Our Visit to Preschool

As an adult, I have little memory of my preschool years.  What I do “remember” is mostly built upon the stories and photos that my parents share with me: the artwork I made; the school play about Thanksgiving; the bright green cast I wore on my arm in my very first school photos (I have been a klutz most of my life…).

And although I can’t recall the exact lessons learned during my earliest schooling, research shows these years had a tremendous impact on my life. In addition to forming the basis for literacy and numeracy, preschool is also likely where I learned how to behave in a classroom – how to raise my hand, follow instructions, and interact with my peers.  Research shows that high-quality early education builds the academic, social and emotional foundation for success in K-12, college and the workforce.

Last week, The Women’s Foundation and our Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative hosted a tour and conversation with AppleTree at their early learning public charter school site in the Shipley neighborhood of Anacostia, in Southeast DC.  We visited classrooms of three and four year olds, going about their morning activities.  In one class, students were “excavating” dinosaur bones, painting and drawing dinosaurs, or working with dinosaur vocabulary words.

A recent unit on dinosaurs and paleontology has been building up to a field trip to the Museum of Natural History.  AppleTree  uses “play to learn” principles as part of their Every Child Ready curriculum that’s deployed in all of its classrooms.  Every Child Ready is a comprehensive instructional model that drives how to teach, what to teach, and how to tell it’s being done to increase teacher effectiveness and children’s learning in early childhood classrooms.

AppleTree 1

The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative has invested for several years in AppleTree’s professional development for early childhood teachers, helping to disseminate the Every Child Ready curriculum.  This year, the Collaborative is supporting the organization’s local communications and advocacy efforts, through which AppleTree aims to define quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.

On the occasion of the Week of Young Child, our visit to AppleTree last week was a great reminder of all the ways that individually and collectively our Grantee Partners are striving to provide high-quality early education for our region’s youngest residents.  Whether these children remember learning about dinosaurs – or are reminded later in life by photos and craft projects – these earliest experiences will have a lasting impact on each of their lives, and the vitality of our community as a whole.


Established in 2008 as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative brings together corporate funders and local and national foundations, with a mission to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  Click HERE to learn more.

Funders Work Together to Influence Local Early Childhood System

By Stacey Collins, PNC Foundation and Karen FitzGerald, The Meyer Foundation

sponsorship-fpo-2Six years ago, Washington Area Women’s Foundation launched the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, an effort to bring together local and national funders to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington region.  We – Stacey Collins of PNC, and Karen FitzGerald of The Meyer Foundation – are pleased to serve as the Collaborative’s current co-chairs.

Many of us on the Collaborative have focused on the value of investing in early childhood for many years. However, early childhood issues have recently taken center stage in national conversations.  As a group of funders investing locally, we know that high-quality early care and education can help close the “readiness gap” for low-income children entering kindergarten.

We invest together through the Collaborative to influence systems-level change.  We seek to influence the quality and capacity of early care and education options, and to ensure that low-income families in our region have access to these options.  This year, our grants include local advocacy investments to preserve and increase public support for early care and education, and investments in the professional development of early care and education providers (to increase the quality and capacity of programs in our region, and to support the career advancement and earnings of the predominantly female workforce).

Beyond our grantmaking, how does working as a collaborative influence our individual approaches as funders and investors?

From my perspective, at PNC…

The collective voice is greater than our individual voices, even on the same topic. From feedback and advocacy to funding, the impact is greater when we work together.

As a collaborative effort, by design, we keep early childhood at the center of the conversation. We focus our investments around programs that create the biggest impact. It is not just about making more dollars available for quality childcare in the region, although that is important. It’s also about getting to know what influences, how trends and policies shift the way early childhood education (ECE) happens, and which organizations are on the cutting edge of driving those changes. Often, that means defining quality and really understanding what the programs we fund are doing to change the trajectory of ECE in the region.

I personally have learned so much from being a part of the Collaborative. It’s a group of smart and passionate advocates. Our discussions about program effectiveness, and how to assess that when no universal quality standard pre-K assessment tool exists, are a great way to learn from others. It’s an opportunity to delve into the “why” behind each other’s focus areas.

From my perspective, at The Meyer Foundation…

Pooling resources and focusing on the entire ECE system – rather than on individual child development centers – helps Meyer have a bigger impact in ECE than we would have through our individual grantmaking.  We fund some ECE work in our education program area, but we don’t focus on it.

The Collaborative gives us the chance to learn more about ECE from funders who know more about the issue than we do. We especially value the opportunity to work alongside corporate and family foundations, who share our commitment to the issue and whose different perspectives make for rich discussions and grant deliberations.

The Collaborative has elevated for us the issue of ECE quality so that it is now an important priority of our grantmaking in this area.


