Is "care" having a moment or a movement?

This is the final installment in our series on the White House Summit on Working Families, which The Women’s Foundation attended earlier this summer.  Be sure to read the other posts in our series.

As a foundation focused on economic security work, “care” is both a central and pervasive challenge – and an opportunity to influence the trajectory of multiple generations. Child care allows parents to work, or to complete the education and training necessary to find a good job. But quality early care and education is expensive, and not always accessible – in terms of location, or the hours that may or may not match up with a worker’s schedule. Quality also comes at a cost: “In 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.” That said, quality early care and education provides critical early learning opportunities, and helps prepare children for kindergarten and beyond. For low-income children in particular, early learning can help close the “readiness gap” that influences educational attainment and economic security in the long-term.

As a women’s foundation, these issues are even more central. Women make up a large percentage of the care workforce (in the child care and early learning space, but also home care and eldercare workers). These professions are low paying. Look at the formal child care workforce alone, and you’ll see that women make up nearly 95% of the workforce. Those jobs are also some of the lowest paying in the US: of the 823 occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 24 professions earn less than child care workers. Looking beyond the formal care workforce, women are also largely informally impacted by the “sandwich generation,” no matter their profession – that is, they are taking on the responsibility of caring for children and aging parents simultaneously. This has a tremendous impact on work/life balance, employment opportunities, and earning potential.

The White House Summit on Working Families featured a panel discussion on caregiving. A few highlights from the conversation…

  • On quality early care and education: In decisions about child care, quality is not always the driver of parent choice. Other factors could be cost, convenience, or the comfort of knowing a family member or neighbor. In practice and in policy, we have to find ways to get beyond the amorphous “quality” concept that may or may not resonate with parents.
  • On economic security: As Gail Hunt, CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, pointed out, the burden of balancing work and family has a long-term impact on economic security. Seventy-five percent of people with caregiving responsibilities are also working; two-thirds of those people find that they have to make some sort of workplace accommodation to allow them to handle their caregiving responsibilities. The resulting loss in wages, pension, and social security for each of these women: $325,000 over the period that the worker is also a caregiver.
  • On the case for employers:  David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, pointed out the impact of “caregiving stress” on workers. He makes the economic case to employers for workplace flexibility and balancing caregiving responsibilities:  caregiving stress cuts into worker productivity, and it impacts the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare. There’s an economic case for employers to be on board with changes in policy that influence this issue.

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What was missing from the Summit conversation?

  • Robust discussion of improving pay for the caregiving workforce. It was only a question from the audience, at the end of the panel session, that sparked discussion around low pay. In response, Duffy Campbell of the National Women’s Law Center pointed to the need for policy solutions – that the market isn’t working for the workers who are parents/caregivers, or the workers who are caregiving providers. I only wish this was a more central piece of the discussion. Higher pay for this workforce would impact the economic security of this mostly-female workforce; it would also help translate to higher quality early care and education programs in the community.
  • Race. I was happy that gender was often discussed at the Summit, but overall, race was left out of the conversation. The same was true in the panel on caregiving – even though, for example, 16% of the child care workforce are African American and 19% are of Hispanic or Latino origin.
  • How issues of caregiving begin early. The Women’s Foundation invests in the economic security of women AND girls. When we planned our strategy for investing in girls , we repeatedly heard from providers and advocates the need to recognize the caregiving responsibilities that girls and young women were taking on at home, and the impact of those responsibilities on their education, afterschool options and workforce participation. When reliable care isn’t available for younger siblings, older girls in the family often step in. Solving caregiving challenges has the potential to impact multiple generations at once.

It certainly feels like care is having a moment in the spotlight – from the Summit, to national conversations about Pre-K access and media stories talking about the crisis of care. We can only hope this moment turns into a movement with real solutions for families.

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If you’re interested in care issues, check out more on The Women’s Foundation’s Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. Interested in further reading? Check out the following resources:

 

The Emotional Fragility of Life Is Easily Shattered

Editor’s note: The piece below was co-authored by Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, President & CEO of Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Catherine Meloy, President & CEO of Goodwill of Greater Washington.

