October 11th Is Not Just a Day, It’s A Movement…

Seven years ago, the United Nations deemed October 11 International Day of the Girl with the goal to “galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, promoting opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” Around the world, this day is recognized by a focus on advocacy related to issues that impact young women and girls and celebrations of the strength and enduring spirits of young women.

As a foundation focused on supporting the economic stability of women and girls in our region, The Women’s Foundation carries the intent of the Day of the Girl with us every day. It is the impetus behind all of our work, but our project that speaks most directly to the intent of October 11 is our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), which is a District-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for cis and transgender young women of color and gender expansive youth of color between the ages of 12-24.

There are multiple facets to this exciting work that we have phased in systematically; First starting with listening sessions to hear directly from young women of color in DC about what they need and want in order to realize their life goals. Second, we launched a Young Women’s Advisory Council to formalize the feedback we received from young women of color and to serve as the guiding voice of the project. We, in partnership with the Young Women’s Advisory Council, hosted the GirlsLEAD Summit in March, which provided leadership and life skills workshops to 300 local young women.  And most recently, we released a Blueprint for Action, which takes the collective voice of several hundred young women and girls of color with whom we have engaged through YWI and puts forth their recommendations for an improved Washington, DC, that better supports their needs and ability to thrive.

Today, on this Day of the Girl 2018, we are excited to announce the launch of YWI’s Rock Star Fund. The Rock Star Fund will provide micro-grants to individual young women and girls to support their own leadership development and help them advance advocacy or community development projects in their neighborhoods and schools. We are piloting the Rock Star Fund this year by inviting attendees of the GirlsLEAD Summit to apply for up to $2,000 each to support their projects. The goal of the Rock Star Fund is exactly the goal of the Day of the Girl – to promote opportunities for young women and girls to show leadership.  Applicants will tell us what their leadership development needs are, and members of the Young Women’s Advisory Council well help select the Awardees. This is participatory grantmaking at it’s best – developed by young women of color, for young women of color, and led by young women of color.

While this year’s pilot will be by invitation only, we look forward to opening up applications more broadly in subsequent years. If you have questions about your eligibility for the Rock Star Fund this year, please contact Claudia Williams at cwilliams@wawf.org or call us at 202-347-7737. Applications are due on November 8, 2018.

 

 

#our100days Day 1 Action

Strength in Numbers

The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step. It’s essential that we keep moving forward. Our plan is to focus the energy of thousands of women and men into action. By coming together each day to do a single task, we can create lasting change in #our100days.

Here’s what we’re doing today:

We need women across the Washington area to come together. Share our site with your friends and recruit 10 women and men to join our movement: http://our100days.thewomensfoundation.org/

 

Let’s Keep Marching Forward

Announcing the #our100days campaign

I am incredibly inspired to see women from all over the country prepare to gather in our city tomorrow. We will raise our voices as one to tell the nation that we are here, we are strong, and we are powerful. The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step. I believe it’s essential that we keep moving forward.

Over the next 100 days, the new administration’s priorities will become more clear, and there is much at stake — health care, education, jobs, and our most basic rights. In his inaugural address, President Trump said, “This moment is your moment, it belongs to you,” and he is right. This is our moment. We cannot be silent when we see injustices happening around us.

That’s why I’m proud to announce #our100days campaign — because these 100 days will be our 100 days too. Our goals are to raise $100,000 over 100 days and to focus the energy of thousands of women and men into action. Each day, we’ll give you a single task. As more join our movement, our message will be amplified across social media and throughout our communities.

Get our updates by following us on Twitter and Facebook and signing up on our site our100days.thewomensfoundation.org to join me and thousands of other women and men to create lasting change in #our100days.

Thank you,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President and CEO

 

The Time is Always Right To Do What’s Right…

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Next week, we will not only celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but we will recognize the inaugural National Day of Racial Healing, and bear witness to both a peaceful transition of power with the inauguration of our 45th President and the mobilization of several hundred thousand women and girls for the Women’s March on Washington. And all within the third week of 2017. As I reflect on the historic significance of it all, a quote by Dr. King comes to mind:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Well, that time is now.

