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.

 

Bump, Set, Spike: President’s Day & Volleyball

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

How many little girls answer, with that wide-eyed, unbridled enthusiasm of youth, “I want to be President!”? Even last week’s episode of the television show Scandal (spoiler alert) depicted fictional First Lady Mellie Grant downing a stiff drink, before nervously uttering the words, “I want to be President. I want to run the world.”

Monday marks President’s Day, a day when we celebrate past and present U.S. Presidents, and yet there are no women among the list of 44 U.S. Presidents. In fact, when you look at women in leadership positions more broadly, you find few role models:

  • One hundred and four women (19.4 percent) are members of the U.S. Congress and of that total 33 are women of color.1
  • Women hold just 24 percent of all available statewide elective executive offices, and there are only 5 female Governors, down from the record high of 9 in 2004 and 2007.1
  • There are 23 women CEOs of S&P 500 companies, and women comprise just 19 percent of board seats at US stock index companies.2
  • Forty percent of the coaches of women’s Division I collegiate sports teams are women, marking a steep decline since Title IX was enacted.3

Much has been posited and written about why there are few women in leadership positions, from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code. As a women leader, I constantly work to challenge my own assumptions and biases about leadership, and I cringe when I hear or see some of the negative stereotypes playing out. Almost a year ago, when the President and CEO position at Washington Area Women’s Foundation opened up, I didn’t hesitate to raise my hand and say that I was ready to lead this amazing organization. And so, you can imagine my surprise, recently, when I found myself hesitating to step up in a completely different way.

At my urging, my 11 year-old daughter decided to sign-up for volleyball.  I was thrilled as I had played in high school (state champs 3 out of my 4 years!) and off and on in college, so I have a passion for the game. I quickly registered her for the local youth volleyball league, only to discover that there was a waitlist because there weren’t enough coaches. A little deflated, I told my daughter about the waitlist, but she simply replied, “Well, why don’t you coach, mommy?”

Three days later, I said yes but only after the following occurred:

  • I had a running dialogue in my head—“Well, I haven’t played in over twenty years. The game has changed so much; I don’t even know the new scoring system. I’ve never coached before. Do I really have the time? How can I fit this in while also running a nonprofit? What if I have a conflict? Will I be a good coach? What if I let someone down, especially my daughter?”
  • I asked some friends—all women—for advice, most of whom said, “Are you crazy? When are you going to find the time?” A few said, “Great, now my daughter can play on your team!,” which only increased my anxiety.
  • I emailed the head of the league, inquiring about the resources and support available, expressing my concern about never having coached. He immediately responded and strongly encouraged me to coach, saying many other moms were in a similar position.
  • I asked my husband, who without hesitation said, “Of course, you should do it. You’ll be great, and Peanut will love it.”

And there you have it—my case study of one and my “ah-ha” moment! My husband didn’t even think twice about his response to me, and in fact, I realized that two years ago no one asked him to be his daughter’s basketball coach. He simply volunteered without giving it a second thought.

See leadership occurs in both big and small ways. So while you’re enjoying a small reprieve with this three-day weekend to mark President’s Day, please take a moment to consider how you will lead. What’s the big or small thing that you will do differently so that one day no little girl will hesitate to say, “I want to be President and I want to rule the world.”?

 

 

1Women in Elective Office Database. (2015). Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Center for American Women in Politics. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/.

2Knowledge Center. (2015). Catalyst. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from http://www.catalyst.org/.

3Progress and Promise, Title IX at 40 White Paper. (2013.) The Women’s Sports Foundation. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/.

 

 

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s Luncheon Remarks

On October 23, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2014 Leadership Luncheon. Please click here to see a video of her delivering the speech in its entirety.

Here. Now. For Her. – is this year’s luncheon theme.  I hope as you thought about coming today, you also took a moment to reflect on what this means to you.

Why are you here, now—in this moment?  Who is the “her” in your life who has touched you profoundly, or whose life you have touched? 

For me, this theme is deeply personal. You see, in many ways, I am HER.  And I am here today because of my mother, Dianna Lockwood.

My mom grew up poor in a small town in NH, on a working farm, the youngest of three sisters. She never had the opportunity to go to college.  She met my dad while working as a medical transcriptionist at a VA hospital in Vermont.  He was a physician’s assistant.  They created a wonderful life—two kids and a house they built on 10 acres of land.

JLS-family-merged-photos

And then the summer I was 10, it all changed. I remember the day well – my mom and dad came home in the middle of the day looking very sad and confused.  It was the early 80s, and many of you will remember, a recession was hitting the country.  The small private doctor’s office in our hometown was struggling financially, so they made a business decision – lay off the person who made the most (my dad) and the person who made the least (my mom). That decision changed our lives forever.