Earlier this month, a tragic story unfolded in our nation’s capital that was reported in the Washington Post, Woman, 30, Charged in Mother’s Fatal StabbingKieva Hooks, a young, single mother was charged with the murder of her own mother in a home they shared in Columbia Heights.  While many questions surrounding this tragic incident remain unanswered, what is known with all certainty is that, as a result, the lives of three people have been ruined:  Kieva, her mother, and her nine- year-old daughter.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story in some of the most disadvantaged communities throughout the DC region.  According to an analysis by Washington Area Women’s Foundation of the American Community Survey, the District of Columbia has exceptionally high poverty rates (41.3 percent) among female-headed households with children.  As it happens, Kieva was among this most vulnerable population.

Kieva attempted to turn her life around by enrolling in a Goodwill training program funded by Washington Area Women’s Foundation several years ago that provided her with marketable job skills and supportive services ultimately leading to successful employment.  However, transitioning from a life of struggles to one of independence is a difficult path fraught with detours.

Because Kieva had been served by both Goodwill and The Women’s Foundation, the words and the despair that jumped off the pages of the Washington Post article had new meaning to us.  This was not just “another article” about a faceless tragedy.  This was a life we had touched.

As a society, we should all feel the pain and anger that come with senseless acts of violence.   Incidents like this one should give us greater resolve to take the actions necessary to influence change so that there are fewer outcomes like Kieva’s.

Margaret Meade once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Goodwill, Washington Area Women’s Foundation and numerous other strong charitable agencies in and around Washington, DC stand ready to provide assistance when necessary.  But we need the commitment of our community, both the public and private sectors, to help address the needs of the most vulnerable.  So we end with this question:  Will you stand by us as we continue to work to change the outcomes for people like Kieva, her mother, and her daughter?  Indeed, you’re the only ones who can.

Every Day is Election Day: Catching up with Rebecca Sive

Around this time last year, we hosted a Brown Bag Lunch with Rebecca Sive, author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House. Since that event, Rebecca has been touring the country talking about her book and meeting with women at all levels of leadership. We were lucky enough to catch-up with Rebecca by phone recently for an update on what she has learned through these conversations with women across the country. 

What are some of the top things that you have learned in the last year traveling around the country talking to people about your book?

I think the thing that stood out to me the most is that — across race, ethnic, age and geographic lines — there are women everywhere who want to be politically active. That was very interesting to me, not to mention heartwarming. Going into the book tour, I thought perhaps women’s sentiments would differ from place to place, but they didn’t. Everywhere across our country, there are women who are very clear that being a public office holder is very important to them.  And there are also, for instance, women who have already been the PTA president or a member of the school board, who have now decided that the next step is the state legislature or some other higher office. That was wonderful to see and hear about. They were not a homogeneous group, either, but a heterogeneous group of women who care deeply about their communities and making them better.

Related to this was the eagerness I saw to learn how to run and win: “How do I go about running for office? What are the steps I can take to do that, to seek the leadership position I want?”

Something else that I think is important, and that I saw reaffirmed — throughout my book tour — was how important it is for women to acknowledge that while they are seeking an office or political leadership in order to, in most cases, make advances on a particular issue, it is also necessary for them to understand and acknowledge that they are seeking power; that it is okay to seek power, and that to seek power to do good is the best. I find women are still sometimes hesitant to talk about this aspect of public leadership. So many women start their public careers by saying, “Well I really want to work on this issue.” Regularly, I found myself reminding my audiences that, in order for them to be effective on issues they care about, they would have to seek influence and power, wholeheartedly. Actually, this truth needs to be underscored for all of us!

Another key lesson that came up during my book tour is this: women who seek leadership positions really need sponsors (as well as tools like Every Day Is Election Day). To me, sponsors are people who open doors and bring you into the room. They say, for instance, “I understand you want to be in the state legislature; so, I’m going to invite you to be my guest at this important event — or speech or meeting — so that you can meet some of the people that can help make that happen for you.” Mentors are great, but sponsors are indispensable.

What do you see as the benefits that women get from running for any kind of office?

I feel strongly that when women put themselves out there and run for office, they are saying to their community: “This issue matters, and this office matters.” They are saying that it shouldn’t be just anybody who is the PTA president, or the school board president, or in the legislature; that it really matters who sits in those decision making chairs on a daily basis.

Yes, of course, there are also personal qualities that women will gain. For instance, they will learn to speak with confidence; no doubt, their self esteem will grow; but running for office is really about civic engagement. It is part of engaging successfully on behalf other people. That’s the big gain, the most important one gain.

