Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s 2015 Leadership Luncheon Remarks

On October 15, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2015 Leadership Luncheon.

Good afternoon. Wow – what an amazing crowd! I’m Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, and I’m thrilled to welcome you to today’s luncheon.

At each of your plates sits a small blue or orange envelope marked Wait to Open. The suspense has been tough, I know! But inside that envelope sits your fate for the next few minutes: either that of a woman thriving, or that of a woman struggling.

So now I’d like you to open your envelopes.

If you have a blue envelope, you are living the life of a woman who is thriving. You likely graduated from high school, college and maybe even grad school. You are employed and earn a comfortable salary. You can afford high-quality child care, a home of your own, and you set aside money each month for savings. If you opened your envelope to learn that you are thriving, I’d like you to stay seated.

If you have an orange envelope, then you are living the life of a woman struggling to get by. It’s likely that you graduated from high school, but college wasn’t an option. You are employed at a local chain restaurant, making $21,000 per year – minimum wage – barely enough to cover your bills, let alone child care for your toddler. Each week, you cobble together coverage through friends, family, and neighbors, wondering if your daughter is learning what she needs to be prepared for kindergarten. Each month, you make tough choices about which bills you will pay – whether it’s your daughter’s asthma medication or the heating bill – because you can’t cover both of them in full.

Thriving Struggling Cards

If you’ve found yourself with an orange envelope, please stand.

Take note. Look around. 1 of every 4 individuals in this room is now standing.

1 in 4.

These are people you know. They are your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

The women and men standing are representative of the 476,000 women and girls in this region who are struggling to get by.

But why? It doesn’t have to be this way.

●    What if – right now – we doubled down on our investments to build economic security in this region?

●    What if for every door that felt closed off to a woman, we helped open 2 more doors of opportunity?

●    What if, instead of making assumptions, we took the time to listen – really listen – to what women need,
so we can tailor solutions that will truly help them get ahead?

If we were to do this, then you could all take a seat. And as you take your seat at the table, know that, in doing so, you’re creating new seats at the table. This is what a model community looks like—a place where we all have comfortable seats at the table, and ample opportunities to thrive.

It’s not so far out of reach.

Last year, I stood on this stage and shared my own personal journey. Having come from a place of struggle, I am now thriving. And so this work is very personal for me. My mom and daughters are here with me again today, and although I argued a little bit with my oldest daughter Katia about whether she should really miss a day of school, she said to me, “Mom, I want to see what you do. It’s really important to me.” And there you have it. That’s the difference. Because my trajectory changed, her trajectory has changed, and she sees other possibilities.

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But that’s not the case for far too many women and girls in our community. When mired in the challenges of poverty, especially when it’s the only life you’ve ever know, it’s hard to lift your head up and see a brighter future for yourself and your family.

When we talk about female poverty in our region, 1 in 4, we must explicitly talk about the disproportionate impact this has on women and girls of color.

16 percent of Black women and 14 percent of Latinas live in poverty compared with 6 percent of white women.

And when we look at families led by single women, the disparities for women of color are truly staggering.

What’s happening with women and girls of color in our community is so deeply connected and intertwined with what is happening to men and boys of color. My Brother’s Keeper has ignited an unprecedented investment in boys and young men of color, an investment and conversation that is long overdue. I applaud our trifecta of leadership—the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Chancellor—for these efforts.

I think we can all agree that this isn’t about one gender or another. This isn’t about pitting girls against boys. This is about investing in the future of our community, investing in our children.

What we need now, more than ever is bold action.

So today, I am challenging our community to join The Women’s Foundation and boldly invest a collective $100 million over the next five years in our region’s women and families, many of whom are women of color.

Join The Women’s Foundation in committing to moving the 476,000 women and girls currently facing economic hardship to a place of consistent economic stability. Our region’s families deserve nothing less.

To aid in these efforts, in the coming months we will be unveiling a donor advised fund model that will transform how we collectively invest in this work. Because we can achieve this, and when we do, we will transform our community. We will transform lives.