Over the last two months, I have been a part of many private and public conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, and I’ve closely watched the public discourse around how we move forward as a country. The divisiveness we see and feel, the name calling and complete disregard for civilized debate, and the general sense that we are being pitted against one another has left many at a loss for how to move forward. As a leader, I’ve been forced to confront my own uncertainties, fears, and discomfort around the task before me as I continue to fight for women and girls, but it was a simple conversation with my 17 year-old daughter that moved me to action. Last week, she said to me, “Mommy,” (yes, at 17 she will still on occasion call me mommy), “I don’t feel like I have a voice, and I don’t know what to do.” My own daughter, the girl I’ve very consciously raised to be a strong, independent feminist, was at a loss, and her words were a wake-up call for me.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” And so I’m pushing my fears and uncertainties to the side, and I’m diving in with everything I’ve got because I never want to hear those words from any woman or girl ever again.

We have a voice, and we are powerful. It’s how we choose to harness our voice and power in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that matters. We cannot be overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. There are actions each of us can take in our daily lives to make a difference.

  • Make an effort to understand opinions and beliefs that are different from yours. Read books and articles that explore different opinions and perspectives. Seek out media outlets and journalists that you may not necessarily follow. Have meaningful conversations with the friend, neighbor, or colleague with whom you may disagree.
  • Get involved locally. Feel passionate about an issue in your community? Get involved and learn more. Find the organization leading the charge on the issue and get connected. Attend local government meetings or hearings on the issue you care about. Connect with your local women’s commission. Volunteer.
  • Become politically active at the local level. Regardless of your political affiliation, become informed about races happening in your own backyard. Learn more about the candidates and their positions. Attend events and voice your opinion and concerns. Support the development of the next generation of political leadership. Consider running for office.
  • Use your voice. Speak up when you see a wrong that needs to be righted, whether it’s in your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. Write your local political leaders. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed.

The New Year brings with it a sense of optimism and the idea that one can wipe the slate clean and start anew, whether that means you resolve to eat better, spend more time taking care of yourself, learn something new, etc. This year, I did not make a New Year’s resolution. Why? Because I am resolved that my resolution is not simply year-long but lifelong. At no time in my short 44 years have I been more resolved and committed to fighting for a fairer and more just and equitable community for women and girls than I am today, and I urge you to do the same. Our women and girls deserve nothing less.

Yes, the time is always right to do what is right.

Washington Region Early Care and Education Workforce Network Implementation Plan For Competency-Based Career Pathways

ABOUT THIS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

This plan was prepared by FSG through the generous support of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and its Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative.

FSG

FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change. Through strategy, evaluation, and research we help many types of actors — individually and collectively — make progress against the world’s toughest problems. Our teams work across all sectors by partnering with leading foundations, businesses, nonprofits, and governments in every region of the globe.

We seek to reimagine social change by identifying ways to maximize the impact of existing resources, amplifying the work of others to help advance knowledge and practice, and inspiring change agents around the world to achieve greater impact.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Washington Area Women’s Foundation is the only public foundation dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for women and girls in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation established the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative in 2008, as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort. The Collaborative is supported and directed by corporate funders and local and national foundations.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In April of 2015, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, that is both ambitious and visionary in its recommendations for how to transform the workforce and systems that serve children from birth through age 8, or third grade.

To catalyze implementation of the report’s recommendations, the National Academy led a national “Implementation Network” of states across the country working to implement recommendations from the report. Our Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network formed as one of the initial state networks, representing different sectors in early care and education (“ECE”) as well as the geographies of Maryland (Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties), Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax Counties), and Washington, D.C. Our region decided to form a team based on the unique needs in our region, including better serving our multi-cultural immigrant population with high numbers of dual language learners; embracing that the ECE workforce in our region is highly transient across state lines and thus could benefit from transferable credentials and compensation levels; and counteracting the lack of connectedness to a valued profession and to peers in ECE.

Our project purpose: “Mapping competency-based career pathways that are linked to quality and compensation and can be used across the region” will result in two concrete, connected deliverables:

Deliverable 1: 

Career pathways document

·   Document based on existing ECE professional credential/knowledge/competency frameworks in our region that establishes a practical and common set of quality standards for competencies at different levels, including suggested compensation levels, that are linked to identified competencies.

