News roundup: The Women's Foundation's new president!

The media has been abuzz with talk of Phyllis Caldwell and her appointment as president of The Women’s Foundation. 

To read more about Phyllis, her goals for The Women’s Foundation and her background, check out these recent news articles and blogs:

D.C. Examiner: "Three Minute Interview: Phyllis Caldwell"  (Live link)  (PDF)

Washington Business Journal: "Bank of America exec heads to nonprofit"

Washington Post Regional Briefing: "Women’s Foundation Names Chief"

Washington Grantmakers Daily: "Washington Area Women’s Foundation announces new president"

Philanthropy News Digest: "People in the News (12/02/07): Appointments and Promotions"

Washington Times: "Movers and Shakers"

News on Women: "Phyllis Caldwell Caldwell Made President of The Washington Women’s Foundation"

Congrats Phyllis!  We’re all looking forward to working with you!

Do rising teen birth rates show need to abstain from abstinence-only education?

Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about how great it was that our regional teenage pregnancy rates were down

And how everyone was so hopeful that this reflected a national trend?


Seems that the rates here in our region may be more the exception that the rule.  The New York Times reports today that scholars were shocked to learn that national teenage birth rates as of 2006 actually rose for the first time since 1991.

Oops again.

The one spot of good news is that birth rates did drop for girls under 14; the increase was noted among teenage girls aged 15-17.

If that can be considered good news.

The largest increases came among black teenagers, but there were also increases among whites, Hispanics and American Indians. Only birth rates among Asian teenagers dropped.  All pointing the way again to the importance of developing culturally relevant strategies to address the factors that lead to teen pregnancy.

The news today is fueling discussion and debate over the Bush Administration’s abstinence-only education policies, which garner $176 million in funding annually. 

According to the article, "A landmark study recently failed to demonstrate that they have any effect on delaying sexual activity among teenagers, and some studies suggest that they may actually increase pregnancy rates."  The article goes on to explain that this could be because abstinence-only education scares young people away from birth control by asserting that it isn’t effective.

In the article, Robert Rector, a senior researcher with The Heritage Foundation, says that such logic is "stupid," arguing that, "Most young women who became pregnant were highly educated about contraceptives but wanted to have babies."

Other theories and perspectives on the data reflected in the article are:

  • Hillary Clinton stated that rates of teenage pregnancy declined during the Clinton Administration due to a focus on family planning.
  • Dr. John Santelli, chairman of the department of population and family health at Columbia University, said that rates declined in the 1990s due to sex rates dropping as a result of fears about AIDS.
  • Kristin A. Moore, a senior scholar at Child Trends, a nonprofit children’s research organization, said the increase in the teenage birth rate was particularly alarming because even the 2005 rate was far higher than that in other industrialized countries.

Whatever the various debates around what is causing the rise in teen birth rates, what is clear is that an effective strategy to combat the trend must be found due to the great impact having a child so young has on young women–for the duration of their lives. 

As the Washington Post article about local rates explained, "Adolescent mothers frequently compromise not only their health but also their future, dropping out of school and struggling financially. Their babies are at greater risk for a host of problems, including low birth weight and abuse, neglect and poor academic performance."

We owe it to girls and women to devote our resources and investments to strategies that are proven to work on their behalf and to pave the way to the brightest futures possible.

And perhaps a few helpful lessons can be drawn from the efforts here in our region, which are showing declines in birth rates.  Strategies used here that are cited by the Washington Post article are:

  • Hosting discussion groups to teach parents how to talk to their kids about love, sex and relationships.
  • Calvert County makes contraception accessible to girls at its family planning clinics for no charge and, except in rare cases, no questions. The approach might explain why the teen birthrate there fell 46 percent by 2005.
  • At the Washington Hospital Center, staff members dispense education, contraception and encompassing support.

Finally, the article states, "Most studies give more credit to teens’ greater use of condoms and other protection and the wider array of options available to them, including such long-acting choices as the birth control patch."

And wherever the research shows, is where I believe it makes sense for the dollars and efforts to go.  Women and girls are worth demanding meaningful results.  

More people sign on to idea of women's equality.

Some National Election Survey data revealed that, increasingly, people are signing onto the notion that women should play an equal role in society.  The question asked was this:  "Some people feel that women should have an equal role with men in running business, industry and government. Others feel that women’s place is in the home. Where would you place yourself on this scale or haven’t you thought much about this?"

For the visually inclined, Matt Yglesias supplies a handy chart showing the results.  Feministing provides some intriguing discussion on the true implications of the data.

I find myself similarly intrigued, and agreeing with sentiments that it’s likely that data seems so hopeful largely because many people know the "right answer" and therefore provided it than may truly feel that way.