To better appreciate the life-altering nature of our work, I want you to consider the story of Okema.

Three years ago, Okema stood on this stage and shared her personal journey. In her mid-20s she found herself unemployed, trying to raise her daughter single-handedly. She enrolled SOME’s Center for Employment Training where she graduated and ultimately earned a job working for SOME. Today, 8 years later, Okema is now the Lead Employment Retention Specialist at SOME. That means she is the person responsible for ensuring that recent graduates have the support they need to stay in their jobs for the long-term. And she has the real life experience to share. I recently ran into Okema, and she shared with me that she now wants to become a life coach. Imagine that – talk about paying it forward?

It’s success stories like Okema’s that make this work both critical and rewarding. We can’t be intimidated or daunted by the staggering statistics. We have to focus on what’s possible and the positive signs of progress that we are seeing every day.

Last year, our grantmaking reached nearly 7,000 women, and as a result:

●    Women collectively saved close to a quarter of a million dollars.

●    More than 400 women increased their collective incomes by $1.5 million through new jobs or advancing to higher paying jobs.

These are impressive results, but we know much more needs to be done. Over the next five years, we are committed to increasing our investments in this community from $1 million to $5 million.

But those investments can only be successful if the women they support aren’t hindered by other barriers—like access to child care or transportation.

DC is poised to become one of the most generous places in the country for low-income workers seeking paid family and medical leave. Regardless of where you stand on how we pay for this benefit, there is no ignoring that the time has come to have this important conversation.

This is just one of the many reasons why The Women’s Foundation is also committing to coordinating our work with those community partners and policymakers who are positioned to remove barriers and enact tangible policies that improve the lives of women and girls.

You are each here today because you know one very simple truth: when women are strong, our community is strong. And yet, just a stone’s throw away—whether it’s Langley Park, Bailey’s Crossroads, or Anacostia—there are roughly 30,000 single moms who are struggling to make ends meet, and their children know nothing else but what it feels like to scrape by.

So yes, bold visions are needed, but bold actions are overdue. Today, I’ve laid out for you our commitments, but I want to know what will each of you do to change the uncomfortable reality for so many women and girls?

You are The Women’s Foundation. We are The Women’s Foundation. Together we will invest in our greatest innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and changemakers.

Together, we can change the FUTURE.

We don’t need to look any further – WE have the power to make this happen.

And NOW is the time.

Thank you.

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we invest in pathways out of poverty for women and girls, including job training and post-secondary education opportunities that provide access to careers that offer benefits and pay family-sustaining wages. The Foundation first started supporting Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures program through Stepping Stones in 2005. Training Futures provides the training and skills that help under-employed and unemployed women in Northern Virginia secure a rewarding career with the potential for professional advancement, family sustaining wages and permanent employment.

When it comes to helping women build their economic security and earnings potential, Training Futures is one of the nation’s most effective workforce development programs. More than 90 percent of all participants who enroll in the program graduate, and 80 percent of all Training Futures graduates find administrative jobs with benefits paying an average of $12.50 per hour within a year after completing the program.

Training Futures’ six-month intensive curriculum is taught in a simulated office setting and arms trainees with those critical skills that can be applied across industries, including: customer service, public speaking, office administration, computer skills, and records management. During the program, participants complete an internship and are co-enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College. Trainees can receive up to 21 college credits for their Training Futures courses – providing a bridge and pathway to additional education. After graduation, trainees continue to benefit from wrap-around services, including one-on-one counseling, interview coaching, resume preparation and job search assistance.

Lidia VenturaLidia, a single mother and graduate of Training Futures, found the program while pursuing her GED. Prior to enrolling, Lidia said she was constantly thinking, “I’ll get my GED, but then what?” Training Futures helped her answer that question by showing her that it was possible to go from working two jobs on nights and weekends to securing a full-time position with benefits and regular business hours.