Deliverable 2:

Blueprint for an implementation mechanism

·   Certification/credential process that assesses and verifies competencies among the region’s ECE professionals according to the competency levels defined in the career pathways document and that establishes suggested compensation levels that correspond to the certification/credential.
Initial feedback on this project has been gathered from dozens of ECE stakeholders in the region and overall this idea has been met with a positive response. Developing the final deliverables, ideally over the course of 12 months, will require a highly collaborative process of further engaging stakeholders in the region. Moreover, research will be conducted to better understand how to create a career pathways document that is clear and user-friendly; what the competencies should be at each level of the pathway; how the competencies can be assessed and verified by a third party; and what the cost and benefit will be of achieving compensation commensurate with demonstrated competencies.In order for these deliverables to be used in practice, the region will need to create supporting infrastructure, for example shared services and practices related to substitutes, mentors, and/or benefits administration. This project will explore the feasibility of this kind of supporting infrastructure.

For the thousands of dedicated ECE professionals in our region, we hope this project will result in greater awareness of where they are on the career pathway; greater ability to engage in continuous improvement of their competencies; increased compensation and compensation alignment among early education and learning settings; and greater connectedness to a valued profession and to peers. This is in service of the ultimate outcome of this work: children in the region benefit from high quality early childhood experiences that foster positive learning and development.

 

DOWNLOAD AND READ THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN HERE.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat 2016 Leadership Luncheon Speech

Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here. I’m always blown away whenever I walk into the luncheon—the energy, excitement and enthusiasm are truly contagious, and I always leave this room feeling inspired.

And really how could you not be inspired by Karen and Juanita? Wow. Thank you both for the courage it took to share your stories with us today.

You know something that Karen said earlier really resonated with me: She said that you can’t find balance after pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, without a community of support.

At the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, this is what we’re all about, building and mobilizing community. And it’s the power of community that unites us of us here today.

It is absolutely no mistake that the theme of our luncheon this year is Together, We Thrive, because we know that when we bring community together, we can achieve better outcomes. And in the 18 years since The Women’s Foundation was created, we’ve certainly made incredible strides. Last year alone, our grant investments reached more than 3,600 women, and we helped them increase their incomes and assets by $3.6 million.

But we all know that the reality of today is that not everyone in our community is thriving, and in particular, women and girls of color face systemic challenges that stand in their way. And rather than lifting up the strength, resilience, and hope that is resident in communities across the country, some of the current public discourse is dragging us down.

And so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say to you today. As a white woman leading this organization in this moment, I’ve thought deeply about my role as a community leader in advancing racial equity. I acknowledge my privilege as a white woman, and I acknowledge the privilege and power that inherently comes with philanthropy. Frankly, on some level, it’s easy to hide behind that and go about my day. It’s hard to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to confront and challenge the unconscious biases that we all have, but at the end of the day, I can’t honestly look into my daughters’ eyes and say that I did all that I could to create a better community for women and girls if I remain silent when deep injustices are happening around me.

Last year, I stood on this stage, and talked about the need for bold action. I’m a firm believer in – “don’t talk, act. Don’t say, show. And don’t promise, prove.”

And that is why today, The Women’s Foundation is publicly committing to advancing equity for women and girls of color and tackling racism head on so that we can truly advance our mission and ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to thrive.

We must use our voice, our resources and the community we have created to remove the barriers women and girls of color face.

As you know, the mission of The Women’s Foundation is to mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources they need to thrive. Economic security has been central to our mission since our founding, but it’s not enough to simply say that we are working with low-income or economically vulnerable women and girls. We have to be intentional and explicit in our language and our actions. We can no longer leave unsaid the realities facing women and girls of color, and I would argue, it’s time to write a new narrative, one where we celebrate and embrace the contributions of women and girls of color.

While it’s always been implicit in our work, now we are committing to also explicitly applying a racial equity lens to our convening, our research and advocacy agendas, and our grant investments.

But most importantly, we are committed to ensuring that women and girls of color not only have a seat at the table, but are driving the solutions. And we’ll start that by launching a Young Women’s Initiative, which will be co-designed with young women and girls of color and other leaders in our community (many of whom are here with us today), all with the goal of crafting policy recommendations that address racial, gender, and other disparities. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this in collaboration with seven other women’s foundations from across the country as part of a broader effort called Prosperity Together, as well as the White House Council on Women and Girls.