Here is one story to illustrate this truth.  Earlier this month, I went to a county fair in a rural, agricultural area of Michigan. At the fair, I talked to a woman who was running for state representative. She had a classic women’s leadership story to tell me: she had been an accountant, and then a teacher, who was very involved in her community, but she just got fed-up with some things. Since she had retired as a teacher, she said to herself: “Okay, I’m going to run for the state legislature and work to make things better.” So, there she was at the fair. It was 90 degrees out; the humidity was 100%, but she was there shaking hands and talking to as many people as she could, telling them that she wanted to go to Lansing and fight for them. She embodied the notion that: “I understand that, if I am in public office, I can make a positive difference for others.  It’s not so much about me, it is about the world around me.”

In fact, since I visited with The Women’s Foundation last year, I encountered this same story –over and over: women who were clear that their search for political leadership and power wasn’t about them; it was about the potential to make a difference.

When you look at issues of sex and race discrimination, when you look at the systemic barriers to advancement, breaking those barriers down requires a group effort. That’s why The Women’s Foundation exists; that’s why donors give to you; and I think that’s why women who are effective politically are effective: they understand they are mobilizing a group of people; that they are agents of change.

Why is this work important to you?

I have been organizing women, helping and leading women’s causes my whole adult life. This work of mine has never ceased being really important to me because I just see so much power within women to do good. This isn’t to say that we’re all perfect, or that we don’t all have our faults, because we all do. But, it is to say that there is so much opportunity for women to build institutions, like The Foundation, to run for office, to be activists, to make this world better. So, over the course of time, I have just tried to figure-out ways to mobilize women to do that. And, if, sometimes, they don’t realize they have the power to make change, well, then, that motivates me, too.

Think about Women’s Equality Day; think about how hard and how long the suffragists fought to reach that day. That organizing went on for almost 100 years.  So, if we get tired now, well we’ll just take a look at them and keep on going. In this context, I want to say to you that I think we are now at the most important time for women political activists since suffrage. That’s because, for the first time in American history, women are being considered — and running — from the presidency on down. We are in a moment we haven’t experienced before. This is a wonderful (and important) time for all of us to mobilize to advance women’s political leadership.  Thanks to the Women’s Foundation for the work you’re doing to make this happen.

Women’s Political Participation and Representation in the Washington Region

This month, on August 26th, we will celebrate Women’s Equality Day, designated as such by Congress in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.  As we approach the day to celebrate this milestone in women’s history, we see there is both much to celebrate, and much work to be done around women and civic and political engagement.

First, the good news: women are making it out the polls in record numbers. Today, women are actively voting, running for office and creatively using their individual and collective power to bring about social and community change. The Census Bureau reports that since 1996, the number of citizens who have reported voting has increased in every presidential election. As in the country as a whole, in our region women are the majority of voters, and both register and vote at a slightly higher number and proportion than men, particularly in the District of Columbia.

 Chart Voting by sex in Nov 2012

Source: The Women’s Foundation compilation of data from the Bureau of the Census, 2012

In the November 2012 election, slightly under three-quarters of DC women voted (71 percent) in comparison with 64 percent of men. This was more than ten percentage points higher than the national voting rates for women (59 percent) and  about ten percentage points higher for men (54 percent) in that election. Voting in Maryland and Virginia had lower rates than DC, closer to the national average; still, women’s civic participation was higher than men’s.

The same pattern holds for voter registration: Seventy-seven percent of DC women were registered to vote in 2012, in comparison with 72 percent of men, which was also higher than the national rates of 67 percent of women and 63 percent of men. In Virginia, 71 percent of women registered to vote compared to 66 percent in Maryland.

Now for the challenging news: While women may make up the majority of voters, there is a significant under-representation of women in political office. Today, women’s representation at the state and national levels falls short of the 51 percent needed to reflect their proportion in the population. For example, women only make up 18.5 percent of the US Congress: they hold just 99 of 535 full-voting Congressional seats, which is up from 90 in 2010.

The District of Columbia has one non-voting Congressional seat, which has been held by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton for twelve terms. In Maryland, women hold two of the 10 Congressional seats: Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Donna Edwards. Thirty percent of the state legislature is made up of women and Maryland ranks 9th among states for the proportion of women in the state legislature.

