A 13-year-old ‘Rock Star’ with a Vision…

This month, one of our 2021 Rock Star Fund awardees Aras Tobin, 13, launched a vision board party and combined this with an opportunity to apply for high schools with members of her class. 

Young people are surviving unimaginable feats in the midst of this global pandemic. Despite our current lived realities, youth, like Aras Tobin, are taking strides to ensure that community needs are being met. As Aras plans to apply to high school this year, she recognizes the need for a vision to tackle her goals this year – she also recognizes that her peers need this too. This month, she co-ordinated a vision board party for her peers and incorporated completing high school applications. She knows that this is an area of stress for many of her peers and will make it a fun and enjoyable experience. 

Example of Vision Board

A vision board encourages participants to use magazine pictures, drawings, and other visual representations to demonstrate goals set for a period of time. They are highly effective in being a physical and creative reminder of what you want to accomplish. Incorporating a tangible goal such as high school applications, allows the goal to be measured and builds a community during an already stressful time. This event, amongst other initiatives that Aras planned, is being supported by the Rock Star Fund through Washington Area Women’s Foundation. Aras, 13, is one of the youngest Rock Star Awardees to date. 

“It’s important that women have equal access to education and roadmaps of opportunities that are available to them. Without proper education these women are at a disadvantage and could end up being misunderstood in many areas of life.”

-Aras Tobin, 2021 Rock Star Awardee

The Rock Star Fund provides young women of color between the ages of 12 and 24 living in DC with up to $2,000 to invest in their own learning, leadership, ideas, and community projects, while also advancing the Young Women’s Initiative Blueprint for Action. Aras identified a need for guidance and mentorship specifically for education and subsequently applied for this award. In her application she wrote, “By encouraging and empowering young women to explore different ways to learn, develop, and grow, we are creating support systems for future success within our communities.” and this is exactly what she is accomplishing. 

Most uniquely, the Rock Star Awardees, using participatory grantmaking, are selected by members of the DC Girls’ Coalition, a group of young women, girls and gender expansive youth who set the policy agenda for the city to center women, girls and gender expansive youth of color. They are tasked with selecting Awardees who will help address the needs that ultimately benefit the community. 

We are excited to launch our 4th cohort of Rock Stars like Aras, who see the need for changes in DC and want to develop community projects that address these issues.

Applications are now OPEN for youth of color in Washington, DC between the age of 12 – 24. Apply here until February 28, 2022!

#AskHer Series: Early Care Education is a Justice Issue

This edition of our #AskHer webinar featured Dr. Lea J.E. Austin, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley and Nitza Seguí Albino, Vice Chair of the board of DC’s Multicultural Spanish Speaking Provider Association. Moderated by Vice President of Programs, Martine Sadarangani Gordon, the conversation focused on issues impacting the early care and education industry.

[Spanish to English transcription will be made available.]

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

A Journey of 2200 Miles and Your Bold Investment

Washington Area Women’s Foundation invests in bold, women-led community-based solutions that promote the security, safety, and opportunity for women who are often overlooked — women like Jane*, a 19 year old mother who fled Mexico to Maryland.  

The Women’s Foundation is singularly positioned with a deep understanding of the barriers women and girls of color face in the DMV-region and the opportunities to lift them up by fighting for justice and strengthening cross-cultural alliances. 

But we can’t do this without you. Your support fuels the power of these movements.

Will you join us in creating an equitable and just future for women and girls by investing in the Washington Area Women’s Foundation today?

In 2020 alone, Washington Area Women’s Foundation programs and grants benefited more than 90,000 women, girls, and children throughout the region. 

We connect and convene gender and racial justice experts for issues facing the DMV-area and trust these community partners to know best — like Tahirih, an organization that serves immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence. If not for The Women’s Foundation’s funding, organizations like Tahirih and women like Jane* would have been left out of local emergency response funding:

Jane* arrived as a 19-year-old mother from Mexico. At age 13, her mother forced her into a domestic partnership where she experienced domestic violence. She fled to the US with her child, but not before the traffickers who smuggled her into the U.S. imprisoned her and her son, forcing them both to perform domestic work and prostituted her against her will. 