Up until that point, my dad was a high-functioning alcoholic. But being laid off crushed him, and he turned to alcohol frequently and worked only sporadically. We repaired our relationship later in my life, and he was an amazing grandfather to my girls before he passed away 5 years ago. But for the rest of my childhood, it was my mom who got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, consistently working two and three jobs to make ends meet.

I knew that my mom was making great sacrifices so that my brother and I would have the opportunities that she did not.  I could see how tired and stressed she was, and I’m certain there were many days when she’d simply had enough. I learned early on that if I wanted something, I needed to work hard to earn it.  I got my first job at 15.  That summer, and every summer for the rest of high school, I too worked two jobs, selling tickets at the local race track by day and waitressing at the local Pizza Hut by night.

I worked not because I wanted extra spending money, but to pay for basic necessities and do what I could to save for college. My mom always regretted not having that opportunity, but was determined that her children would.  It wasn’t easy financially, and I worked full-time pretty much the entire way, but I am proud to say that I am the first person on my mom’s side of the family to not only get a 4-year degree, but also a master’s degree.

Today is a big deal for my mom.  She’s here, with my husband, my daughters, and my brother.  She’s watching her little girl on stage, running a nonprofit in the nation’s capital, remembering some very dark days, and I know she’s thinking, “Damn, it was all worth it.”

Women's Foundation Luncheon 2014

So, I do what I do because of her. I’ve devoted my career to working on behalf of low-income women and their families because I want her to know that the investment she made in me, all of her sacrifices, were not in vain.  And now that I’m a mother, I have a new, more profound understanding of what she did, and I know that as I strive to make a better life for my own daughters, I am paying forward what my mother has given me.

But, my story is just one story.  There are many, many others.  Thousands of women who do all they can to ensure their children and families can step beyond their own experiences and limitations to live their dreams and achieve their potential.  But sometimes having a dream and working hard is not enough. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you.

There are more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty across the Washington metropolitan region. Sadly, that statistic hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, particularly in light of the recession and what has now become a slow and prolonged recovery for those most in need. That stat also doesn’t capture the additional 250,000 women and girls who are living just above the poverty line, but certainly aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.

As frustrating as these numbers are, and as impatient as we all are for change, we have to remember that most women in our community didn’t suddenly fall into poverty.  It’s multigenerational.  And just as it didn’t happen overnight, it won’t be resolved overnight.

What does it take to move women and girls from a place of economic vulnerability to security?

The answers to that question and the issues our region faces are complex, but now is the time to stand firm in our commitment, craft a bold vision, and re-double our efforts so that future generations of girls can achieve their dreams. That’s why we launched an innovative two-generation initiative to work with middle school aged girls and their female caregivers—whether that’s a mother, grandmother, or another women responsible for guiding and shaping that girl.

You all remember what it was like to be in middle school. It’s a difficult transition under the best of circumstances. As girls develop into young women, there are clear and critical markers that can support or challenge their future economic security.

Our goals for investing in girls are to support high school completion, develop self-esteem, encourage positive choices, and empower them as social change agents.

Our goals for investing in women are to obtain jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits, support increased financial capability, and provide the foundational skills that allow them to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

In the past year, we’ve been proud to partner with College Success Foundation, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and YWCA National Capital Area to help forge collaborations and creative thinking on ways to serve both middle school aged girls and their female caregivers with programming that meets their individual needs, while also bringing them together so that they can support one another on this journey. This work will first launch in Ward 7, but our goal is expand our two-generation work across the region, so that the 53,000 girls currently living in poverty can have a brighter future.

The two-generation strategy actually builds and expands upon a decade of investments in our community that have focused on low-income women and women-headed families specifically. Through our grantmaking program, Stepping Stones, we have invested more than $7 million. And that investment has helped over 10,000 women increase their incomes and assets by $45 million through higher wages, decreased debt, and increased savings.

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Yes, these are impactful outcomes, but I believe we need to think bigger.  We are capable of doing more.  How do we move from 10,000 women to 100,000 or 200,000?  My goal is to, one day, stand before you and say we’ve accomplished this.  And I believe we can do it.

The Women’s Foundation has a powerful voice, and we have a responsibility to use that voice and our power as a convener to affect greater change. Yes, our investments in the community are critically important, but so too is our voice and our deep expertise and knowledge.  These are tools we can leverage, and it’s the combination of our investments and our influence that will ultimately have the greatest impact.