Virginia holds 13 Congressional seats, none of which are currently filled by women.

The proportion of women in Virginia’s  state legislature decreased from 19 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2014. Virginia ranks 40th among states for the proportion of women in the state legislature. The governors of both Maryland and Virginia are men, and neither state has ever elected a woman governor.

Equal political representation for women at the national, state and local levels is critical as it increases the likelihood that laws and policies will reflect the needs and interests of women and their families. Last year, we hosted a brown bag lunch with Rebecca Sive, author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House, to discuss this important topic. We encourage you to read highlights from the conversation and tweet your thoughts using #UseThe19th.

In the 43 years since Women’s Equality Day was designated, we have made impressive strides in the number of women who turn up at the polls to make their voices heard; however, women still are not sufficiently represented in political office – a place where, more than just having a voice, they have a platform and the power to make critical change for women, their families and the communities in which they live.  We may be celebrating Women’s Equality Day this month, but equality in political office still remains far too aspirational. What can you do to raise your voice and be heard?

 

Rainmakers Giving Circle – Five Grants Awarded

Girls-on-the-runThis year, I have had the privilege of co-chairing the Rainmakers Giving Circle.  The Circle was organized under the auspices of The Women’s Foundation and provides grants to organizations that improve the lives of under-resourced girls and young women in the DC region.  I’m pleased to report that we are now 34 women strong and celebrating our 11th year of grantmaking.

The Rainmakers Giving Circle received over 100 proposals for funding this year.  We worked in teams to review and evaluate the proposals, ultimately selecting 11 organizations to receive site visits.   One of the most gratifying aspects of our work is spending time on site with the organizations’ staff and the young women they serve, asking tough questions and seeing their work in action.

After the site visit teams have a chance to confer, the Circle then gathers as a whole to hear reports on the site visits – always a spirited discussion – and then renders its decision by a vote.

I’m delighted to report that in this cycle we will be making grants to the following organizations:

  • Court-Appointed Special Advocate/Prince George’s County ($15,000)
  • FAIR Girls ($15,000)
  • Girls on the Run (Northern VA)  ($14,050)
  • Liberty’s Promise ($12,000)
  • Transitional Housing Corporation ($15,000)

Our funding decisions are always challenging, as we receive proposals from more organizations doing outstanding work than we are able to fund.  This year’s grantees distinguished themselves by having highly dedicated and talented staff, by developing creative and practical approaches in their programming, and by working through a strong “gender lens.”

This year we made one major change in our grant-making model:  We decided to move from an annual to a bi-annual grantmaking cycle. (In other words, we’ll be giving the grantees listed above the same amount of funding in the second year of a two-year grant cycle, provided that the grantees can demonstrate satisfactory progress in their program work at the end of the first year of funding.)  As we gathered the Circle for a post-mortem last year, a clear consensus emerged that we should move toward a “partnership” model in which we would work with our grantees in two-year cycles.

Over the years, several of us have been inspired to develop relationships directly with grantees by performing on-site volunteer work, fundraising, or serving as board members.   We want to learn more and do more.  We believe that increasing our investment in our grantees will give Circle members an opportunity to strengthen our relationships and to make an even greater impact in the community.

I joined the Rainmakers many years ago because I wanted to meet other women who shared my interests and to conduct my charitable giving in a more meaningful, hands-on way.  It is such a pleasure to work with this committed group of change-makers.  It has been a great opportunity to gain experience in collaborative grantmaking and to engage in the community, knowing that I’m helping to empower more young women through this shared effort than I could on my own.

 

 

 

In Her Words: Transportation Barriers

Katrice Brooks is a student at our Grantee Partner SOME’s Center for Employment Training (CET). Below, Katrice writes about her struggles with transportation and how her long, expensive commute affects her life and prospects for the future.

People opt to use public transportation for a variety of reasons: some to save on the cost of fuel and car maintenance, others to get back the time that they were losing driving.  Despite the benefits of driving enjoyed by few, some have no choice in the matter.

