, sometimes it’s the work a woman does—from running a philanthropic organization (The GLIDE Foundation) to working for a former president (Obama)—that defines who they are. For Karen Hanrahan, the common thread is equity for all.

“I knew at a relatively young age that I wanted to work on international justice issues,” Karen says. “My mother was very socially aware, especially of international events. So, I’ve known since high school that I wanted to do international human rights and justice work.”

I had the privilege of meeting this truly amazing woman at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in 2008 when Karen was senior advisor to the Iraqi minister of human rights. I’ve followed her career and interviewed her several times — first when she became the director and COO of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, where she led a comprehensive project for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to redefine how the US government practices international development and diplomacy. And again, when she was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Human Rights and Democracy in the Obama administration’s US Department of State.

These positions are two of many high-level jobs she has held in her illustrious career. But perhaps closest to Karen’s heart is the job she’s held since 2017 — as President and CEO of the GLIDE Foundation, a social justice organization based in San Francisco, CA.

“GLIDE is a social justice movement, social service provider, and spiritual community dedicated to strengthening communities and transforming lives,” Karen explains. “Located in San Francisco’s culturally vibrant but poverty-stricken Tenderloin neighborhood, GLIDE addresses the needs of, and advocates for the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and families among us.”

Karen’s work at GLIDE builds on the nearly 60-year legacy of co-founders Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani. GLIDE challenges inequities and stands with the poor, people of color, LGBTQ persons, and others facing systemic oppression, isolation, and stigma while offering a holistic, integrated model of programs and services to address the complex needs of this community.

Today, under the leadership of President and CEO Karen Hanrahan, GLIDE continues to deepen its impact and extend its reach to thousands of people in need. Through comprehensive services, fearless advocacy, and spiritual connection, GLIDE remains a powerful beacon of hope for a healthier, more just, and inclusive city. Learn more at

Karen’s illustrious career began after graduating with a Political Science and Journalism degree from Indiana University in 1992. While in college, she took the first steps to work internationally when she spent a year abroad in Morocco, studying at the King Fahd Arabic Language School in Tangier and the School of International Training in Rabat.

Hanrahan then got her MA in International Politics at American University in 1995. In 2000, she finished her Law degree—with honors and at the top 5 percent of her class—at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. While there, she was an assistant mediator at the US Court of Appeals, the Law Review editor, and a research assistant for Professor Joan Fitzpatrick, a federal public defender who has written habeas corpus petitions for indefinitely detained immigrants.

If that’s not impressive enough, Hanrahan capped her education with a degree from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2008.

It is our privilege to interview Karen. Please scroll down for our Q&A. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher Inkandescent Women magazine, Read more