Click here to learn more about the Collaborative.

The Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative currently includes: The Boeing Company, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, Fight for Children, Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, PNC Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 28, 2014

Q: In 2014, who became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve?

A: Janet Yellen. On October 9, 2013, Janett Yellen was officially nominated to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve and made history as she took office on February 3, 2014 as the first female Chair of the Federal Reserve. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Yellen served as the Vice-chair of the Federal Reserve from 2010.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 27, 2014

Q: Who was the first American woman in space?

A: Dr. Sally Ride, who joined NASA in 1978 after answering a newspaper ad seeking applicants for the space program. At 32, Ride became the first American woman in space and the youngest person to go into space at that time. She was preceded in space by two Soviet women. In 2013, Sally Ride was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recently, the current NASA Administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.), wrote a blog post for The Women’s Foundation remarking on the accomplishments and contribution of Sally Ride and the other female astronauts that came after her and how they inspire women and girls to dream big.

Report Shows Need for Financial Counseling for Domestic Violence Survivors

DV-Counts-CoverThe latest Domestic Violence Counts report is out and the 2013 census of domestic violence shelters and services shows the devastating impact that economic insecurity can have on victims of abuse and their children.

Each year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) takes a look at the people served and the services provided during one 24-hour period at participating programs across the country. On September 17, 2013, just over 1,600 programs participated in the census. They served over 66,000 people. The stories behind the numbers range from uplifting to devastating.

“One of our program participants received a job offer on Census Day,” a Missouri advocate reported. “This employment opportunity will provide her with an income to be able to exit the shelter and obtain and retain her own housing for her family.”

But an advocate in Alabama shared: “Despite extreme stalking and a high threat of danger, a survivor was denied community legal services because there was no physical abuse. The survivor makes minimum wage and is unable to afford a divorce attorney.”

For women who experience domestic violence, economic security and personal safety are closely linked. Sara Shoener from the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice recently explained to the National Domestic Violence Hotline that domestic violence increases the risk for financial insecurity, and that poverty can increase the risk of vulnerability to abuse. “Domestic violence survivors often rank material factors such as income, housing, transportation, and childcare as their biggest considerations when assessing their safety plans,” she added.

Support services that help women establish economic security can help them leave abusive situations and stay safe. In addition to the basic necessities that Shoener listed above, a significant number of women also need help navigating the social services system. They may also need help building their financial literacy skills. In order to maintain control, an abuser might ruin a victim’s credit, fail to pay or hide bills, steal a victim’s possessions or misrepresent the state of their finances. It may take time and guidance for a survivor to get her financial house in order.

The Domestic Violence Counts report found that 29 percent of programs provided services related to building financial skills on the day that the census was taken. Eighty-three percent of programs provide this service throughout the year. And 22 percent of the programs surveyed provided job training and employment assistance on Census Day.

In spite of the clear need for more counseling and support around financial issues – and the dangers associated with economic instability – funding cuts and reduced resources across the country have meant that dozens of programs have had to reduce or eliminate their financial literacy services and job training and employment assistance programs.

These cuts may seem necessary now, but the long-term expense on our entire community is far too great. At the release of the Domestic Violence Counts report, it was revealed that eight million work hours are lost each year as a result of domestic violence in the United States. Victims of abuse may miss work because of injury, legal proceedings or sudden changes to their living situations.

“If we don’t pay for domestic violence aid now, we pay for it down the line through healthcare, lost productivity and the impact on children exposed to violence,” said Kim Gandy, president of NNEDV.

The services and models for assistance are already in place – now we need to restore and increase funding to these programs so that more survivors can have the safety and security that everyone deserves. On September 17, 2013, nearly 400 people in DC, Maryland and Virginia who reached out to a shelter or service provider for help were turned away because the providers did not have the room or resources to serve them. No woman whose personal safety is at risk, and who reaches out for help should ever be turned away. And no mother should have to stay with an abuser because she has nowhere to take her children.

Three Things You Can Do to Help

Women’s history Month Q&A – March 26, 2014

Q: Who was the first African American woman to be appointed Secretary of State, and the first woman to be appointed National Security Advisor?

A: Condoleezza Rice, who served as the 66th United States Secretary of State. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American secretary of state (after Colin Powell), and the second female secretary of state (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position.

Leadership Issues for Women of Color

CAP-woc-panelI’ve known the statistic for a long time, but it never ceases to amaze me each time I see it in black and white: just 4.5 percent of members of Congress are women of color. Out of 535 people, there are 13 African American women, seven Latinas, and four Asian Pacific American women. That’s not a minority – it’s a minisculority (if such a word existed). The issue, of course, is that women of color make up 18.4 percent of the US population. It makes you wonder when the House of Representatives – and all of the other branches of government – will actually represent all of the American people.