As a single mother and full time student, when I think of public transportation one word comes to mind: bittersweet. I am required to get up before the sun has risen every day of the week to take my daughter to daycare and to be at school before 8:30am.  My daughter, Lauren, is 20 months old, and because it is usually  so early in the morning, I have to carry her in one arm with my school books in the other because she is usually still asleep.  Traffic jams are very common during rush hours, meaning even more time on the bus, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and less time spent where I really want to be. I spend most Katrice-Quote-july-enewsof my time on public transportation, catching the eight buses a day I need to make it to where I need to be on time.  In this modern society, this is what I have to do to access my education, jobs, events and social network.

This commute affects the opportunities I would like to take advantages of to provide a better life for my daughter and me.  I am currently without a car, and the required fare needed to ride public transportation interferes with my family’s health, housing, medical bills, even food.  I am not willing to limit my daughter’s education quality due to transportation restrictions or be forced to change my preferred job options because of difficulty accessing affordable transportation choices. I cannot begin to mention the drop in my social activities caused by inadequate transportation. I’ve become isolated and miss normal social interactions. My daughter, Lauren’s, face is the reason I smile.  Every moment my daughter rises and opens her eyes, I want to be there for her.  With challenges like daycare, long daily commutes, feeding and preparing Lauren for bed, she’s too tired to do anything else, so I sing her favorite songs and off she goes to sleep preparing her little body for the next day ahead. Then I begin the load of work that has to be done before returning to class the next day.

I have decided to make a change in our lives.  With all the time we spend on public transportation, I don’t want to have to worry myself with a pick-pocket, or an irate and noisy commuter. Imagine how wearisome it can be when someone beside you is drunk, and you have to keep an eye on them the entire commute, all the while praying that they won’t harm your baby girl.   The SOME Center for Employment Training has been extremely helpful by providing me transportation assistance in the form of a smart trip card, but with the kind of commute I have on a daily basis it is nowhere near the amount I need to make ends meet.   Public transportation is an importation part of my life, but I am writing this essay to speak about the problems with public transportation, not only for myself, but also for other single mothers and passengers.

Transportation: Vital for Women’s Economic Security

Safe, efficient and affordable transportation is vital for women’s economic security. It ensures self-sufficiency by enabling timely access to employment and essential services –like grocery stores, child care centers and medical care –and allowing women to complete training and education programs.

Finding affordable housing for a working family, particularly in our region, increasingly requires long commutes and high transportation costs. With the dispersion of jobs, services and other opportunities, it is not surprising that workers are spending more and more time commuting than ever before. Low-income housing, in underserved urban neighborhoods as well as in suburban areas, is located far from employment centers or disconnected from public transportation routes, preventing workers from getting to their destinations conveniently, efficiently and on time. In addition, urban revitalization projects in the capital region have brought an influx of affluent newcomers, usually displacing low-income residents to poorer neighborhoods that are further away and that lack public transportation infrastructure; not only making commutes longer, but also requiring more transfers and circuitous routing.

Many of the women participating in programs run by our Grantee Partners have reported that lack of reliable transportation is one of the most pervasive barriers to remaining employed or completing job training. A number of research studies underscore this experience. Findings suggest that the longer the commute, the less likely someone is to be employed, and they agree that lack of access to transportation is a major obstacle for workforce development.

Time spent commuting deserves attention from policymakers and grantmakers. Given the reasonable bandwidth of most people, long and complicated commutes are particularly expensive for those who have them, and can affect a program’s intake rates. Long commutes take away personal time that can’t be spent working, on education, running errands, or simply enjoying time with family or taking care of children. In 2012, women’s average commute time in the Washington Region was 32 minutes. In the same year, more than a quarter of female workers (27 percent) had commutes of 40 minutes each way and about 3 out of  100 female workers had “extreme commutes” of at least 90 minutes per trip, according to the American Community Survey.

Transportation July e-news(10)

Commuting costs

In addition to consuming time, commuting is also expensive in terms of dollars and cents. Transportation costs rose faster than income during the 2000s, increasing the burden these costs placed on already stretched budgets. For the working poor – those earning less than twice the federal poverty measure–these costs consume a larger portion of their earnings.  In the Washington metropolitan area the cost-burden of commuting for this population is among the highest in the country, greater than the national median, and working poor households spend nearly three times more than other households, in relative terms. According to national data, transportation is the second largest expense for households: jointly with housing it accounts for more than one-half of all household spending.