She found an opportunity to escape with her son to Maryland where Tahirih accepted her case. The team pursued visas and defensive asylum so that Jane could find some relief. Through her Tahirih social worker, Jane pursued therapy, ESL classes, and TVAP benefits (provided to human trafficking survivors) to help stabilize her basic needs. 

During the trial, she spoke about what she had suffered and her hopes for safety. After a grueling trial, the judge granted asylum. However, Jane again became a victim of domestic violence in the US. But this time, as soon as the violence erupted, she was determined to break the cycle and hold him accountable. With the assistance of her Tahirih social worker, Jane reported the crime and filed for a protection order, which she later won.

For Jane, coming to Maryland did not prevent her from further victimization. The difference was that in the U.S., through Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s grantee partner, Tahirih Justice Center, Jane gained the tools to leverage the legal system to protect herself. 

Will you amplify more voices of women and girls of color in the DC Metro area like Jane so they can be heard?

Our work advancing gender, racial, and economic justice is far from over — as 16.6% of women in the District of Columbia live in poverty, compared to the national figure of 12%. We know strengthening the communities closest to the challenges these women face is the best way to solve them. 

Thank you for continuing to join us in making a life changing difference for the women and girls we serve so they are not forgotten.

With gratitude,

Interim President and CEO
Washington Area Women’s Foundation
Board Chair
Chief Communications Officer and Vice President-Corporate Affairs at Graham Holdings Company

P.S.: https://thewomensfoundation.org/year-end21/

If you would like to make a gift of stock, please reach out to Sarena Barnes at 202.618.3221 and she will be happy to help coordinate this!

#AskHer/ #AskThem Save The Date

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

While #AskHer is going on hiatus during the month of August, you can look forward to the following webinars in September and beyond. Look out for RSVP links soon!

DC Ranks Top for Women’s Employment and Earnings, but Black and Latina Women Are Left Behind

By Halie Mariano and Elyse Shaw

This Blog was originally published on IWPR

Since the start of COVID-19, women have been hit hard by the pandemic-fueled “she-cession,” which has exacerbated existing inequities and increased economic insecurity among women. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s new policy brief uses 2019 data to provide a baseline for women’s employment and earnings, ranking all 50 states and the District of Columbia on four indicators: women’s earnings, the gender wage gap, women’s participation in the labor force, and women’s representation in managerial and professional occupations. In this Employment and Earnings Index, the District of Columbia received the only “A” grade, ranking first in three of the four component indicators.

To paint a more comprehensive picture of women’s employment and earnings in the District of Columbia, however, we must consider the city’s racial and ethnic diversity: 42.3 percent of the city’s population is White, 43.9 percent is Black, and 12.2 percent identify as Hispanic or Latina/o. Black and Latina women who reside in DC do not have the same experiences and opportunities as White women. While the city ranks at or near the top on each of the four parts of the Employment and Earnings Index, it still has work to do to improve the economic status and security of allwomen.

In 2019, Black and Latina women in the United States earned less on average (just over $41,000 and $36,100 per year, respectively), compared to White women (on average earning over $51,000 annually). They also faced a larger wage gap; it would take Black women 109 years and Latina women 199 years to reach equal pay with White men.

These patterns hold true in DC. While women in DC had the highest median annual earnings among all women throughout the United States ($72,000 in 2019), Black and Latina women in DC have been earning much less. Between 2014 and 2018, Black women in DC earned $52,312 and Latina women earned $55,000 on average annually. This translates into a much larger wage gap in DC compared to the rest of the country. In those same years, Black women earned 52.3 percent and Latina women earned 55 percent of White men’s annual earnings, respectively, compared to White women who in 2019 earned 78.7 percent of White men’s earnings.

In IWPR’s Poverty and Opportunity Index, DC ranks 51st for women’s poverty, with 26.7 percent of women living below the poverty line. Therefore, while many women in DC are doing very well when it comes to employment and earnings, a significant wage gap remains. DC’s median earnings for women are skewed by the extremely high earnings of women in well-paid occupations—positions that are more likely to be filled by White women.

