EITC Funders Network Interview with Lauren Stillwell, Program Officer

This interview with The Women’s Foundation’s Program Officer, Lauren Stillwell, originally appeared on  the EITC Funders Network website.
Tell us about your funding portfolio.  What kinds of efforts are you focusing on right now?
Washington Area Women’s Foundation is focused on increasing the economic security of low-income women and girls. We do this by investing in asset building, workforce development, and early care and education.  To date, we have invested nearly $8 million into these strategies. As a result, we have helped nearly 15,000 women increase their income and assets by more than $49 million through higher wages, decreased debt, tax credits, increased savings, and growing equity related to homeownership.

Recently, we have been encouraging ourselves and our grantees to think innovatively about two-generation approaches to this work. For example, two years ago we launched new investments aimed at supporting girls on a path to long-term economic security. From our research locally and nationally, it was clear that middle school should be the focus – as a critical developmental period, and one that is often under-resourced. We took the opportunity to connect this new work with our historical focus on adult women, and encouraged organizations in the community to serve both middle school girls and their mothers (or other female caregivers) simultaneously. Currently, we have two grantees that are co-designing such a program model that leverages each of their existing strengths – so they are not re-creating the wheel, but designing a new way to work together.

Why does your foundation support EITC-related work?
The EITC has always been a part of our economic security work.  It’s a very persuasive strategy because, in many ways, it’s “low-hanging fruit.”  The EITC is a benefit for which people qualify and we need to support providers to connect with families in the short- and long-term.  Additionally, the EITC is a great example of an activity that bridges workforce development and asset building – and we believe there can be strength in blended approaches.

While there are policy changes that would make the EITC stronger, even in its current iteration, we see a big return on our investment. For example, we support free tax preparation sites in DC.  One of these organizations served over 1,200 women which brought in $2.1 million dollars.  That’s a significant increase in assets for these families!

What kind of EITC-related work does your foundation support?  What are some of the different strategies?
The bulk of our EITC work (supporting free tax prep services) has remained essentially the same since we began supporting it. We continue to look at the extent to which tax time can be an intervention, and how we can build out other logical starting places to engage people around goal setting and asset building.  For example, one of the foundation’s grant investments this year is supporting an asset building grantee to work on-site at an adult basic education grantee – working with adult students and alumni based on their individual goals, as they progress as adult learners, and then pursue post-secondary education or careers. Our grantmaking encourages long-term engagement with families and holistic services.  Over the last few years, the foundation streamlined our grantmaking into one RFP and one evaluation process. As a result, grantees can blend different programmatic strategies and, especially in evaluation, are encouraged to understand the impact on economic security in a variety of ways.

Capturing the impact of our EITC related work is critical. Some of the quantitative measures include the number of people accessing the EITC, the total amount of refunds received, decreased debt, increased savings, tax preparation costs saved, and changes in knowledge related to financial literacy. We have updated these indicators over time, in partnership with a working group of our grantees.

Are there any EITC issues that you’ve been struggling with that you’d be interested to hear your colleagues and/or the field address?
I continue to think about how we can make a stronger case for a focus on asset building.  We have anecdotal information about the effectiveness of blending strategies, but if we want to move programs and policies, we need a better evidence base.  Related to this, I’m curious how other funders in the field have brought together diverse funders to invest in asset building – including those who might not have explicit asset building goals but could, for example,  be interested in bolstering their education or health goals through asset building.

Two-Generation Pilot Program Launching Summer 2015

In the fall of 2013, The Women’s Foundation announced a new strategy – one that sought to invest in the long-term economic security of girls in our region. We asked organizations to consider how they could support middle school girls specifically (an important time for decisions about health, education, and relationships – but a time period that is often under-resourced and under-funded). We also specifically asked organizations to consider how they could invest in these girls AND invest in their mothers, grandmothers, aunts… whomever was their family caregiver. The idea is to invest in two generations simultaneously, helping to improve prospects for both family economic security in the short-term and girls’ economic security in the long-term.

