Panel: Economic Security of Immigrant Women and Families

Close to three-quarters of all immigrants in the U.S. are women and children. Policy rollbacks, cuts to funding, and threats to states that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants is proving to be a burden to families and communities. Current polices are out of step with the day-to-day realities of families. This panel will address the impact of current immigration policies on women’s economic security and provide recommendations and strategies at the local and national levels to support immigrant families.


A Thriving Economic Future for All: The Role of Local and National Policies to Improve the Economic Security of Immigrant Women and Families


Laura Vazquez, Senior Program Manager, UnidosUS

Maria Gomez, President and CEO, Mary’s Center

Ana Gonzalez, Senior Researcher, Pew Research Center

Olanrewaju Falusi, Associate Medical Director for Municipal and Regional Affairs, Child Health Advocacy Institute


Rebecca Tancredi, Vice President of Programs, Upwardly Global

Questions? email Claudia Williams at


Forward Together: A Reflection on the Impact of the First 100 Days of the Trump Administration on Low-income Girls, Women and Families


April 29th marks President Trump’s 100th day in office. Washington Area Women’s Foundation releases a report that summarizes action impacting women and families.

“According to the White House press office, the President has signed 30 executive orders, used the Congressional Review Act 13 times to review and overturn federal regulations that went into effect under the Obama Administration and enacted 28 laws during the first 100 days of his Administration. These actions include the revocation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, a measure that strengthens protections against workplace discrimination and another order that, if it had gone into effect, would have limited immigration and travel to the United States for targeted groups.

In addition to the legislative and executive branch actions that could create barriers for women and girls, the Administration’s appointees do not have a history of promoting women and girls. On January 31, 2017, the President nominated 10th Circuit Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. In his rulings, Judge Gorsuch denied protections for pregnant women and sided with corporations in their efforts to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services. Judge Gorsuch was confirmed to the highest court in the land on April 7, 2017.

From high rates of poverty to food insecurity to disproportionately high rates of unemployment compared to other groups of women, low-income girls, women and families face multiple barriers to building their longterm economic security and accessing opportunity. As such, in this current political moment, it will be critical to work across communities to ensure that policies enacted at the federal level do not have a disproportionate impact on these populations.”

Read and download the report here.

New Report: Proposed 2018 D.C. Budget’s Impact On Women & Girls


(Click image to access the full report)

On April 13th, The Women’s Foundation released our newest report, Towards A Thriving City: A Review of the Impact of the Proposed 2018 D.C. Budget on Girls, Women and Families. The report, the first of its kind for the Foundation, provides a detailed analysis of proposed expenditures in relation to the needs of low-income girls, women and families in the City in critical areas such as housing, childcare, social supports, workforce development and violence. We hope that the report will be used by residents, community advocates and other key stakeholders to advocate for programs and initiatives in communities that will help to build the long-term economic security of women and families.

Our network received a breakdown of the budget and its impact on women and girls from:

  • Karma Cotton, Executive Director, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Ed Lazere, Executive Director, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute
  • C. Nicole Mason, Vice President of Programs, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Director Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest
  • Emily Price, Chief Program Officer, Center for Employment Training and Elderly Services, So Others Might Eat (SOME)


CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE WEBINAR (Registration required)

Helping Women Achieve Financial Independence

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, we’ll be celebrating the country’s declaration of independence with cookouts, parties and fireworks. But there’s another type of independence we celebrate at The Foundation—financial independence for women. For those who have it, they are secure in the fact that they have sufficient personal wealth to live with more resources and less stress. Their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses. For those who are economically insecure, however, the path to financial independence can be hard but achievable.

Financial security comes from income, savings, and assets that allow a family to create a safety net to absorb short-term shocks and to turn long-term dreams into reality. While steady income is important to moving women out of poverty, assets help women build financial security and open new doors to opportunity. Nevertheless, even as the U.S. economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, a large share of American families are struggling to make ends meet, and more are struggling to save. Many of the milestones of middle class success—homeownership, retirement security, and access to higher education—are becoming harder to achieve for more and more Americans.

More than half of American families are not financially prepared for an unexpected expense, break even or spend more than they make each month, and have a very limited ability to build assets. A full third of American families (33 percent), for instance, reported having no emergency savings whatsoever. In the Washington region, close to one third of families (31 percent) do not have enough savings to live above the poverty level for just three months if they have an income disruption. This situation is critically common among single-parent households—most likely headed by single women—households of color, and low-income households.


Low-income women can and have the capacity to save with the right combination of support, knowledge, financial products and public policies. The Women’s Foundation’s investments help support low-income women in the Washington region through their asset building journey. From financial knowledge—such as learning how to access their credit report, correcting any errors, and negotiating and paying down debt—to increasing their savings and income from new employment, or accessing tax credits for which they qualify. During the 2015 fiscal year, The Women’s Foundation’s funding helped about 1,134 women receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and these women increased their assets by $1.9 million. An additional 276 women participated in financial education programs, increasing their savings, decreasing their debt, and improving their credit scores.