And yet, recent stories about the power of women’s philanthropy and the increasing role of women in business and programs supporting their success and the serious run of a woman for our top political office, do make me hopeful regardless of what an opinion poll may (or may not) really be saying.

Because they demonstrate that whether people are ready for it or not, that women are carving out an equal role for themselves everywhere.  Just by virtue of their accomplishments, their courage and their skills and abilities. 

Yes, there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure equal footing for women (as the posts at Feministing exposing everyday acts of sexism and gender bias every which way can attest), but there’s also a lot of hope to be found in the reality that women–unlike many politicians–have never found it necessary to wait for an opinion poll to turn their way and give them permission to step out and up in the world.

We’re doing it anyway.  Ready or not.

Philanthropy resting more and more on women's shoulders.

What makes women’s philanthropy different from general philanthropy?  This is something we often discuss here at The Women’s Foundation, informally, in giving circle meetings, at Philanthropy 101 sessions.

So what fun to see an article today really try to break it down.  Michael A. MacDowell wrote a guest column yesterday for the Press & Sun Bulletin in New York called "Women to take on more responsibility through philanthropy."

In  his column, MacDowell explains how it has come to be that philanthropy is largely, and increasingly, dominated by women.   He writes, "Today, the odds are good that the majority of the people in the United States with altruistic intentions are women…Simply stated, there are 6 million more women than men in the country. Plus, more women hold an undergraduate degree or a higher diploma than their counterparts, and 57 percent of today’s enrollment in institutions of higher education are female…In 2005…46.3 percent of the nation’s wealthiest people were women…With combined assets of $6.3 trillion, their wealth has increased 50 percent in seven years."

Not to mention that over the next 50 years, women will control most of the $41 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation.

That sounds like some pretty serious money to me.

So that tells us where the influence of women in philanthropy is coming from.  But do women really give differently?  According to MacDowell, yes.

First of all, he says, women tend to listen to other women philanthropists more for advice about their giving.  Whether on a large scale–i.e. being influenced by Oprah or Maya Angelou, or on a small scale, such as what we see here at The Women’s Foundation with women meeting, networking and talking about their giving through giving circles, Washington 100, the 1K Club, Philanthropy 101s or the other avenues that encourage women not only to give–but to give smart.

And, according to the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, women do think differently about their giving:

  •  Women tend to be more cautious in their contributions, researching organizations more carefully than do men;
  • Women emphasize giving to individuals, rather than brick-and-mortar projects, as a result of a deeply held belief that individuals make a difference;
  • Women’s political and economic views are as diverse as men’s, but they tend to make decisions based more on anecdotal information and intuitive knowledge; and,
  • Women tend to be more "tactile" in their giving patterns. They like to see, and in some ways, participate, in the philanthropic activities which they support.

As with any generalizations made about any group of people, one could analyze, dissect and discuss whether these trends are an accurate reflection of  the diversity of women’s giving.

But perhaps the more important question around women’s giving is whether women will not only continue to establish themselves as a philanthropic force, but whether they will focus their giving on investments in other women. 

The success of the Women Moving Millions campaign, as well as of local women’s foundations and the organizations they support, will be very telling in this regard.

We can only hope that as women continue to carry an increasing portion of the burden in philanthropy on their shoulders that women and girls in local communities and around the world will find themselves being lifted up.

What are women business owners contributing to our economy?

Inspired by Roxana’s post on women entrepreneurs and the study Trinity University conducted for The Women’s Foundation about how to support them, I couldn’t help but click when I came across an article in the Jacksonville Times-Union called "Women mean business: $18 billion worth."

The article cited a study that showed how women-owned businesses in northeast Florida had made an $18.8 billion impact on the local economy and created more than 200,000 jobs.

The study was done similarly to the way that Trinity had done theirs in our area, and revealed some of the same findings.  Including how women just feel that they can do better on their own, rather than working for someone else.

The article states, "For some reason, [women] think they can do better on their own than somewhere else," said Gwen Martin, managing director of research at the Center for Women’s Business Research. "From these numbers, I’d say they’re right."

It all got me thinking more about the local statistics about women-owned businesses, and the power of investing in women entrepreneurs–and in programs that build their skills and help them step out on their own.

Programs like those found in the directory of women’s small business development that Roxana created with her students.