Map from Girls Issue Brief unbranded Flash forward to today, and a pilot of this model is preparing to launch in DC. College Success Foundation-DC and the YWCA of the National Capital Area are partnering to leverage each organization’s core strengths and services, building a program that holistically engages middle school girls and their families. Their first partner school site is Chavez Prep Middle School in Columbia Heights. There, staff from College Success and the YWCA are banding together with an initiative to provide particular programs and supports for girls. A tailored curriculum will support girls’ education and on-time grade progression, leadership development, and healthy choices, while also connecting mothers to education and job training, financial tools, case management and other supportive services that can help strengthen the family’s economic security.

The program also has a special emphasis on strengthening the relationship between daughter and mother. For example, following girls-only and mother-only group breakout sessions, there are opportunities to come back together in facilitated group activities and discussion – on topics about health, communication, or education. Likewise, there are opportunities for mothers and daughters to experience things like their first college campus visit in “safe” ways. For a girl, these visits help her envision all the possibilities for her future. For a mom, these visits offer an opportunity to visit a campus together with other moms, consider the future college experience that’s possible for her daughter but may be foreign to her, and to think about her own interests in education or workforce training.

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At a recent Women’s Foundation briefing for investors in this work, a moderated panel included students from Chavez Prep. As one student explained it, she saw great strength in her family. Women were the matriarchs and anchors in her life. But as an immigrant family, she knew her mom and others didn’t have the skills that they needed in the US, to contribute to the community how she knew they could. She loved the afterschool program where she could be with other girls and talk about important topics. She couldn’t wait for her mom to be able to engage meaningfully in a program like this too, and for them to do it together.

We look forward to updating you on the results of this summer’s pilot program, and then the next steps to take lessons learned and launch the program on a larger scale, to serve more women and girls in our community. In the meantime, check out the new research we just released on the status of girls in the Washington region. And if you’re interested in investing to make this work a success, contact Megan Machnik at mmachnik@wawf.org.

Goals of Girls Work

 

The Women’s Foundation was selected to be part of the Ascend Network, based out of the Aspen Institute. We’re one of 58 organizations selected from 24 states and the District of Columbia, representing the leading edge of a national movement around two-generation approaches. Learn more here.

Two-Generation Grant Investments Aim to Break the Cycle of Poverty

In December 2014, The Women’s Foundation announced new grant investments of $630,000 to 20 organizations across the region. In a series of blog posts, we’ve shared more about the strategies behind those investments, including community college innovations we are supporting and early childhood investments to improve quality and access for low-income families in the region. Today, we’ll discuss how we’re taking a two-generation approach to our work, and what that looks like for our Grantee Partners.

The Women’s Foundation’s grant investments are made through Stepping Stones, an initiative designed to increase the economic security of women and girls living under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $39,580 for a family of three). We accomplish this goal by investing in three core issue areas that research has shown to have the greatest influence on the economic security of low-income women and their families: asset building, early care and education and workforce development.

Our most recent grants spread investments across the region—in Washington, DC; Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland; the city of Alexandria; and Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia. In total, these investments are projected to reach over 3,500 women and girls, potentially increasing their assets and incomes by $2.9 million over the next year.

Several of these investments take a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Two-generation strategies respond to the needs of children and their parents together, to influence short- and long-term economic security simultaneously. This strategy is a natural extension of Stepping Stones’ track record serving female-headed households, which has had tremendous results to date (increasing the income and assets of women and their families by more than $45 million since 2005). However, we know that in order to truly break the cycle of poverty in the Washington region, we must take a lifespan approach to our work. For us, this work began when we expanded our target population to all women under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and continued last year with the launch of a specific strategy to invest in the long-term economic security of girls. We accomplish this by investing specifically in middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers.