These statistics provide a snapshot of what women’s lives looked like before 2020, and so we must also consider the economic instability many Black and Latina women have experienced since the pandemic began. Across the United States, Black and Latina women were most likely to be working in the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, including in many customer-facing occupations. Moreover, they tended to earn less than White women in these jobs. In 2020, the median weekly earnings for full-time workers in service occupations in the U.S. was $535 for Latinas and $551 for Black women, compared to $594 for White women and $797 for White men.  The challenges facing Black and Latina women nationally are likely elevated in DC, a city with substantial racial and ethnic diversity—andinequality.

During the pandemic, many women were put in the difficult position of having to balance increased family caregiving demands—as schools and child care centers closed—with their day jobs. Yet, Black and Latina women were less likely to have the option to work from home when the pandemic began. Of all workers with the option to work remotely, only 21 percent were Black and 17 percent were Latina/o, leaving many women without child care and with the impossible decision of caring for their children versus providing basic necessities for themselves and their families. Even those who could secure a spot in an open child care center may not have been able to afford it. In DC, the average annual cost of full-time infant center-based child care is over $24,000, a burden that is out of reach for many families.

The District of Columbia has several important worker-friendly policies, such as paid family and medical leave and a minimum wage that will increase to $15.20 per hour on July 1. However, DC must ensure all women have access to employment and other economic opportunities—not just White women. Despite DC’s consistently high rankings on IWPR’s Status of Women in the States Employment and Earnings Index, the city must continue to work toward providing a more equitable economic landscape for Black and Latina women.

Child Care Recovery Letter to the Administration

We joined 200 organizations across the country to sign and send a letter to the administration on building a comprehensive and equitable child care and early learning system. This letter outlines our deep appreciation for the Administration’s leadership on the American Rescue Plan and offers our continued partnership and support. We offer recommendations for ensuring that equitable economic recovery efforts that prioritize child care and early learning take place moving forward. Without a child care system that works for every family, our economy will suffer in the short and long term. We look forward to working with the administration to prioritize child care and early learning as a key facet of our national economic infrastructure.

#AskThem Series: The Power of Youth of Color

– Sponsored by Boeing –

On March 16th we celebrated the power of youth of color in our community! During the #AskThem​ panel we featured two of our Rock Star Awardees, who are making inspiring strides towards advancing racial, gender and economic justice.

The Rock Star Fund provides young women of color between the ages of 12 and 24 living in DC with up to $2,000 to invest in their own learning, leadership, ideas, and community projects. We designed the Rock Star Fund as participatory grantmaking. It goes beyond traditional grantmaking, allowing our Youth Advisory Board fellows the opportunity to review applications and decide awardees.

#AskHer​ / #AskThem​ is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

Beyond the Classroom: The Role of Race and Culture in Improving Early Education Systems

On Saturday, January 20, 2018, more than 200 early education leaders and professionals attended Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s annual regional Early Care and Education Summit. The event, co-hosted by the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) and Montgomery College’s School of Education focused on the role of race and culture in improving early education systems.

Participants attend workshops in English and Spanish by leading experts on a range of issues related to the pre-school to prison pipeline, improving quality care and strengthening the workforce, community engagement, working with diverse populations, kindergarten readiness, and ensuring the socio-emotional needs of young children, among other topics. They also engaged in discussions focused on creating early care and education policies that are reflective of the needs of families and communities.

Program Highlights
The Summit launched with an opening keynote presentation by the leadership of the Equity in Early Learning Initiative, a partnership of The Campagna Center, School Readiness Consulting, and Wonders Early Learning + Extended Day.  Lindsey Allard Agnamba of School Readiness Consulting provided a historical perspective of the importance of race in early childhood education policy, with Tammy Mann of The Campagna Center and Joanne Hurt of Wonders Early Learning + Extended Day punctuating Lindsey’s points with stories from their own experiences working in the field.
Participants had the opportunity to attend smaller workshops facilitated by local and national experts, including presenters from Bank Street College of Education, Children’s National Health System, Mary’s Center, Montgomery College, NAEYC, Naval District Washington Region, Northern Virginia Community College, School Readiness Consulting, Trinity Washington University, and Wonders Early Learning + Extended Day.

