When Is Enough, Enough?

We had our July enewsletter planned. In fact, yesterday, I sat with a copy of it for my review. I read it three times, and while I very much wanted to share the good work that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been engaged in—and there is so much good work happening—I was struggling to sign-off on the beautifully prepared and celebratory newsletter that sat before me. And then I woke to more violence and bad news this morning.

My heart is heavy. I feel immobilized. Tears flowed on several occasions yesterday. I wanted to turn away from the screen and social media, but I couldn’t. Another video, another senseless murder, another life lost, another family destroyed. Have you heard the heart wrenching, bring-you-to-your-knees sobs of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son during a news conference, as he cried, “I want my daddy…”? Did you watch Diamond Reynolds as she stood in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion demanding justice, not only for her boyfriend Philando Castile, but also for every family that has sadly come before her? “This is much bigger than me,” she said. I challenge anyone to watch either of those videos and not be rocked to your core.

Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. As a white woman, I will never know what it feels like to live in constant fear that my actions or my words or my simply being could end my life. I’m the mother of two teenage girls. I’ve never had to sit them down and explain to them how they are supposed to “be” in this world. When my 16-year-old started driving, I feared for her safety as a new driver, but I never feared for her life in the event of a traffic stop. Privilege. I am privileged. My girls are privileged. We live a privileged life.

All day, my Facebook feed was filled with friends and colleagues who are grieving. They are tired. They are angry. They’re feeling hopeless. They are in pain. I want to wrap my arms around all of them and offer words of comfort, but what would those words be? Everything will be ok? Justice will be served? We’re going to make this right? Ha – those aren’t words. Those are lies, and I won’t lie to my friends and colleagues. Instead, I promised to find my words at a time when I was at a loss for words.

And so here’s my start. At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when? In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Here we are, 52 years later, a long way from racial justice.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the stories of six beautiful women in DC who bravely shared their experiences. “Too few hold the power. Too many are powerless… There’s a different standard for everything… You think we don’t see it?”

I see it. My eyes are wide open. The question is: What do we do now?

 

Giving A Voice to Young Women & Girls Of Color At The United State of Women Summit

It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe the energy and enthusiasm of last week’s United State of Women Summit. More than 5,000 women from across the country packed into the convention center in Washington, DC, all there to celebrate how far we’ve come while committing to changing the #StateofWomen for tomorrow. As I stood on stage with eight women’s foundation representing Prosperity Together, I wondered how we can bottle the passion and hopefulness that was so palpable that day. There was a very different feeling in the room, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until further reflection, and then it hit me–voices.

This Summit showcased the voices and experiences of an incredibly diverse group of women—from Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old African American girl entrepreneur, who introduced the President of the United States to Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition to Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of MuslimGirl.net. Their voices spoke volumes as we collectively came together to serve as champions for the countless women and girls who have yet to be heard.

Standing on stage next to Ana Oliveira, President of the New York Women’s Foundation, as she announced our joint commitment to young women and girls of color through the Young Women’s Initiative, I could not have been prouder of the work at Washington Area Women’s Foundation. It is a privilege to spark and guide philanthropic investments that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the Washington region’s most vulnerable women and girls. This initiative will focus specifically on women and girls of color and will put their voices, experiences, and needs front and center.

The day-long event, organized by the White House, included so many inspiring moments. President Barack Obama opened his speech by pointing to himself and saying, “This is what a feminist looks like,” to a resounding round of applause. And by now, everyone has probably watched the video of First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, in one of the most open, honest and powerful discussions about women’s empowerment and gender equality that I have ever seen. “I think as women and young girls, we have to invest that time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are,” said Michelle Obama.

For the Young Women’s Initiative, we are investing our time in young women, and they themselves will be at the heart of our effort. This week we kicked off a listening tour to lift up the voices of local women who don’t often have an opportunity to share their personal stories. We watched a production by Empower DC, where six women shared their experiences living in public housing, and discussed the challenges they face and solutions they want to see in their communities, the places they call home. When I asked one of the women why she chose to tell her story, she answered, “I just wanted to be heard.”