As a first step in this Initiative, we are listening—really, truly listening—to the concerns and challenges facing women and girls of color in our community: Issues that limit their ability to achieve higher paying jobs; issues that threaten their own safety; and issues that jeopardize the health and well-being of their children.

And to be clear, when I say issues, what I am referring to are the policies and practices that disadvantage and disempower women and people of color on a routine basis—in other words systemic and institutional racism.

And so today, every member of my board, and my staff, is taking a public stand and professing their commitment to racial equity.  We are all in—today, tomorrow, and for the years ahead because this is hard work, and this hard work that must continue long after the national conversations have faded.

As we move forward in advancing equity for women and girls of color, I ask you to join us.   Stand with us.

Stand with us as we work together to understand the root causes of inequality and inequity in our city, and develop plans, together, to create change.

Stand with us if you believe that having a bright future means that you can’t predict how well women and girls are doing based on their race and ethnicity.

Stand with us if you believe that, Together, We Thrive.

 

When Is Enough, Enough?

We had our July enewsletter planned. In fact, yesterday, I sat with a copy of it for my review. I read it three times, and while I very much wanted to share the good work that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been engaged in—and there is so much good work happening—I was struggling to sign-off on the beautifully prepared and celebratory newsletter that sat before me. And then I woke to more violence and bad news this morning.

My heart is heavy. I feel immobilized. Tears flowed on several occasions yesterday. I wanted to turn away from the screen and social media, but I couldn’t. Another video, another senseless murder, another life lost, another family destroyed. Have you heard the heart wrenching, bring-you-to-your-knees sobs of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son during a news conference, as he cried, “I want my daddy…”? Did you watch Diamond Reynolds as she stood in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion demanding justice, not only for her boyfriend Philando Castile, but also for every family that has sadly come before her? “This is much bigger than me,” she said. I challenge anyone to watch either of those videos and not be rocked to your core.

Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. As a white woman, I will never know what it feels like to live in constant fear that my actions or my words or my simply being could end my life. I’m the mother of two teenage girls. I’ve never had to sit them down and explain to them how they are supposed to “be” in this world. When my 16-year-old started driving, I feared for her safety as a new driver, but I never feared for her life in the event of a traffic stop. Privilege. I am privileged. My girls are privileged. We live a privileged life.

All day, my Facebook feed was filled with friends and colleagues who are grieving. They are tired. They are angry. They’re feeling hopeless. They are in pain. I want to wrap my arms around all of them and offer words of comfort, but what would those words be? Everything will be ok? Justice will be served? We’re going to make this right? Ha – those aren’t words. Those are lies, and I won’t lie to my friends and colleagues. Instead, I promised to find my words at a time when I was at a loss for words.

And so here’s my start. At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when? In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Here we are, 52 years later, a long way from racial justice.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the stories of six beautiful women in DC who bravely shared their experiences. “Too few hold the power. Too many are powerless… There’s a different standard for everything… You think we don’t see it?”

I see it. My eyes are wide open. The question is: What do we do now?

 

Giving A Voice to Young Women & Girls Of Color At The United State of Women Summit

It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe the energy and enthusiasm of last week’s United State of Women Summit. More than 5,000 women from across the country packed into the convention center in Washington, DC, all there to celebrate how far we’ve come while committing to changing the #StateofWomen for tomorrow. As I stood on stage with eight women’s foundation representing Prosperity Together, I wondered how we can bottle the passion and hopefulness that was so palpable that day. There was a very different feeling in the room, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until further reflection, and then it hit me–voices.

This Summit showcased the voices and experiences of an incredibly diverse group of women—from Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old African American girl entrepreneur, who introduced the President of the United States to Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition to Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of MuslimGirl.net. Their voices spoke volumes as we collectively came together to serve as champions for the countless women and girls who have yet to be heard.

Standing on stage next to Ana Oliveira, President of the New York Women’s Foundation, as she announced our joint commitment to young women and girls of color through the Young Women’s Initiative, I could not have been prouder of the work at Washington Area Women’s Foundation. It is a privilege to spark and guide philanthropic investments that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the Washington region’s most vulnerable women and girls. This initiative will focus specifically on women and girls of color and will put their voices, experiences, and needs front and center.