Last year, our inaugural investments were planning grants that allowed organizations the dedicated space, time and resources to explore two-generation strategies that could serve middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers. This year, we’re pleased to invest in a partnership between the YWCA of the National Capital Area and College Success Foundation – DC (CSF-DC). Following their planning grants, this year the YWCA and CSF-DC will engage families through a new partnership with Cesar Chavez Public Charter School’s Bruce Prep Campus in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of the District’s Ward 1. The YWCA is one of a few organizations experienced with serving both girls and women, and brings a gender lens to their work. Through this new partnership, the YWCA will primarily provide supports for the adult women in each family, while CSF-DC will draw upon their expertise serving youth beginning in middle school, as evidenced by their flagship Higher Education Readiness Opportunity (HERO) program. This partnership model builds upon each organization’s strengths, and allows each to more holistically serve families. The Women’s Foundation’s 2015 investment supports additional planning and the launch of the program pilot in summer 2015. With additional resources, these partners plan to bring the program to more women and girls in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Women’s Foundation believes there is great potential for the two-generation strategy across our work, beyond our investments in girls. (For example, the two-generation work we’re supporting at Northern Virginia Community College.) We were selected to be part of the Ascend Network at the Aspen Institute, a national network of leaders pioneering two-generation programs and policies. Through this collective work, we aim to build connections between national and local innovation, and spur additional two-generation work building the economic security of women and girls in our region.

Foundation Investments Push Early Learning in the Washington Region Forward

The Women’s Foundation’s recently announced investments of $630,000 in economic security efforts across the region included seven grants (totaling $325,000) for organizations working to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education. These grants are made through the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, a collective funding effort led by The Women’s Foundation that brings corporate funders and foundations together to invest in systems-level change in the region’s early care and education. You can learn more about the Collaborative and its partners here.

These investments seek to:

  1. Improve the quality of early care and education for low-income children ages zero to five;
  2. Expand access to affordable early care and education options;
  3. Support professional development for early care and education professionals;
  4. Encourage and strengthen partnerships among stakeholders that support positive changes in the early care and education system.

This year, our early care and education grants continue to support increased advocacy work, an effort that began last year. These investments include Voices for Virginia’s Children, working across Northern Virginia; Prince George’s Child Resource Center, mobilizing in Prince George’s County, Maryland; AppleTree Institute, and a partnership of DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, focused on the District of Columbia.

The partnership between DC Appleseed and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute is particularly exciting. Together, they are responding to an identified need within DC’s early childhood community: lack of consistent and complete data that captures the cost of quality programs. They will also examine the impending costs facing providers as they adapt to a changing Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), proposed changes in licensing and regulations, the costs of professional development and increased compensation for teachers and the costs of serving children with developmental delays and/or special health care needs. The findings of the study will form the platform for an advocacy agenda, steeped in research data to help advocates rally around a common agenda.

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The Women’s Foundation is proud to be one of many investing in early care and education (with more investors recently, as evidence by the White House Summit on Early Learning). Research shows that young children (ages 0 to 5) need a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation to succeed in school. Children who enter kindergarten without this foundation for learning are more likely to face significant academic challenges than peers who come prepared. Quality early care and education can successfully close this “preparation gap,” while facilitating the economic security and long-term financial success of low-income families; supporting parents in the workforce; and preparing future workers to meet the needs of the regional business community and become active, contributing members of society.

We look forward to supporting our Grantee Partners as we push these goals forward in our region!

Here’s a full list of this year’s early care and education grants.

2015 Grant Investments in Early Care and Education

  • AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation
    To support AppleTree Institute’s increased communications and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, aimed at defining quality early education in terms of child outcomes that result in school readiness.
  •  CentroNia
    To support the CentroNía Institute in piloting and testing the Unpacking CLASS Tool Kit, an instructional guide that helps early childhood teachers and center directors improve teacher-child quality interaction in the classroom.
  • DC Appleseed
    To partner with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to design and produce a study of the District’s child care costs.
  • The Literacy Lab
    To support the Metro DC Reading Corps Pre-K Program, which embeds literacy tutors in DC and Alexandria’s highest-need early childhood classrooms to provide children with daily literacy interventions that prepare them for kindergarten and future educational success.
  • National Black Child Development Institute
    To support the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC program, which will invest in the professional development and improved quality of teachers serving children from birth through age five in the District of Columbia.
  • Prince George’s Child Resource Center
    To support Joining Voices, an advocacy project in Prince George’s County that empowers parents and child care providers to articulate the importance of quality child care for family stability, school readiness and economic growth.
  • Voices for Virginia’s Children
    To promote public policies and investments that ensure all children in Northern Virginia, particularly those who are disadvantaged, enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Community Colleges: Innovations to Improve the Lives of Women

Community CollegeThe Women’s Foundation’s most recent grantmaking round included many investments targeting education and training to help women access good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and offer benefits. For several years now, these investments have included a focus on community colleges. Research shows that a post-secondary education can have a tremendous impact on earning potential. Community colleges are accessible to first-time or nontraditional students (like working moms)—with local campuses and classes that can accommodate a work or family schedule—and offer the opportunity to partner with employers to meet local workforce needs. For these and other reasons, community colleges offer a pathway out of poverty for women and girls.