And so we will listen. Over the coming months, we’ll continue to host sessions to empower women to become powerful advocates for themselves and their communities. But it’s not enough to listen. We must also take action.

At the end of the Summit, the First Lady said, “We can’t afford to be ignorant.  We can’t afford to be complacent.  So we have to continue the work.” We’re ready to work, and I hope you’ll join us.

 

About Prosperity Together: 
Seven women’s foundations announced their commitment to launch a Young Women’s Initiative in 2016, which will invest and catalyze resources to improve equal opportunity and the prosperity of young women, with a focus on young women of color and those experiencing the greatest disparities in outcomes in our communities. The Young Women’s Initiative will be built on cross-sector partnerships, including: government; philanthropies; nonprofits; corporations; and, most importantly, the young women themselves. The foundations announcing this commitment include the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. The New York Women’s Foundation previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015. Read more here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/13/fact-sheet-government-businesses-and-organizations-announce-50-million

The Most Important Lesson in Life I Learned From My Mother

Linda Paulson-Mom-WAWF

With Mother’s Day just a few days away, I can’t help but think of the important lesson I learned from my mother – to give.

As long as I can remember, my mom provided for others. She set an example and included me in her good work. As a child, I would often go volunteer wherever my mom was helping in the community and I loved it. We did many different things including volunteering at our church or the park concession stand, which I realize now played a vital role in my passion to help others.

Before she passed, we had a conversation about the days when she took me door to door to raise money for important causes—including selling Girl Scout Cookies (yum!). It made me remember the day she was so excited when I scraped together what I had and made a donation from my baby-sitting money. I don’t remember anything else I have ever done where she reacted with such overwhelming joy. I had, after all, just acted on what she really wanted to teach me in life. That is, when we give beyond ourselves we get the most out of life.

When I was in school, we spent hours discussing current events and issues of social justice. She was the first to teach me the concept that we rise from lifting others. Mothers, who undeniably influence and raise all of us, have a unique capacity to help their children see the world. Through those conversations, she helped me to think about the world in which I live. When I moved to the Washington region 20 years ago, I learned about the women that live in the area and the challenges they face. Today, at least 1 in 4 women are living in economic instability. There is a tremendous gap between what many women in our region are earning, and what they really need to survive and take care of their families.

There are countless stories of mothers giving their children everything, including the very clothes on their backs. But who is giving to the mothers? At The Women’s Foundation, we help women in the Washington region and beyond by providing the resources they need to thrive. By investing in women and girls in our community, we can ensure brighter futures where mothers don’t have to choose between medicine and food for their child, or a job and child care. While we celebrate the mothers we know, let us remember the ones we don’t know, who need our help. Because of my mother, I continue to encourage others to give to help bring economic stability to our region and make women’s lives just a little bit easier.

Women like my mom are the heartbeat of community, and often go without being thanked. So this Mother’s Day—I want to say thank you to my mom and to all the mothers who keep our families, schools and communities running. There is likely a mother in your world that should be appreciated as well. Share your thanks and her story in the comments below.

Statement from Prosperity Together Regarding President Obama’s FY17 Budget

Statement from Prosperity Together Regarding President Obama’s FY17 Budget

 

Nonpartisan, National Coalition of Women’s Foundations Strongly Supports President Obama’s Budget Provisions Expanding Opportunities for Women and Working Families

 

Prosperity Together, a nonpartisan coalition of public women’s foundations from across the country announced today its support of the investments outlined in President Obama’s Budget to expand opportunity, promote equality and build economic stability for women and working families in America. These efforts include: expanding paid leave, promoting equal pay for equal work, enforcing worker protection laws, increasing the minimum wage, supporting women-owned businesses, creating pathways to high-growth jobs and ensuring access to quality, affordable healthcare, housing and early care and education.