The day closed with a panel discussing diversity in the early care and education field, with a focus on how early education systems can improve in their support of an inclusive workforce. Cemeré James of National Black Child Development Institute moderated the panel discussion featuring Stacie Burch of Anne Arundel Community College, Florence Kreisman of Mary’s Center, Marica Cox Mitchell of NAEYC, Sonia Prundeda-Hernandez of Montgomery College, and Mandy Sorge of National Governors Association. Cemeré and the panelists highlighted the significance of educators’ advocating for their own advancement and to inform decisions of policymakers that impact them and the children they serve.

Review the Summit program book here.

Commitment to Racial Equity
In 2016, Washington Area Women’s Foundation made a public commitment layering a racial equity lens on our work, on top of our existing gender and class equity lenses.  To compliment The Women’s Foundation’s commitment, the ECEFC formally adopted a racial equity commitment into its work, as well.
With this new consideration, the ECEFC did not only need to incorporate racial equity in how it considers its grantmaking, but across its full body of work, including its annual regional early care and education summit. In addition to deciding to make race and culture the Summit theme, the ECEFC made changes to the programming to ensure that early childhood educators, who are predominately women of color, had the opportunity attend, including holding it on a weekend and offering participation credit across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative
Launched in 2008, as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective investment effort, the ECEFC holds the distinction of being the only early care and education funders collaborative in the country that works on systems-change across state lines. Its mission is to increase the quality and capacity of, and access to, early care and education in the Washington area, with the goal of closing kindergarten readiness gaps throughout the region. The ECEFC is supported and directed by corporate funders and local and national foundations and staffed by The Women’s Foundation.

Testimony In Support of the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 | January 30, 2018

Good Afternoon, my name is C. Nicole Mason, and I am the Vice President of Programs at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, home to the Young Women’s Initiative–our city-wide effort to improve life outcomes and chances for young women and girls of color in the District. As a part of Young Women’s Initiative, I also facilitate the Young Women’s Advisory Council, a bi-weekly group made up of 21 young women and girls of color between the ages of 12-24 that reside in the City.

Needless to say, I have a personal interest in making sure that every child regardless of her race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status is in the best position to succeed and have her social, emotional and educational needs met while in school, and on a daily basis. Currently, this is not the case.

As you know, In-school disciplinary actions and suspension rates among Black and Latina girls and young women are alarmingly high compared to other girls in the District. Black girls are nine times more likely to receive at least one out-of-school suspension, compared to non-Black girls. Less than 0.2 percent of White, non-Hispanic girls in DC receive an out-of-school suspension.

When the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 was introduced by Council Member Grosso, we at the Foundation believed it was an opportunity for the City to address glaring disparities in out-of-school suspensions, create uniform standards across District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), encourage positive approaches and the use of evidence-based and promising practices to discipline in schools, and to curb out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses.

Passing the legislation would put the City on a path to increased educational parity and equity for the most vulnerable students in our system.

When I discussed the bill with our Young Women’s Advisory Board, they were fully supportive of the legislation. Of the 21 girls on the Council, more than half reported that they had been suspended once or more; many for minor infractions ranging from dress code violations to talking back to a school official. Most of the young women that had been suspended believed they had very little recourse to dispute the suspension and struggled, in some instances, with the arbitrary enforcement of rules.

One story from our meeting relayed by one of our Fellows was truly heartbreaking and strikes at the core of why I believe this legislation is so urgent and necessary. One of our Fellows, now a recent graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and current DCPS school teacher was suspended for bringing a knife to school when she was in the 12th grade. When she went through the metal detector at her school in the District, the alarm sounded and her backpack was searched.

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that she was homeless, and worked nights at a local Burger King restaurant. Most nights she would get off work extremely late, and carried the knife for protection as she made her way from Burger King to the local shelter where she lived. She forgot to remove the knife from her backpack before school. Rather than expel her, she was given a 10-day suspension.

I think we have to ask ourselves, was this just? Knowing the situation, could there have been an alternative that would have kept her in school and engaged? More importantly, how can we work to ensure that we are meeting the needs of students and not applying a one size fits all solution to a problem that is multi-layered and complex? I believe the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 helps us do just that.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit this testimony.