The release of The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink on January 15—just one week after we marked the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty—accomplished what so many of us have been working toward: it elevated the conversation about women and poverty to a national level dialogue. #WhatWomenNeed was trending on social media and people were talking. In the room at the national release event, there was a palpable excitement in the air—excitement filled with the promise of opportunity. And just last night, the President of the United States put women front and center in his State of the Union address, calling for action on pay equity, minimum wage, and pregnancy discrimination. Now, it’s what we do with this opportunity that matters.
The Shriver Report provides a list of 10 Things You Can Do To Power A Woman’s Nation:
- Get The Shriver Report.
- Get smart. Build a stable foundation for your future by putting college before kids.
- Invest in yourself.
- Use your economic power.
- Engage men as allies.
- Be a 21st century boss.
- Finance women’s work.
- Mentor and motivate girls.
- Be an architect of change.
Be an architect of change – we love this one, and it’s exactly what Washington Area Women’s Foundation is working to achieve. Just a week after the release of The Shriver Report, we met with three of our sister women’s funds—California, Chicago, and Memphis—to better understand the opportunities for women’s funds to engage in moving a national women’s economic security agenda. We spent a day learning about the policy initiatives underway from select national experts on a range of topics—paid sick days, paid family leave, minimum wage, pay equity, job training, higher education, child care, and pregnancy discrimination—the very same topics that are discussed in the Shriver Report. In fact, the report includes polling on these issues. Does it surprise you to know that the majority of the American public (73 percent in fact) strongly favors equal pay for equal work? And there is universal support for this issue among Democrats and Republicans. One of the loudest and longest rounds of applause during the State of Union was in response to the President saying:
“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”
We are living in a unique time, and there’s a window of opportunity – never before has the level of conversation and support for women’s economic security been elevated in the way that we’ve seen just over the last month. Politicians, advocates, think tanks, researchers, and the American public are coalescing around a set of issues and policies that can truly make a difference in the lives of so many women in our region. Most recently, we saw the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland increase the minimum wage – a good first step, but more needs to be done.
Women’s funds are uniquely positioned to make a difference. First, we are grantmakers supporting both programs and policy initiatives that are making real change for women and girls in our communities, and that inform our policy positions. And, through our deep understanding of our local contexts and relationships with people and organizations on the ground, we have the power to convene, to amplify their voices, and to mobilize our local stakeholders. And finally, we have the ability to do this state by state, community by community, in partnership with the 100 plus other women’s funds across the country and other local and national partners. In the coming months, we’ll be researching and assessing the role of Washington Area Women’s Foundation in connecting to local and national policy and communications campaigns that can make a difference in putting more women and girls on a path to prosperity.
The Shriver Report defines women on the brink as women who are living “on the economic line separating the middle class from the working poor and those people living in absolute poverty.” It is the place where one in three Americans lives paycheck to paycheck and just one incident away from financial crisis. It is the place where The Women’s Foundation has squarely focused its work for the last 15 years, and it is the place where we strive to have the most impact in the years ahead. The opportunity is now, but we want to hear from you – tell us what you think women need in order to be economically successful! Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or joining us on Facebook or Twitter.
#WhatWomenNeed should be more than a trending hashtag. Or perhaps we need a different hashtag – #WhenWomenSucceedAmericaSucceeds. What do you think?
Nicky Goren and Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat are the president and vice president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.