Prosperity Together applauds the President’s continued commitment to community-based solutions that partner government with philanthropy and corporations to create pathways to economic security for low-income women in America.

 

“In our region, Washington Area Women’s Foundation serves as the only donor-supported, public foundation solely focused on improving the economic security of women and girls,” said Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, president and CEO of Washington Area Women’s Foundation. “We commend the President’s leadership in taking a number of steps to expand opportunities for women and families, which will have positive ripple effect across entire communities. We believe that when women are strong, communities are strong.”

 

This year, Washington Area Women’s Foundation awarded $820,000 in grants to 22 local nonprofits dedicated to improving the economic security of low-income women and girls in the Washington metropolitan region. This grant docket follows the collective funding commitment of Prosperity Together and will reach more than 4,000 women and girls in the region, potentially increasing their collective assets and incomes by nearly $4.5 million over the next year alone.

 

About Prosperity Together

Prosperity Together is a nonpartisan coalition of public women’s foundations from across the country dedicated to improving the economic security of low-income women and their families. On November 13 at The White House, Prosperity Together announced a five-year, $100 million funding commitment to invest in programs and strategies that will create pathways to economic security for low-income women in America. Prosperity Together demonstrates the critical role and power of women’s foundations to drive this work in communities, state by state, across the country. For more information, click here.

 

About Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Washington Area Women’s Foundation is a DC-based public foundation dedicated to mobilizing our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive. Learn more about The Women’s Foundation’s mission to transform the lives of women and girls, the Washington region, and the world by visiting us online, on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

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Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s 2015 Leadership Luncheon Remarks

On October 15, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2015 Leadership Luncheon.

Good afternoon. Wow – what an amazing crowd! I’m Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, and I’m thrilled to welcome you to today’s luncheon.

At each of your plates sits a small blue or orange envelope marked Wait to Open. The suspense has been tough, I know! But inside that envelope sits your fate for the next few minutes: either that of a woman thriving, or that of a woman struggling.

So now I’d like you to open your envelopes.

If you have a blue envelope, you are living the life of a woman who is thriving. You likely graduated from high school, college and maybe even grad school. You are employed and earn a comfortable salary. You can afford high-quality child care, a home of your own, and you set aside money each month for savings. If you opened your envelope to learn that you are thriving, I’d like you to stay seated.

If you have an orange envelope, then you are living the life of a woman struggling to get by. It’s likely that you graduated from high school, but college wasn’t an option. You are employed at a local chain restaurant, making $21,000 per year – minimum wage – barely enough to cover your bills, let alone child care for your toddler. Each week, you cobble together coverage through friends, family, and neighbors, wondering if your daughter is learning what she needs to be prepared for kindergarten. Each month, you make tough choices about which bills you will pay – whether it’s your daughter’s asthma medication or the heating bill – because you can’t cover both of them in full.

Thriving Struggling Cards

If you’ve found yourself with an orange envelope, please stand.

Take note. Look around. 1 of every 4 individuals in this room is now standing.

1 in 4.

These are people you know. They are your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

The women and men standing are representative of the 476,000 women and girls in this region who are struggling to get by.

But why? It doesn’t have to be this way.

●    What if – right now – we doubled down on our investments to build economic security in this region?

●    What if for every door that felt closed off to a woman, we helped open 2 more doors of opportunity?

●    What if, instead of making assumptions, we took the time to listen – really listen – to what women need,
so we can tailor solutions that will truly help them get ahead?

If we were to do this, then you could all take a seat. And as you take your seat at the table, know that, in doing so, you’re creating new seats at the table. This is what a model community looks like—a place where we all have comfortable seats at the table, and ample opportunities to thrive.

It’s not so far out of reach.

Last year, I stood on this stage and shared my own personal journey. Having come from a place of struggle, I am now thriving. And so this work is very personal for me. My mom and daughters are here with me again today, and although I argued a little bit with my oldest daughter Katia about whether she should really miss a day of school, she said to me, “Mom, I want to see what you do. It’s really important to me.” And there you have it. That’s the difference. Because my trajectory changed, her trajectory has changed, and she sees other possibilities.