In 2014, after completing a three-week internship with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Lidia was offered a full-time position as an executive assistant. Since then, she’s impressed her employers, received a raise, and is now able to spend more time at home raising her 9-year-old son. Lidia says the quality time has not only been critical for their relationship, but she’s also seen an improvement in her son’s academic performance. He has been motivated by her experiences and now dreams of receiving his master’s degree one day. Thanks to the credits she earned at Northern Virginia Community College during the Training Futures program, Lidia is also working toward achieving her longtime dream: getting her Associates degree in accounting. She acknowledges that without the support of Training Futures and Washington Area Women’s Foundation she would never have been able to imagine achieving all of these things.

But the most rewarding experience Lidia says thus far has been the opportunity to help change other people’s lives by introducing them to Training Futures. She says, “I couldn’t be more blessed. I don’t even have the words to describe Training Future’s impact on my life. Where I work, I have the ability to speak to a lot of people who could benefit from the program and I tell everyone I can about it.”

EITC Funders Network Interview with Lauren Stillwell, Program Officer

This interview with The Women’s Foundation’s Program Officer, Lauren Stillwell, originally appeared on  the EITC Funders Network website.
Tell us about your funding portfolio.  What kinds of efforts are you focusing on right now?
Washington Area Women’s Foundation is focused on increasing the economic security of low-income women and girls. We do this by investing in asset building, workforce development, and early care and education.  To date, we have invested nearly $8 million into these strategies. As a result, we have helped nearly 15,000 women increase their income and assets by more than $49 million through higher wages, decreased debt, tax credits, increased savings, and growing equity related to homeownership.

Recently, we have been encouraging ourselves and our grantees to think innovatively about two-generation approaches to this work. For example, two years ago we launched new investments aimed at supporting girls on a path to long-term economic security. From our research locally and nationally, it was clear that middle school should be the focus – as a critical developmental period, and one that is often under-resourced. We took the opportunity to connect this new work with our historical focus on adult women, and encouraged organizations in the community to serve both middle school girls and their mothers (or other female caregivers) simultaneously. Currently, we have two grantees that are co-designing such a program model that leverages each of their existing strengths – so they are not re-creating the wheel, but designing a new way to work together.

Why does your foundation support EITC-related work?
The EITC has always been a part of our economic security work.  It’s a very persuasive strategy because, in many ways, it’s “low-hanging fruit.”  The EITC is a benefit for which people qualify and we need to support providers to connect with families in the short- and long-term.  Additionally, the EITC is a great example of an activity that bridges workforce development and asset building – and we believe there can be strength in blended approaches.

While there are policy changes that would make the EITC stronger, even in its current iteration, we see a big return on our investment. For example, we support free tax preparation sites in DC.  One of these organizations served over 1,200 women which brought in $2.1 million dollars.  That’s a significant increase in assets for these families!

What kind of EITC-related work does your foundation support?  What are some of the different strategies?
The bulk of our EITC work (supporting free tax prep services) has remained essentially the same since we began supporting it. We continue to look at the extent to which tax time can be an intervention, and how we can build out other logical starting places to engage people around goal setting and asset building.  For example, one of the foundation’s grant investments this year is supporting an asset building grantee to work on-site at an adult basic education grantee – working with adult students and alumni based on their individual goals, as they progress as adult learners, and then pursue post-secondary education or careers. Our grantmaking encourages long-term engagement with families and holistic services.  Over the last few years, the foundation streamlined our grantmaking into one RFP and one evaluation process. As a result, grantees can blend different programmatic strategies and, especially in evaluation, are encouraged to understand the impact on economic security in a variety of ways.

Capturing the impact of our EITC related work is critical. Some of the quantitative measures include the number of people accessing the EITC, the total amount of refunds received, decreased debt, increased savings, tax preparation costs saved, and changes in knowledge related to financial literacy. We have updated these indicators over time, in partnership with a working group of our grantees.