This year we renewed our investment in Northern Virginia Community College, where they are taking a two-generation approach to education. Locally and nationally, Northern Virginia Community College is a leader in fostering relationships with community-based partners to better connect with and support the educational attainment of underserved students. Their two-generation work is a relatively new effort to establish partnerships with local child care centers and home-based child care providers to support the post-secondary educational attainment of both lower-income staff and the parents of children in care. The relationship also establishes very early post-secondary exposure for young children (through things like campus field trips) and starts an early conversation with parents about planning for college.

The College’s model offers seamless transitions for students, and provides case management and “intrusive advising”—a proactive approach to connect with students, check in, offer resources and help with career planning—all designed to help address barriers to college success. Women work to achieve post-secondary credentials while simultaneously engaging in college readiness interventions for and with their children. In year two of this new effort, the College plans to enhance its work by expanding the range of college readiness services, and provide asset building and wrap around services to boost post-secondary success, including new screening for public benefits, financial literacy resources and an emergency fund to assist with immediate financial needs. The College is building a model two-generation approach that incorporates many of the strategies that The Women’s Foundation has seen as core to building economic security.

The Foundation is also continuing its investment in Montgomery College. In past years, our Stepping Stones investments have supported direct training and credential attainment for women. This year, our support is aimed at the development and implementation of a new “Student Career Preparation Workshop.” The workshop series will be designed to precede student entry into career training programs, helping women better explore career options and plan for the training they’ll need to reach their goals. That could mean lining up scholarships, or figuring out a plan for child care during school and once they’re working. Exploring career options will also help them better understand what a particular job entails, the career pathways to succeed in the profession and learn about local in-demand fields they might not have considered. By designing a workshop to precede student entry into career training programs—whether open enrollment courses or grant-funded workforce development initiatives, like those Stepping Stones has supported in the past—Montgomery College hopes to help women better-match with training programs, and better support the students who need it most. Once designed and tested, the model has the potential to improve education and employment outcomes for women, and can be replicated or scaled.

Finally, with the Foundation’s support, Prince George’s Community College is providing coaching and supportive services to women at the College pursuing a degree or occupational credential. You can learn more about this life-changing work directly from Sharon, one of their graduates:

Interest in community college programs as a workforce development strategy have grown in recent years, and President Obama’s recent proposal to provide Americans with two free years of community college will certainly bring additional attention. Through innovation, community colleges can better serve women, and therefore help whole families and communities thrive.

Investing in Girls in the Washington Region

Download the complete Girls Issue Brief here: Girls Issue Brief 2015

In 2005, The Women’s Foundation launched Stepping Stones, a multi-year, regional initiative focused on building the economic security of low-income women and girls. Grant investments support key issues identified in our Portrait Project research as pivotal to economic security: jobs and career readiness, financial education and wealth creation opportunities, and quality early care and education.

Historically, Stepping Stones investments have focused on building the economic security of low-income women – and particularly female-headed households, which research has shown are the most economically vulnerable families in our community. However, for many women and girls in our region, poverty is multigenerational. The Women’s Foundation recently expanded its target population to take a life cycle approach, and now includes all women and girls under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Through our Stepping Stones work, the Foundation then launched a new strategy in 2013 for investing in our community’s girls.

A Snapshot of the Issue

As young girls develop into women, there are clear and critical markers that can support or challenge their future economic security. Adolescence is an important opportunity to build foundational skills, encourage positive choices, and reinforce girls’ health and well-being so that they can attain economic security in adulthood.

Key goals for investing in girls are to:

– Empower girls as social change agents
Girls are an asset to our community, and have the potential to shape and lead change in their families and neighborhoods. Girls should be encouraged to advocate for themselves, for others, and to mobilize their communities in meaningful ways. By supporting the positive development of girls, we can break the cycle of generational poverty, and build racial and gender equity in our region.