It got me to thinking about the status of women-owned businesses in our area.  From the Center for Women’s Business Research I learned that as of 2006:

  • In D.C.: There are an estimated 21,706 privately-held, 50% or more women-owned firms, generating $5.4 billion in sales and employing 20,667 people.  Between 1997 and 2006, the number of these firms in the District of Columbia increased by 52.3 percent and sales increased by 48.7 percent.
  • In Virginia: There are an estimated 243,756 privately-held, 50% or more women-owned firms, generating more than $42 billion in sales and employing 320,198 people. These firms account for 40.2 percent of all privately-held firms in the state.
  • In Maryland:  There are an estimated 210,751 privately-held, 50% or more women-owned firms, generating more than $32 billion in sales and employing 223,760 people. These firms account for 41.2 percent of all privately-held firms in the state.

Not too shabby, particularly when you consider the challenges that women face in developing a small business, and particularly low-income women like those featured in the Trinity study.  The challenges cited include access to start-up funding, credit issues, lack of business knowledge and training, time constraints, family commitments, health insurance and a fear of failure.

Given that, it would make sense then that one of the study’s most important questions would be why a woman, and particularly a single, low-income woman without another breadwinner in the home, would even attempt it. 

The study found the following answer, "…As minority low-income single mothers, they are more likely to have experienced difficulties and disadvantages in the labor market. Inadequate income, lack of opportunities to build wealth and assets, insecure jobs, little opportunity for advancement, poor working conditions, and conflicts with supervisors appeared to encourage these women to consider self-employment as a more desirable option than their existing wage employment…"

Trends that sound similar to those expressed in a recent DC Women’s Agenda post on the challenges facing women wage earners in Washington, D.C.

Then there are the Portrait Project‘s findings that throughout our region, women earn less than their male counterparts with the same level of education, due largely to the fact that women are crowded into fields that offer lower wages and fewer benefits.  Nationally, for instance, 23 percent of women are in administrative support roles (compared to 5.4 percent of men) and 17 percent of women are in service jobs (compared to 11 percent of men).  When women do hold professional or managerial jobs, they earn from $12,000 to $16,000 less than their male counterparts.

So it may be that women are feeling that they can do better on their own because, by and large, they can–particularly for low-income women looking at jobs that don’t provide stability, security, insurance or paid leave.

The risk of starting a business may seem small in light of the potential reward of succeeding.

And given the statistics about women-owned businesses in our area, it certainly seems as though investing in their success has a similar risk/reward ratio and is highly likely to pay off. 
As the Times-Union article stated, "We can reduce that stress so they can get on with the rest of their lives, whatever their dreams might be."

Learn more about how our Stepping Stones initiative is helping women in our area fulfill their dreams–from owning their own business to advancing in a secure career.  And how you can get involved!

Trinity develops resource for D.C.'s entrepreneurial women!

As a recent Stepping Stones Grantee Partner (I’m an associate professor at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.), I partnered with students in three of my courses over two semesters to develop, conduct, and analyze two community-based research projects to benefit D.C.-area women.

Trinity University takes seriously its role as a member of our community and one of the ways we work to fulfill our social justice mission is by partnering with other community-based organizations to identify and address our area’s needs.

Our community work takes a number of different forms both on and off campus. Not only do we encourage our students to volunteer, we require students to engage in course-based service projects that benefit our community while reinforcing and extending what they learn in class.

And, unusual for an undergraduate institution, we also provide opportunities for undergraduates to perform hands-on research—something which is usually limited to graduate students at larger universities.  These opportunities not only introduce them to sophisticated and rigorous concepts and methods, but allows them to use their own community as a laboratory and a lens, adding depth, dimension, and a grounding in reality to their college educations.

Our students learn “in the ivory tower” as well as “in the neighborhood.”

Our two community-based research projects had different, yet complimentary, focuses. In one course, my students and I conducted three focus groups bringing together low-income single mothers in the D.C. area to gauge their potential interest in starting their own small businesses.

Our key finding was that these women believed that they would never be able to get ahead as someone else’s employee.  They saw small business ownership as the only way they would ever be able to get ahead financially while balancing the competing (and often conflicting) needs of work and family. We compiled our research findings and analysis into a comprehensive report.

Our research explored both the opportunities and advantages women envisioned when considering self-employment, as well as the obstacles they perceived to be keeping them from making the leap from wage employment to micro entrepreneurship. One of the biggest obstacles our research participants identified was a lack of information about resources out there to help them plan—then actually launch—their businesses (primary need, start-up funding).

This finding neatly segued into our second, parallel research project: an online directory of D.C.-area micro enterprise assistance organizations, a project that we researched and compiled over two semesters.

My students and I developed a research instrument to find out specific information about each organization we studied. We compiled a list of local organizations to survey, and students tenaciously contacted these organizations, surveying them then analyzing survey results to judge whether they met our criteria for inclusion. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s member directory served as the foundation for this asset-mapping project.