Are there any EITC issues that you’ve been struggling with that you’d be interested to hear your colleagues and/or the field address?
I continue to think about how we can make a stronger case for a focus on asset building.  We have anecdotal information about the effectiveness of blending strategies, but if we want to move programs and policies, we need a better evidence base.  Related to this, I’m curious how other funders in the field have brought together diverse funders to invest in asset building – including those who might not have explicit asset building goals but could, for example,  be interested in bolstering their education or health goals through asset building.

Resource – Issue Brief on Girls’ Economic Security in the Washington Region.

In April 2015, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released our issue brief on the economic security of girls in the Washington region.

Women and girls are powerful social change agents in their families and communities. However, their power and potential can be helped or hindered early in life. Many girls in our region face significant obstacles that not only affect their well-being today, but their educational success, earning potential and economic security in the future. By investing in girls’ lives, we ensure that they grow up and enter adulthood on the best possible footing, empowered to have a positive impact in their communities.

This issue brief highlights key issues and demographic trends in the Washington region, and dives specifically into issues of poverty and opportunity that affect girls’ capacity to attain economic security in adulthood. Our objective is to better understand girls’ experiences and circumstances and to work together with the community to identify strategies that reduce barriers, increase opportunities and increase the number of girls who are able to live economically secure lives both today and for generations to come. Read the entire issue brief, here.Girls Issue Brief Cover


Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Managed by The Women’s Foundation, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) is a collective of foundation and corporate investors dedicated to supporting systemic approaches that increase quality, capacity and access to early care and education in the Washington region. Learn more about the Collaborative.

Resource – Early Care and Education in the Washington Region

Early care and education investments help prepare low-income children ages zero to five for kindergarten, a critical opportunity to increase readiness and close the achievement gap, provide an important work support for low-income working families and support the professional development and advancement of early care and education providers. In this fact sheet, we explore early care and education in our region. Click here to read the full fact sheet.

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Resource – Gender Wage Gap Fact Sheet

More than ever, families rely on the wages of women. In the Washington region, 72 percent of mothers with young children participate in the workforce, and at the national level, 40 percent  of mothers are either the sole or primary breadwinner for their family. Equal pay would reduce poverty levels among women, and would increase every woman’s ability to provide for herself and her family.

In this fact sheet, we explore the data and key facts you need to know about the gender wage gap in our region.

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The Gender Wage Gap, Unveiled

Nationwide, women make on average only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Women’s lower average earnings are not due to a higher probability of working part-time: only full-time year-round workers are included in these data. The Wage Project estimates that over the course of a lifetime women will earn about a million less as a result of the wage gap.

Some people attribute the differences in earnings to occupational segregation and the career choices women make; for example, putting family before work. However, several studies have been unable to explain the gap, even after controlling for key factors that affect earnings such as occupation, education, and work experience. The unexplained difference can be attributed to discrimination, perceptions about women’s capabilities and the value of women’s work.

Women’s career choices are not the only reason for the disparity in earnings. Women earn less than men in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly held by women – such as elementary and middle school teachers or secretaries and administrative assistants – or whether they work in occupations predominantly held by men such as electricians or general managers. What this means is that even in “women’s fields,” men are outearning women, and it is not the same the other way around.

The gap varies throughout women’s lives, being the largest during childrearing years, and by educational attainment. Women with professional degrees face larger pay gaps than women with lesser levels of education.  The wide gap in earnings also becomes starker when race and ethnic background are taken into account, with women of color being the most affected.

The earnings gap in the Washington region is 15 percent, which is lower than the nation’s ratio (23 percent) primarily because of higher rates of educational attainment for both genders in the area.  Although women in the Washington area earn on average more than women in the United States overall, pay inequities are persistent features of the regional labor market and vary substantially by geography, except in Prince George’s County where women’s earnings ($51,616) are slightly higher than men’s earnings ($50,568). Among the jurisdictions included in the Washington region, Fairfax County had the largest wage gap (26 percent), where women earned considerably less ($61,470) than men ($83,192).  The second largest wage gap was for Arlington county (20 percent) followed by Montgomery County (18 percent). In addition to Prince George’s County, the city of Alexandria and the District of Columbia had the lowest disparity in earnings with a gap of eight and 10 percent, respectively.