JFAM large

But that’s not the case for far too many women and girls in our community. When mired in the challenges of poverty, especially when it’s the only life you’ve ever know, it’s hard to lift your head up and see a brighter future for yourself and your family.

When we talk about female poverty in our region, 1 in 4, we must explicitly talk about the disproportionate impact this has on women and girls of color.

16 percent of Black women and 14 percent of Latinas live in poverty compared with 6 percent of white women.

And when we look at families led by single women, the disparities for women of color are truly staggering.

What’s happening with women and girls of color in our community is so deeply connected and intertwined with what is happening to men and boys of color. My Brother’s Keeper has ignited an unprecedented investment in boys and young men of color, an investment and conversation that is long overdue. I applaud our trifecta of leadership—the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Chancellor—for these efforts.

I think we can all agree that this isn’t about one gender or another. This isn’t about pitting girls against boys. This is about investing in the future of our community, investing in our children.

What we need now, more than ever is bold action.

So today, I am challenging our community to join The Women’s Foundation and boldly invest a collective $100 million over the next five years in our region’s women and families, many of whom are women of color.

Join The Women’s Foundation in committing to moving the 476,000 women and girls currently facing economic hardship to a place of consistent economic stability. Our region’s families deserve nothing less.

To aid in these efforts, in the coming months we will be unveiling a donor advised fund model that will transform how we collectively invest in this work. Because we can achieve this, and when we do, we will transform our community. We will transform lives.

To better appreciate the life-altering nature of our work, I want you to consider the story of Okema.

Three years ago, Okema stood on this stage and shared her personal journey. In her mid-20s she found herself unemployed, trying to raise her daughter single-handedly. She enrolled SOME’s Center for Employment Training where she graduated and ultimately earned a job working for SOME. Today, 8 years later, Okema is now the Lead Employment Retention Specialist at SOME. That means she is the person responsible for ensuring that recent graduates have the support they need to stay in their jobs for the long-term. And she has the real life experience to share. I recently ran into Okema, and she shared with me that she now wants to become a life coach. Imagine that – talk about paying it forward?

It’s success stories like Okema’s that make this work both critical and rewarding. We can’t be intimidated or daunted by the staggering statistics. We have to focus on what’s possible and the positive signs of progress that we are seeing every day.

Last year, our grantmaking reached nearly 7,000 women, and as a result:

●    Women collectively saved close to a quarter of a million dollars.

●    More than 400 women increased their collective incomes by $1.5 million through new jobs or advancing to higher paying jobs.

These are impressive results, but we know much more needs to be done. Over the next five years, we are committed to increasing our investments in this community from $1 million to $5 million.

But those investments can only be successful if the women they support aren’t hindered by other barriers—like access to child care or transportation.

DC is poised to become one of the most generous places in the country for low-income workers seeking paid family and medical leave. Regardless of where you stand on how we pay for this benefit, there is no ignoring that the time has come to have this important conversation.

This is just one of the many reasons why The Women’s Foundation is also committing to coordinating our work with those community partners and policymakers who are positioned to remove barriers and enact tangible policies that improve the lives of women and girls.

You are each here today because you know one very simple truth: when women are strong, our community is strong. And yet, just a stone’s throw away—whether it’s Langley Park, Bailey’s Crossroads, or Anacostia—there are roughly 30,000 single moms who are struggling to make ends meet, and their children know nothing else but what it feels like to scrape by.

So yes, bold visions are needed, but bold actions are overdue. Today, I’ve laid out for you our commitments, but I want to know what will each of you do to change the uncomfortable reality for so many women and girls?

You are The Women’s Foundation. We are The Women’s Foundation. Together we will invest in our greatest innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and changemakers.

Together, we can change the FUTURE.

We don’t need to look any further – WE have the power to make this happen.

And NOW is the time.