We were able to build on the information they provided and we eventually identified 25 organizations in the Washington metropolitan area that provided micro loans, business training and technical assistance, and/or other relevant information and assistance that women in our community can use to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Roxana Moayedi is associate professor of sociology at Trinity University, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation.

The Women's Foundation's got the spirit. Yeah, yeah!

If you catch the staff of The Women’s Foundation in an informal setting, you’ll often find us joking and teasing certain staff members about their former status as cheerleaders.

Not in a mean way.  Let me be very clear, we have nothing against cheerleaders.  Just in that surprised manner of learning that someone that is now your colleague and in a suit every day used to sport pom poms.

Sort of like when you would learn that your elementary teacher was also a human being who went to the grocery store.  

It’s kinda weird, and a funny new image to have in your head because it’s so different than the one you had previously.  So anyway, on occasion, you’ll find us teasing each other about our mysterious past lives.

So, after all this joking around, you can imagine how pleasant it was for us to be cited, as an organization, as a significant cheerleader for a local nonprofit in our area.

Deborah Avens, who just started a blog about her work with women in Prince George’s County, noted that for her nonprofit, Virtuous Enterprises (VEINC, Inc.) The Women’s Foundation has been a tremendous cheerleader.

She explained how our Leadership Award, which VEINC, Inc. earned in 2004, provided the confidence for Deb to realize that the work she was doing was really valuable. 

She also talked about this with me when I spoke with her earlier this year.  She explained, "It helped me build confidence that our organization could transition from a volunteer organization to a fully operable organization.  It was a part-time passion and when I became a Leadership Awardee and started seeing the impact that The Women’s Foundation was making in the lives of women and girls, it gave me the support I needed to transition to full time."

As a staff member of The Women’s Foundation, and a Leadership Awards Volunteer this year, I was very much struck by this–by the power of a relatively small award ($10,000) and public recognition–to completely transform an organization.

Deb isn’t the only organization I’ve heard this from.  One of the nonprofits I visited as part of the Leadership Awards evaluation process this year (the 2007 awardees will be released soon!!!) hardly mentioned the money when I asked what the award would mean to them. 

Instead they talked about access to this community, to its learning, and to the public recognition and acknowledgment that would really make them feel that the work they’re doing matters, and give them the credibility they need to build even more support.

Looking at some of our amazing Grantee Partners, it’s always hard for me to imagine them questioning their value to their community.  That it wasn’t always just blatantly obvious.  The quality of their work is so astounding, and the impact they’re making is so significant–in terms of changing lives and communities.  It’s hard to imagine a time when they could ever doubt their impact, their importance, their contribution. 

But for many, The Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Award–or another grant–is the first time anyone really acknowledged their work and said, "Thank you.  What you’re doing matters."

Deb’s blog post, and the conversation I had during my site visit, are reminders to me of the value of programs like the Leadership Awards, that illuminate, showcase, recognize and give credibility to the amazing work going on around us that may be too "small," too unique, too hidden in a neighborhood or county we don’t tend to hear much about, to really be well known or well invested in.

And to encourage it–by bolstering those organizations themselves, and by encouraging others to adopt the unique, successful models that are working around them.

In many ways, it really is like cheerleading, I guess (Though I must admit I don’t know, as I’m not one of the staff members who ever was a cheerleader [far too lacking in coordination; also, fear of falling down]). 

It’s looking out over the field and having faith in the players, even when they’re doubting themselves.  It encourages them to play better, to stay in the game, and to keep their heads up when things look rough or it’s raining, and all the spectators have gone home.

It’s a constant reassurance that yes, someone is watching, someone is seeing, someone cares about the outcome.

It’s fitting, really, that The Women’s Foundation can play this role for nonprofits in our area-and particularly for those serving women and girls, which tend to be under-recognized anyway in terms of funding priorities. 

It’s fitting that we can serve as their cheerleaders, because that’s the role so many of them play for the women and girls–and families–that they serve.

Learn more about how you can become a Leadership Awards Volunteer and search out great organizations like VEINC, Inc. throughout our region.  Or, contact Lisa Kays for more information.

Phyllis reflects the values, vision of The Women's Foundation.

For the past six months, I’ve been working with my fellow members of the search committee to find The Women’s Foundation’s next president–a search we understood under the guidance of the executive search firm, Isaacson, Miller.

I shouldn’t be surprised that after all the searching (and we talked to a lot of people!), our new president ended up coming from within our own community! I am so pleased to welcome Phyllis Caldwell as president of The Women’s Foundation.