But it’s not just about us.  I know that no one organization can single-handedly end poverty.  This will require unprecedented collaboration and partnership among philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits, and individuals. And we need all of you, here in this room, to help spark a movement. We are poised and ready to lead that movement, and I want each of you to join me. Let’s harness our collective strength to, in turn, strengthen others.

This is the time—NOW.

Because what we do in this moment will shape the future of our communities. There are thousands of women and girls who need us now, more than ever.  Each one of them has hopes and dreams, and they deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Stand with us. 

HERE…NOW…FOR HER.

Thank you.

 

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.

Olympic Inspiration: Women I’ll Be Watching at Sochi

JLS brother and dad in snowTo say I’m a huge sports fan is a serious understatement. For as long as I can remember sports have been a big part of my life. My dad put me on skis right before my first birthday. I competed in gymnastics for 10 years; took up ballet (pointe no less) in high school just for fun when the physical toll of gymnastics caught up with me; played volleyball; raced in both downhill and cross country skiing; and competed in the hurdles and triple jump for high school track. If truth be told though, I really wanted to play soccer, hockey, or football. I played on my younger brother’s soccer team until I aged out and co-ed teams were no longer allowed. My brief bout with football ended after I broke my finger intercepting the ball from one of the boys on the playground in 6th grade. I believe my mom said that was enough of that. And despite my dad coaching hockey, somehow I never did make it out onto the ice….

But my real dream? My real dream was to be an Olympic athlete! Yes, I know the Buzzfeed quiz said that I am best suited to have a career as a humanitarian, and I suppose at the age of 41 it’s a little late to take up the Olympic challenge now, but to be an Olympic athlete would be the ultimate.

JLS long jumpSo it is with great anticipation that I eagerly await the Opening Ceremonies of the XXII Olympic Winter Games tonight in Sochi, Russia. For the next two weeks, I will revert to the sleep deprived days associated only with having a newborn. I will be glued to the television (and on occasion my computer screen) watching women and men defy all odds in pursuit of their Olympic dream.

While I love the competition – watching the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as the old ABC Sports promo stated – what I love most is hearing the stories of the athletes. The level of commitment and dedication, the willingness to sacrifice everything for this one moment is unlike anything most of us will ever aspire to or experience in our lifetimes.

There are so many stories of heartbreak and triumph amongst the 230 U.S. athletes who will compete over the next two weeks. Nearly half of the athletes are women. Of course, there are those athletes who are well-known, have significant endorsements, and huge name recognition – Lindsey Vonn, even though she is not competing, and Lolo Jones come to mind – and then there are the lesser known athletes; those who may grab the spotlight for five minutes as they put everything on the line, whether they are medal contenders or not. Some will say it’s just enough to make the team and compete. Others will be devastated when they miss the podium by just .03 seconds. And others will stand on the podium and watch tearfully as the American flag is raised and the Star Spangled Banner is played.

There are too many stories to share on this blog, but the stories of two women in particular really resonated with me personally:

Noelle Pikus-Pace is a 31-year-old mother of two who had retired from skeleton racing in 2010. Just two years later she decided that “she had a little bit more to give,” and announced her intention to come out of retirement to qualify for the 2014 Olympics. Rather than fully sacrificing time with her family, she raised the $70,000 necessary for her husband and two children to travel with her on the World Cup circuit. As a working mom, I can only imagine the juggling act that Noelle, her husband, and their two kids have managed in dogged pursuit of her dream. It is a testament to love, support, and sheer determination.

In 2009, Lindsey Van became the first world champion in women’s ski jumping. Until the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, she held the hill record for the longest jump by a man or women at the Vancouver venue, and for 10 years Lindsey fought to JLS and brother ski jumpget women’s ski jumping recognized by the International Olympic Committee. This year, women will compete in ski jumping for the first time in the history of the Winter Games. As a little girl, I remember attending a ski jump championship at Gunstock Mountain Resort, the New Hampshire mountain that I learned to ski on. I remember the ski jump being enormous and super scary, especially after hiking up the hill to the top, but I also remember being intrigued by what it would be like to fly.

Each of these women may have taken a different path to get to the Olympics, but each of them started out as a little girl with a dream, and when the Olympics open today I’m hoping that they both soar to new heights.

You can follow the stories of these women and many more on either the NBC Olympics or Team USA sites. And while these Olympic Games are not without controversy – the discriminating anti-gay laws, the unprecedented cost, the hotel rooms not finished, the corruption – I will be watching, and I will be cheering. I will be inspired. Who will you be watching in the days to come?

Photo 1: The author (center), her brother and their father. Photo 2: The author competes in the long jump. Photo 3: The author and her brother in New Hampshire.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is vice president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.