In times of economic hardship, savings and assets become the safety net needed to keep families afloat. The Women’s Foundation works tirelessly supporting women to build assets and create a solid foundation of financial independence for all.

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.

Resource – Gender Wage Gap Fact Sheet

More than ever, families rely on the wages of women. In the Washington region, 72 percent of mothers with young children participate in the workforce, and at the national level, 40 percent  of mothers are either the sole or primary breadwinner for their family. Equal pay would reduce poverty levels among women, and would increase every woman’s ability to provide for herself and her family.

In this fact sheet, we explore the data and key facts you need to know about the gender wage gap in our region.

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Building Assets and Lives

With tax season in full swing, many of us may be dreading the moment when we have to sit down with our piles of receipts and W-2s and fill out our tax returns.  But for some women in our community, tax time could be the moment when life changes.

Griselda Zarrilla is a cleaner who lives in Southeast D.C.  The mother of two teenage girls, Griselda went to one of our Grantee Partners, Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB), for help with her taxes and discovered that she was eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the federal credit for low- to moderate-income working taxpayers.  After having her taxes prepared at a free tax prep site, Griselda received a significant refund.

She’s using the money to pay the mortgage on her home and to send her daughters to college.  “Providing an education to my children is my main goal,” Griselda says.  “I want them to have all the opportunities I didn’t have.”

CAAB’s work has changed the life of one woman who is passing the benefits on to her children; and Griselda’s is just one story out of many.  Last year, Grantee Partners helped women gain more than $3.7 million in assets.  Two-thirds of that was from the EITC.  That’s nearly $4 million that benefitted not only women, but the rest of their families as well.

CAAB has been a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner since 2005.  This nonprofit’s mission is to put people on the road to financial independence.  Their programs help low- and moderate-income individuals and families improve their money management skills, increase their savings and build wealth by investing wisely. CAAB achieves these goals by sponsoring financial workshops and a matched savings program to promote home ownership, postsecondary education and small business development.

CAAB and Community Tax Aid, another Foundation Grantee Partner, are involved in the DC Earned Income Tax Credit Campaign, which provides free, high quality financial and tax preparation services to thousands of taxpayers in D.C. CAAB believes that anyone can become a college graduate, homeowner or successful business owner and is working to ensure that all District residents have opportunities to save and invest in their dreams

The Gender Wage Gap, Unveiled

Nationwide, women make on average only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Women’s lower average earnings are not due to a higher probability of working part-time: only full-time year-round workers are included in these data. The Wage Project estimates that over the course of a lifetime women will earn about a million less as a result of the wage gap.

Some people attribute the differences in earnings to occupational segregation and the career choices women make; for example, putting family before work. However, several studies have been unable to explain the gap, even after controlling for key factors that affect earnings such as occupation, education, and work experience. The unexplained difference can be attributed to discrimination, perceptions about women’s capabilities and the value of women’s work.

Women’s career choices are not the only reason for the disparity in earnings. Women earn less than men in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly held by women – such as elementary and middle school teachers or secretaries and administrative assistants – or whether they work in occupations predominantly held by men such as electricians or general managers. What this means is that even in “women’s fields,” men are outearning women, and it is not the same the other way around.

The gap varies throughout women’s lives, being the largest during childrearing years, and by educational attainment. Women with professional degrees face larger pay gaps than women with lesser levels of education.  The wide gap in earnings also becomes starker when race and ethnic background are taken into account, with women of color being the most affected.

The earnings gap in the Washington region is 15 percent, which is lower than the nation’s ratio (23 percent) primarily because of higher rates of educational attainment for both genders in the area.  Although women in the Washington area earn on average more than women in the United States overall, pay inequities are persistent features of the regional labor market and vary substantially by geography, except in Prince George’s County where women’s earnings ($51,616) are slightly higher than men’s earnings ($50,568). Among the jurisdictions included in the Washington region, Fairfax County had the largest wage gap (26 percent), where women earned considerably less ($61,470) than men ($83,192).  The second largest wage gap was for Arlington county (20 percent) followed by Montgomery County (18 percent). In addition to Prince George’s County, the city of Alexandria and the District of Columbia had the lowest disparity in earnings with a gap of eight and 10 percent, respectively.

Women’s earnings have become increasingly important for family incomes. Four in 10 American households with children under age 18 now include a mother who is the primary breadwinner for her family. Women’s lower earnings have important implications for all, including increased risk of economic insecurity and poverty for women and their families.

Some strategies to address the persistent disparity in earnings between men and women include expanding literacy education for women and girls to increase knowledge about the impact of career decisions on earnings and retirement security. It is also important to encourage women and girls –and men and boys, too- to openly discuss their earnings and develop skills in pay negotiation, and to actively seek skill-building experiences, training opportunities, feedback and promotions. Employers can also make sure they are giving women the same opportunity as men to advance up the ranks.