I’ve been a part of The Women’s Foundation’s community for about seven years—basically since the beginning. Before there was an office or staff, before there was a Web site, and certainly before we were granting more than $1 million a year and raising that much at one luncheon!

And because of this, I know a little something about the power of this community, and its members, to come together and make things happen.

The people that make up The Women’s Foundation community share a number of traits, from a deep commitment to investing in women and girls to a strong dedication to service to their community.

And, they’re also doers. These folks get the job done.

This is not a group that says, “What if?” It’s a group that says, “Why not?” and then makes it happen! And they’re why, as we approaches our 10 year anniversary, The Women’s Foundation is doing more and having a greater impact than probably any one of us ever thought possible.

So it shouldn’t surprise me then that the second president of The Women’s Foundation comes from that community, from its foundation in social change, in the Washington metropolitan region and in a strong capacity to really make change happen.

And from a place of true commitment and dedication to the power of investing in women and girls.

Phyllis represents all of these elements of our community. She brings a results-oriented business perspective, expertise and knowledge along with the sense of passion, vision and ambition that make up the true spirit of The Women’s Foundation.

As a long-term supporter of The Women’s Foundation, and someone who has watched it “grow up,” so to speak, I look forward to seeing it flourish even more under Phyllis’ leadership and to what this next exciting phase might bring.

Congratulations Phyllis, and welcome to The Women’s Foundation!

Rubie Coles is a long-time supporter of The Women’s Foundation and was co-chair of the search committee for a new president.  Rubie is associate director/program director with The Moriah Fund.

What difference do nonprofits make in our community?

This is the question that we tried to answer in our recently released report, Beyond Charity: Recognizing Return on Investment, on how the nonprofit community impacts Greater Washington.  Beyond Charity reveals some of the many ways in which local nonprofits raise the quality of life for all of us, and are the lifelines to our most vulnerable neighbors.

What I would like to write about, however, is not our findings, but rather the reasons why we even launched the inquiry.

We already knew that when people give, they give with their hearts. But, does doing the right thing also make economic sense? Is an investment in a local nonprofit an investment in your community?

When the Nonprofit Roundtable first raised these questions over a year ago, we could not find any reports that attempted to document and add up evidence of nonprofit return on investment. The data that was available was either on the impact of a single organization or of a group of organizations on a single issue.

So, in partnership with the World Bank Group, we embarked on an effort to create a fuller picture by recording the return on investment of a wide range of nonprofits. We reached out to our 175 members – to more than a dozen area foundations and to dozens of other nonprofit organizations and experts. We imagined the power of a report that would sincerely begin to answer how nonprofits make a difference.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation was a big help and many of the examples in the report are of their Grantee Partners.

Of course, no one sets out to issue a report that sits on a bookshelf. Our hope is that Beyond Charity has multiple uses:

  • To create a baseline picture of the difference nonprofits make across the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.
  • To deepen the nonprofit community’s own understanding of our value and the importance of tracking return on investment. 
  • To create a common understanding among government, business, nonprofit and community leaders about the impact of nonprofits in order that we may work together more effectively on our region’s problems and aspirations.

We hope that as you read Beyond Charity, you are inspired to act.

Do you see a new opportunity to work collaboratively?  Are there community leaders who you believe really need to understand the impact of nonprofits and the expertise of nonprofit leaders? And, do you have your own example of nonprofit return on investment? If so, let us know!

Here’s our punch-line: when government, business, and concerned citizens partner with nonprofits – everyone profits!

Chuck Bean is executive director of The Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.

Phyllis will lead with purpose and passion!

I’m so thrilled to welcome Phyllis as the next leader of The Women’s Foundation!

Phyllis and I share a number of common grounds, from careers in the banking industry, to long-time residency in the Washington metropolitan area, and our personal dedication to the women and girls of our region.

That’s why we’re so proud to welcome her as our new leader!  Success in this role requires talent, experience and expertise—which Phyllis has in abundance.  With more than 20 years of professional experience in sales and management and a decade of focus on community development and housing initiatives in low and moderate- income communities, Phyllis is the perfect fit to lead The Women’s Foundation.

Moreover, Phyllis has that crucial spark that defines The Women’s Foundation: passion.

Her membership in Washington 100 predates her appointment to President, as does her long-standing history with personal philanthropy and dedication to social change.

Phyllis gets it. She understands giving, our community, and the importance of investing in women and girls. Her passion, combined with her knowledge and expertise of how to bring partners together and generate community investments that build long-term social change, are sure to inspire us all!

Welcome, Phyllis! We all look forward to working with you to change the lives of women and girls, our community, and ourselves!

Deb Gandy is the chair of The Women’s Foundation’s board of directors and a director with Citi Private Bank.