Thank you.

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we invest in pathways out of poverty for women and girls, including job training and post-secondary education opportunities that provide access to careers that offer benefits and pay family-sustaining wages. The Foundation first started supporting Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures program through Stepping Stones in 2005. Training Futures provides the training and skills that help under-employed and unemployed women in Northern Virginia secure a rewarding career with the potential for professional advancement, family sustaining wages and permanent employment.

When it comes to helping women build their economic security and earnings potential, Training Futures is one of the nation’s most effective workforce development programs. More than 90 percent of all participants who enroll in the program graduate, and 80 percent of all Training Futures graduates find administrative jobs with benefits paying an average of $12.50 per hour within a year after completing the program.

Training Futures’ six-month intensive curriculum is taught in a simulated office setting and arms trainees with those critical skills that can be applied across industries, including: customer service, public speaking, office administration, computer skills, and records management. During the program, participants complete an internship and are co-enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College. Trainees can receive up to 21 college credits for their Training Futures courses – providing a bridge and pathway to additional education. After graduation, trainees continue to benefit from wrap-around services, including one-on-one counseling, interview coaching, resume preparation and job search assistance.

Lidia VenturaLidia, a single mother and graduate of Training Futures, found the program while pursuing her GED. Prior to enrolling, Lidia said she was constantly thinking, “I’ll get my GED, but then what?” Training Futures helped her answer that question by showing her that it was possible to go from working two jobs on nights and weekends to securing a full-time position with benefits and regular business hours.

In 2014, after completing a three-week internship with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Lidia was offered a full-time position as an executive assistant. Since then, she’s impressed her employers, received a raise, and is now able to spend more time at home raising her 9-year-old son. Lidia says the quality time has not only been critical for their relationship, but she’s also seen an improvement in her son’s academic performance. He has been motivated by her experiences and now dreams of receiving his master’s degree one day. Thanks to the credits she earned at Northern Virginia Community College during the Training Futures program, Lidia is also working toward achieving her longtime dream: getting her Associates degree in accounting. She acknowledges that without the support of Training Futures and Washington Area Women’s Foundation she would never have been able to imagine achieving all of these things.

But the most rewarding experience Lidia says thus far has been the opportunity to help change other people’s lives by introducing them to Training Futures. She says, “I couldn’t be more blessed. I don’t even have the words to describe Training Future’s impact on my life. Where I work, I have the ability to speak to a lot of people who could benefit from the program and I tell everyone I can about it.”

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 – Issue Brief on Girls’ Economic Security in the Washington Region.

In April 2015, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released our issue brief on the economic security of girls in the Washington region.

Women and girls are powerful social change agents in their families and communities. However, their power and potential can be helped or hindered early in life. Many girls in our region face significant obstacles that not only affect their well-being today, but their educational success, earning potential and economic security in the future. By investing in girls’ lives, we ensure that they grow up and enter adulthood on the best possible footing, empowered to have a positive impact in their communities.

This issue brief highlights key issues and demographic trends in the Washington region, and dives specifically into issues of poverty and opportunity that affect girls’ capacity to attain economic security in adulthood. Our objective is to better understand girls’ experiences and circumstances and to work together with the community to identify strategies that reduce barriers, increase opportunities and increase the number of girls who are able to live economically secure lives both today and for generations to come. Read the entire issue brief, here.Girls Issue Brief Cover

 

Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

Managed by The Women’s Foundation, the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) is a collective of foundation and corporate investors dedicated to supporting systemic approaches that increase quality, capacity and access to early care and education in the Washington region. Learn more about the Collaborative.

Resource – Early Care and Education in the Washington Region

Early care and education investments help prepare low-income children ages zero to five for kindergarten, a critical opportunity to increase readiness and close the achievement gap, provide an important work support for low-income working families and support the professional development and advancement of early care and education providers. In this fact sheet, we explore early care and education in our region. Click here to read the full fact sheet.

ECE Fact Sheet Cover