The disparity in population and representation is evident outside of the world of politics, too. Latinas make up just five percent of Fortune 500 boards. According to Catalyst, two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have no women of color on their boards (10 percent have no women at all!). And while the number of women of color who are CEOs at Fortune 500 companies fluctuates year-to-year, there are never more than a handful.

Earlier this month, the Center for American Progress brought together a diverse group of women to have a conversation about leadership, mentoring, executive presence and the changing face of female influence. At the heart of the discussion was a concern that in the media, academic and business worlds, the experiences of white women have become stand-ins for all women – a fact that further complicates the challenges posed by gender bias. When it comes to inclusion and diversity, the voices and experiences of women across racial and socioeconomic lines must be taken into consideration.

The conversation was engaging, wide-ranging and way too short! Here are my three favorite a-ha moments:

If you don’t see yourself in government, you won’t think you belong there. Diana Hwang, co-founder and executive director of the Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative, made this point after sharing the story of her father’s reaction to the news that she’d landed her first job as an aide to a state representative. “You’ll never be one of them,” he told her sadly.

There are currently just 43 Asian women currently serving in elective offices at state and national levels (this number includes Congress, state legislators, statewide elective executive offices, and mayors of the 100 largest cities). It’s no wonder Diana’s father was concerned she’d only have the opportunity to work for an elected official – not be one.

When it comes to leadership, we are still telling women to fit in. Ella Edmondson Bell, associate professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and founder and president of ASCENT, said that cookie cutter behaviors and expectations don’t work. Yes, women have to be aware of cultural norms and expectations (in her words, knowing when to put on the pearls and the pink St. John’s suit). But we should not and cannot be expected to act just like the white men who currently hold most leadership positions.

We will never succeed if we do not have the courage to try. Val Demings was the first woman to be appointed chief of police in Orlando. She described “growing up poor, black and female” and the courage it took to go to Florida State University, to join the police force and to become police chief. After retiring from the Orlando Police Department, she ran for Congress in 2012. But it was not an easy decision. She shared that women typically have to be asked seven times to run for office before they’ll begin to consider it – and she was no different. She didn’t win her congressional race, but remains undeterred. She’s currently a candidate for Orange County mayor. Demings says that the three keys to anyone’s success are: courage, preparation and opportunity. Click here to watch her speech.

I think that’s great advice that can be applied beyond the individual level. As voters, consumers, managers, the owners of companies, taxpayers, etc., we all have a stake in seeing more women of color in leadership positions and the power to make that happen – plus, diversity has been proven to be beneficial to companies, organizations and societies. We can create a truly representative community by ensuring that there are plenty of prepared women in the leadership pipelines, by giving them opportunities to move up ladders, and by having the courage to make long-term investments in people.

Women’s History Month Q&A – March 24, 2014

Q: Which female Supreme Court Justice was the first Hispanic member of the Supreme Court?

A: Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor earned a B.A. from Princeton University and her J.D. from Yale Law School. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009, making her the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.

Transition at The Women’s Foundation – Message From the Board Chair

Nicky Goren, president of The Women’s Foundation, has announced her plan to leave the Foundation. Her departure completes a four year tenure highlighted by operational achievements, fundraising success and a commitment to serving economically vulnerable women and girls in our region. Beginning tomorrow, Vice President Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat will serve as interim president at The Women’s Foundation.

Nicky has accepted a position as president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, effective July 1. We are grateful to her for the leadership and expertise she brought to The Women’s Foundation during an important period in its evolution. She leaves behind an organization that is operationally resilient and efficient, strengthened in the pursuit of its mission, and characterized by an exceptional team, tenacious in their purpose.

The rest of the board and I are confident that, under Jennifer’s leadership, the Foundation will continue to deliver innovative programs and services that ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in our community are on a path to prosperity. Over the next 60 days, Jennifer and Nicky will work closely to ensure that the transition period runs smoothly.

Jennifer joined The Women’s Foundation in 2008, and has since provided strategic guidance and leadership across the Foundation, while heading up its programs, major gifts and development functions of the organization. With her at the helm, The Women’s Foundation will continue its long history of outstanding commitment to serving the needs of our community.

In the coming months, you will hear more about this transition from Jennifer, Nicky and me. The board will move quickly to select a permanent president, and we will update you on that process, as well. If you have any questions or concerns during this time period, please reach out to communications@wawf.org.

Finally, I want to say thank you. For more than 15 years, The Women’s Foundation has benefited from great leadership, community partnerships and support, and from our shared commitment to making our region a better, more equitable place for women and girls.Thank you for your continued support. By standing together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of the hundreds-of-thousands of women and girls who live in poverty.

Click here to read the message we shared with the media today. And click here to learn more about Jennifer.