The day-long event, organized by the White House, included so many inspiring moments. President Barack Obama opened his speech by pointing to himself and saying, “This is what a feminist looks like,” to a resounding round of applause. And by now, everyone has probably watched the video of First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, in one of the most open, honest and powerful discussions about women’s empowerment and gender equality that I have ever seen. “I think as women and young girls, we have to invest that time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are,” said Michelle Obama.

For the Young Women’s Initiative, we are investing our time in young women, and they themselves will be at the heart of our effort. This week we kicked off a listening tour to lift up the voices of local women who don’t often have an opportunity to share their personal stories. We watched a production by Empower DC, where six women shared their experiences living in public housing, and discussed the challenges they face and solutions they want to see in their communities, the places they call home. When I asked one of the women why she chose to tell her story, she answered, “I just wanted to be heard.”

And so we will listen. Over the coming months, we’ll continue to host sessions to empower women to become powerful advocates for themselves and their communities. But it’s not enough to listen. We must also take action.

At the end of the Summit, the First Lady said, “We can’t afford to be ignorant.  We can’t afford to be complacent.  So we have to continue the work.” We’re ready to work, and I hope you’ll join us.

 

About Prosperity Together: 
Seven women’s foundations announced their commitment to launch a Young Women’s Initiative in 2016, which will invest and catalyze resources to improve equal opportunity and the prosperity of young women, with a focus on young women of color and those experiencing the greatest disparities in outcomes in our communities. The Young Women’s Initiative will be built on cross-sector partnerships, including: government; philanthropies; nonprofits; corporations; and, most importantly, the young women themselves. The foundations announcing this commitment include the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. The New York Women’s Foundation previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015. Read more here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/13/fact-sheet-government-businesses-and-organizations-announce-50-million

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s 2015 Leadership Luncheon Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thriving Struggling Cards

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

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

1 in 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not so far out of reach.

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

JFAM large

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together, we can change the FUTURE.

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

And NOW is the time.

Thank you.

What the Debate over DC’s Minimum Wage is Missing

This essay by Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat first appeared on MomsRising.org on August 30, 2015.

As the head of a foundation focused on building economic security for low-income women and girls in and around the District, I’m glad that this minimum wage conversation is happening. But in the same vein, I must ask: Why are we focusing on just the minimums, rather than channeling our efforts toward maximizing economic opportunities for our women and girls?

More than ever beforOtherWaysToGive_Box2e, low-income working mothers in our region are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families.  We must be more res
ponsive to their efforts to get ahead, we must look beyond the discrete issue of take home pay to see all of the barriers standing in their way:

  • Lack of affordable child care. Today, if you are a mother working a full-time, 40-hour workweek under the new minimum wage in the District (thereby making $21,840 per year) it is literally impossible to cover the average annual cost of childcare in our region ($22,000 per year).  Under these circumstances, a working mom might resign herself to quit working altogether, or face termination after taking time off to care for a sick child.
  • Lack of access to banking or credit.  According to CFED, the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area ranks within the top 10 most “unbanked” places in America. Not having a bank account prevents people from saving for and investing in the future and limits their ability to borrow money to buy a house or start a business.
  • Lack of access to education and internship experiences that pave the way to jobs with better benefits. By 2022, 44 percent of jobs created – the kinds of jobs that provide living wages for women and their families – will require post-secondary or associate degrees. And too many low-income women in our area aren’t positioned to secure these jobs.

For all of these reasons we must focus our efforts on maximizing opportunities for girls before they even reach working age. Rather than striving for bare minimums, we must show young girls what’s possible – including showing them what their own mothers can achieve. My foundation has been investing in a pilot program of this model: a partnership between College Success Foundation-DC and YWCA of the National Capital Area. This program provides a curriculum designed to support girls’ education and on-time grade progression, leadership development, and healthy choices, while also connecting their mothers to education and job training.

We also support a number of local organizations, including Capital Area Asset Builders, who provide educational and asset building opportunities to our region’s women. Among its many other offerings, CAAB provides financial education and one-on-one financial coaching to low-income women. Graduates of the program report that they are better able to develop regular savings habits, understand how to develop emergency savings plans to buffer against setbacks, and even understand how take concrete steps toward building their own small businesses – all important components of building their economic security.

This Labor Day, let’s keep the conversation going on minimum wage, but let’s also make a commitment to provide the educational and workforce development opportunities that empower all working women to thrive.