What we are doing

Long and costly commutes discourage employment, leave workers with little to no time to spend with their families or to master the very skills needed for employment, and also leave them with fewer resources to accumulate savings and assets. Considering access to transportation is fundamental when The Women’s Foundation invests in programs working to improve the economic security of low-income women. We support efforts to link workforce development programs with transportation stipends, to ensure commuting to classes and meetings does not place an additional burden on or become a disincentive to women that would benefit from participating in our Grantee Partners’ programs. SOME, Year Up, and Goodwill are some of the many Grantee Partners providing some sort of transportation assistance as part of their education and training programs. This kind of assistance has proven to be a valuable approach in bridging the gap to meet low-income women’s needs, however, much more needs to be done to ensure transportation is not only accessible and affordable, but also safe and efficient. Considering transportation is crucial when developing policy recommendations and designing programs to lift women out of poverty so women can truly draw on and benefit from those initiatives.

What We Can Learn from Employers at The White House Summit on Working Families

The recent White House Summit on Working Families brought national attention to issues facing working families across our country. In the next installment in our series on the Summit, we’re distilling a few key messages from employers who participated in the Summit conversations. What would they tell other employers? What mattered in their decisions to adopt flexible workplace policies? How could companies meaningfully adapt to the 21st century workforce?

  • Tone at the top.  Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO of EY (the newly re-branded Ernst & Young) shared a personal story. For him, the decision to become Global Chairman and CEO last year was a family one.  When he was offered the position, he asked his family’s opinions and, while being clear about the time and travel responsibilities, made the commitment to still put family first. For his very first speech as Global Chairman, Mark was traveling to China. He prepared, and practiced, and prepared some more. From his account, the speech went well, but no one in the audience remembers it. What they remember instead is that –when asked if he’d be attending the dinner at the Great Wall later that day – he said no. No because his daughter had her driver’s test later that day, and he had promised her he’d be there. After that answer, he received hundreds of positive emails from his staff. Mark realized that he would have passed on his new position if he couldn’t have had the flexibility to prioritize family, and his talent would do the same.
  • Tone at the middle.  Bob Moritz, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, expanded on the need to balance priorities and specifically how we must adapt to the newest generation in our workforce: Millennials. Interestingly, he noted that – when polled on their views – both Millennials and Boomers had similar responses, valuing workplace flexibility (about 7 in 10 Millennials, and 6 in 10 Boomers). The difference, however, was how far those workers would act on their value of flexibility. Unlike Boomers, Millennials are willing to leave a company if they don’t get the flexibility that they’re seeking. For Bob, he knew PWC needed to adjust their policies, but he also knew this meant setting – or re-setting the “tone at the middle.” The company policies could change, but he needed his middle-aged management teams to see the value in these changes, and manage their Millennial employees accordingly. That has made all the difference in implementation.
  • Transparency and shared ownership work.  Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll, spoke during a discussion on worker compensation – clearly critical to the economic security of a worker and their family. As a serial entrepreneur, Dane had recently tried something new with his latest company: sharing a list of all salaries with employees. This move was not without its challenges but, as he explained, is a practice that attracts higher levels of talent to his company. Talent is attracted to talent, and a company that they know will value and support them.Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing Company, took another approach: shared ownership. For the craft beer company, that ownership is both literal (employee ownership was phased in and, as of December 2012, the company is 100% employee-owned) and a part of the fabric of their operating culture. They practice “high involvement culture” that includes open book management, inclusive annual strategic planning and a belief “that the collective is stronger than the individual and that informed coworkers will make responsible decisions.” If you read the company’s core values, you’ll see much of the typical aspirations – innovation, continuous improvement, customer value – but also some of the atypical – such as stating a value for “balancing the myriad needs of the company, our coworkers and their families.”

Wouldn’t you like to work for employers that have this vision, and provide these flexible policies?  Or if you do already, wouldn’t you like for others to also benefit from this flexibility? These were just a handful of the forward-thinking employers who shared their stories at last week’s Summit, showing that policies that benefit working families can also benefit corporate bottom lines.

The World Cup and 42 Years of Title IX

Women's World Cup Soccer TeamThe World Cup is on.