Women’s earnings have become increasingly important for family incomes. Four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is the primary breadwinner for her family. Women’s lower earnings have important implications for all, including increased risk of economic insecurity and poverty for women and their families.

Some strategies to address the persistent disparity in earnings between men and women include expanding literacy education for women and girls to increase knowledge about the impact of career decisions on earnings and retirement security. It is also important to encourage women and girls –and men and boys, too- to openly discuss their earnings and develop skills in pay negotiation, and to actively seek skill-building experiences, training opportunities, feedback and promotions. Employers can also make sure they are giving women the same opportunity as men to advance up the ranks.

Two-Generation Grant Investments Aim to Break the Cycle of Poverty

In December 2014, The Women’s Foundation announced new grant investments of $630,000 to 20 organizations across the region. In a series of blog posts, we’ve shared more about the strategies behind those investments, including community college innovations we are supporting and early childhood investments to improve quality and access for low-income families in the region. Today, we’ll discuss how we’re taking a two-generation approach to our work, and what that looks like for our Grantee Partners.

The Women’s Foundation’s grant investments are made through Stepping Stones, an initiative designed to increase the economic security of women and girls living under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $39,580 for a family of three). We accomplish this goal by investing in three core issue areas that research has shown to have the greatest influence on the economic security of low-income women and their families: asset building, early care and education and workforce development.

Our most recent grants spread investments across the region—in Washington, DC; Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland; the city of Alexandria; and Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia. In total, these investments are projected to reach over 3,500 women and girls, potentially increasing their assets and incomes by $2.9 million over the next year.

Several of these investments take a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Two-generation strategies respond to the needs of children and their parents together, to influence short- and long-term economic security simultaneously. This strategy is a natural extension of Stepping Stones’ track record serving female-headed households, which has had tremendous results to date (increasing the income and assets of women and their families by more than $45 million since 2005). However, we know that in order to truly break the cycle of poverty in the Washington region, we must take a lifespan approach to our work. For us, this work began when we expanded our target population to all women under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and continued last year with the launch of a specific strategy to invest in the long-term economic security of girls. We accomplish this by investing specifically in middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Last year, our inaugural investments were planning grants that allowed organizations the dedicated space, time and resources to explore two-generation strategies that could serve middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers. This year, we’re pleased to invest in a partnership between the YWCA of the National Capital Area and College Success Foundation – DC (CSF-DC). Following their planning grants, this year the YWCA and CSF-DC will engage families through a new partnership with Cesar Chavez Public Charter School’s Bruce Prep Campus in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of the District’s Ward 1. The YWCA is one of a few organizations experienced with serving both girls and women, and brings a gender lens to their work. Through this new partnership, the YWCA will primarily provide supports for the adult women in each family, while CSF-DC will draw upon their expertise serving youth beginning in middle school, as evidenced by their flagship Higher Education Readiness Opportunity (HERO) program. This partnership model builds upon each organization’s strengths, and allows each to more holistically serve families. The Women’s Foundation’s 2015 investment supports additional planning and the launch of the program pilot in summer 2015. With additional resources, these partners plan to bring the program to more women and girls in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Women’s Foundation believes there is great potential for the two-generation strategy across our work, beyond our investments in girls. (For example, the two-generation work we’re supporting at Northern Virginia Community College.) We were selected to be part of the Ascend Network at the Aspen Institute, a national network of leaders pioneering two-generation programs and policies. Through this collective work, we aim to build connections between national and local innovation, and spur additional two-generation work building the economic security of women and girls in our region.

Super Bowl XLIX Highlights XL Gap in Men’s and Women’s Sports

Super Bowl XLIX Stadium 1

It’s Super Bowl time, which for many means parties and crowding around the TV to watch two of the nation’s top football teams battle it out for the title of Super Bowl XLIX Champion. And at least for our President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, it will mean cheering on her precious Patriots. We’ve got some big sports fans at The Women’s Foundation, and we also have many for whom the draw of the big game is the chance to watch the commercials. This year, each of those ad spots will cost companies roughly $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time.