– Support high school completion
As of 2008, one in ten girls in the region did not complete high school. For girls of color in our region, the disparities are glaring: while 6 percent of white girls did not complete high school, 37 percent of Latina girls, 14 percent of Asian girls, and 12 percent of African American girls did not complete high school.[i]

High school graduation is a critical determinant of economic security, affecting long-term earning potential. By 2018, it is projected that only 8 percent of job openings in Maryland, and 9 percent of job openings in DC and Virginia, will be available for high school dropouts.[ii] With a high school diploma, workers can earn 82 percent more than those who did not complete high school.[iii]

– Encourage positive choices that decrease risky behavior and early pregnancy, and increase health and well-being
Girls who become teen parents are more likely to drop out of school, earn less, and live in poverty. Only 40 percent of teen mothers are likely to have graduated from high school and just 2 percent of girls who have children before age 18 finish college by age 30.[iv]

While teen pregnancy rates are dropping nationally and in the region, rates in parts of the region remain some of the highest in the country. Furthermore, despite reductions in the teen pregnancy rate, the overall number of teen births remains stubbornly high in some communities. For example, in 2011 in the District, 58% of all births to teens aged 15-19 were in Wards 7 and 8.[v]

Our Approach

In our research, we found a dearth of programs focused on girls in general – and especially girls in middle school – as well as a lack of data or research on issues facing girls. This critical gap made it clear that it was important to target our initial investments to focus on middle school aged girls.

To translate the key goals for investing in girls:

– For middle school aged girls, supporting high school completion in the long-term means supporting academic readiness, encouraging school engagement, providing opportunities for college and career exposure, and developing 21st century skills and competencies that help girls build a positive vision for their futures and ensure that they are prepared for tomorrow’s economy.

– For middle school aged girls, encouraging positive choices that decrease risky behavior and early pregnancy means providing leadership development opportunities that build a positive sense of self, fostering relationships with parents and caring adults that provide support and guidance, and increasing access to comprehensive sex education. Additionally, a focus on girls’ health and well-being includes good nutrition, physical exercise, and the importance of positive body image.

Furthermore, beyond supporting girls alone, The Women’s Foundation asserts that there is a need for two-generation strategies – that is, strategies that simultaneously work to improve the economic security of girls and their mothers together. Despite promising research that two-generation programs and policies can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, our research could not identify any significant program that combines a two-generation approach with an intentional effort to reach the critical demographic of middle school girls. Through a cohort model – working with both girls and their mothers or female caregivers – The Foundation seeks to spark new strategies, support programs bringing a gender lens to this work, and understand changes in positive outcomes and economic security that exceed isolated work with youth or their parents.

Finally, The Women’s Foundation will begin its investments with a targeted place-based approach, focused on Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, Maryland. While the Foundation recognizes significant poverty rates in every jurisdiction in our region, this narrow geography will allow for an initial focus on neighborhoods with the greatest density of girls and women in need, and allow for tailored, deep work within each community.

For More Information

Contact Program Officer Lauren Stillwell at lstillwell@wawf.org or 202.347.7737.

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[i] 2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Washington Area Women’s Foundation. 2010. PDF File. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://thewomensfoundation.org/wp-content/themes/wawf/images/Portrait_Project_2010_Complete_Report.pdf>.

[ii] Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and John Strohl. Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2010. PDF File. p. 121-122. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/FullReport.pdf>.

[iii] Ibid., p. 95.

[iv] Shuger, Lisa. Teen Pregnancy and High School Dropout: What Communities are Doing to Address These Issues. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and America’s Promise Alliance, 2012. ASHX file. p. 1. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://www.americaspromise.org/News-and-Events/News-and-Features/2012-News/June/~/media/Files/Resources/teen-pregnancy-and-hs-dropout-print.ashx>.

[v] “Data.” DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, n.d. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://www.dccampaign.org/#!__data>.

Is "care" having a moment or a movement?

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

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

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

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

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

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What was missing from the Summit conversation?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Takeaways from the White House Summit on Working Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Visit to Preschool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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