For my family and I, that means a month of watching soccer together and cheering for our teams.  Once again, sports bring us together!  I started to follow soccer as a child with my grandmother who was an avid fan and now I share this with my two daughters.  Both are athletes and have benefited tremendously from their participation in sports.  They have celebrated victories with their teammates, powered through defeats, attended countless trainings and are developing into confident and strong young women.  I can observe first hand the positive impact that playing sports has on girls.  Each time I attend an awards ceremony, I am amazed at the number of girls who are not only recognized for their athletic performances but also for their academic achievements.  As a parent, I was dreading the high school years, but I now look at my oldest daughter’s friends, the majority of whom are either field hockey or soccer teammates, and feel that she has surrounded herself with an amazing network.  The experience of our girls is not unique.  Research has touted the benefits of sports in reducing the risk of obesity and increasing self-esteem.  Studies have shown that girls who play sports are less likely to use drugs or smoke, and that there is a lower risk of teen pregnancy among athletes.  Girls involved in sports are also overall less likely to drop out of school. The list goes on and the lessons athletes learn on the field carry benefits that will enrich their lives well beyond the high school years.

My husband and I feel privileged to be able to offer these opportunities to our children but realize that not all girls and women have had the same experience. June 23rd marked the 42nd anniversary of Title IX.   After Title IX was voted into law in 1972, over forty years ago, girls’ involvement in high school sports increased dramatically from 295,000 in 1972 to over 3.2 million in 2012-13, according to National Federation of State High School Associations, and girls are becoming involved in sports at an earlier age.  However, there is still a gender and race disparity.  In 2013, girls’ participation in high school sports remains lower than that of boys in 1972.  That is a participation gap that spans four decades!  According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, only 64% of African-American and Hispanic girls play sports while 76% of Caucasian girls do.  Of all the many benefits around sports participation, the direct link between sports and education is critical.  Beyond the obvious sports scholarships, research shows that student athletes are more likely to graduate, an important fact when one takes into account that while overall, 24% of girls fail to graduate on time with a diploma, that number increases to 35% for African American and 34% for Hispanic young women. Not surprisingly, African American and Hispanic girls who have less participation in sports during their teenage years are at a greater risk to drop out.

While we can certainly celebrate the progress that has been made since 1972, there is still some work ahead of us.  All girls deserve to experience the joys and lessons of sports.  Let’s continue to debunk the myths that still exist around Title IX and encourage all to play sports. The U.S. Men’s National Team might be out of the World Cup this year, but in my house, we’re just as excited to see the U.S. Women’s National Team tear it up at the Women’s World Cup in 2015!

If you want to cheer on DC’s own women’s soccer team, join us on July 30th at the Washington Spirit’s game against FC Kansas City, where the team will be highlighting local non-profits, including Washington Area Women’s Foundation.  For discounted tickets to this game (and the rest of this season’s games), click here.

Takeaways from the White House Summit on Working Families

obama-working-families-summittYesterday, I had the privilege to attend the White House Summit on Working Families.  The White House hosted the Summit along with the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, to highlight and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing workers and families in our 21st century workplaces.

The Women’s Foundation will have a series of blogs on the Summit, but for now, here are my immediate takeaways:

1. Expect to hear more about paid family leave, especially parental leave; fair pay; and early learning. These were several policy areas the President explicitly mentioned in his speech. He also mentioned many more and announced new and greater flexibility for federal workers.

2. Get engaged at the local level.  National change is slow and, as the First Lady encouraged when she spoke to the Summit, we have to be okay with incremental progress of 20%, stacked on another 20%, and so on.  It is this steady – albeit slow – progress that can help us push forward.  On the local level, mayors and governors can enact change much sooner in their cities and states.  Likewise, CEOs can enact change in their own companies, and show others how these policies support workers and improve the bottom line.

3. Women everywhere, at all levels, are making sacrifices and choices.  As some women ascend, it is our responsibility to mentor the next generation and set “the tone from the middle” or “the tone from the top” – depending on where we are in our careers – and take it upon ourselves to create workplace cultures and policies that are fair, supportive and productive.

4. These are not just women’s issues.  These are issues for all working people, of all family types, and they can’t be pigeon-holed.  Whether it is a working dad, who wants to care for his infant in the first days of parenthood, or a childless worker that needs to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, issues like paid leave affect the ability of all working people to provide and care for their families while they earn a living and contribute to the economy.

Stay tuned for more in depth coverage of the Summit from The Women’s Foundation! In the meantime, you can find more information on http://workingfamiliessummit.org or check out the conversation on Twitter using #FamiliesSucceed.