When I heard that number, my jaw dropped. The thought of that much money being spent in 30 seconds sort of makes my heart stop, and it got me thinking about the sheer amount of money that goes into, not just the Super Bowl, but men’s sports in general. For example, every member of the winning Super Bowl team this year will receive a cash bonus of $97,000. Even the members of the losing team receive an additional $49,000 just for playing in the game. That means that the winning team’s players alone get more than $5 million in bonuses.

Want to make that number feel very, very small? The winning team of the Men’s 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil walked away with more than $35 million in prize money. The total prize pool was a record $576 million. The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world, so it is fitting that the prize pool would also be the largest. But what about the prize pool for the upcoming Women’s 2015 Soccer World Cup in Canada? After all, FIFA bills the Women’s World Cup as the largest female sporting event in the world. Answer? $15 million, all in. That’s not what the winning team gets; that is the number that is divided among all the prize-winning teams. On the positive side, that number represents a 50% increase in prize money from four years ago. The winning team walks away with $2 million this year, doubling from the winner’s prize of $1 million at the last Women’s World Cup.

While the prize money gap seems staggering, the more concerning issue with the Women’s World Cup, may be that these world class female athletes will be playing on sub-par surfaces. Even after many athletes filed a lawsuit against FIFA accusing the organizers of discrimination, saying that elite men’s teams would never be forced to play on an artificial surface instead of natural grass, FIFA refused to upgrade the playing surfaces on all but one field. And so, the players in this year’s Women’s World Cup will be playing on artificial turf, a surface that puts players at a higher risk for injury. In an interview with NPR, U.S. Women’s National Team player Heather O’Reilly, said the plan to use fake grass “is a blatant demonstration of FIFA not placing the women side by side with the men. Many men’s players refuse to play on artificial turf, actually, and the thought of it being played in the World Cup is almost laughable.”

WUSA Soccer

It would take about $3 million to upgrade the turf to sod. That is no small number, but when we look at the money being thrown at men’s sports, it really does start to feel very minuscule.

The common refrain is that women’s professional sporting events just don’t bring in the cash the same way that men’s do. And that is true. It is a vicious cycle. The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that in 2009 network affiliates dedicated only 1.6% of airtime to women’s sports, down from 6.3% in 2004. This male-dominated media coverage perpetuates smaller audiences for women’s sports. It takes money to break this vicious cycle and kick-start a virtuous one. If women’s teams had more money to invest in their talent, equipment, facilities and marketing efforts, could we see an increase in the cash earned by these teams?

I think the answer is yes. Men’s Major League Soccer (MLS) actually provides a good example. MLS reportedly lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years. But then, Adidas injected $150 million into MLS over 10 years. The league started building soccer-specific stadiums and investing in their talent and equipment. They signed a television deal. The average franchise is now worth $103 million, up more than 175% over the last five years, and the league keeps growing. Compare this to the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), which folded in 2003 after only three years despite a world champion national team and national excitement from the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Their losses were only about $100 million, not even close to the $250 million MLS weathered. Could similar confidence in women’s soccer and subsequent financial investments have saved WUSA like it did for the now profitable MLS? We’ll never know.

However, if we look to tennis, we have a great example of what could be possible if female and male athletes were treated more equitably. In 2007, Wimbledon announced for the first time, it would provide equal prize purses to male and female athletes. All four Grand Slam events now offer equal prize money to the champions. In 2013, the US Open women’s final scored higher TV ratings than the men’s final.

So while we all gather around to watch millions of dollars flood the airwaves and University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday, let’s think about how we can channel just a fraction of that into leveling the playing field for female athletes in the future.

I’m with you! What can I do?

Great question! The Women’s Sports Foundation has some good ways we can all help increase gender equality in sports:

  • Attend women’s sporting events
  • Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics
  • Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports
  • Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level
  • Encourage young women to participate in sports
  • Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete that is being discriminated against – advocate for her rights.