¡Celebrando nuestra latinidad todo el año!

Celebrar nuestra latinidad, durante el mes de la herencia hispana, después del tiroteo de El Paso, se siente casi como un pequeño motín. Casi cómo rebelarse y decir “estamos aquí para quedarnos, somos increíbles, y hacemos de Estados Unidos un mejor país con nuestra alegría, nuestra risa sin censura, nuestra comida y nuestro color.” También es decepcionante que tengamos que leer sobre nuestras tradiciones, nuestro idioma y nuestra historia prácticamente sólo uno de los doce meses del año.

La falta de representación de los Latinxs en los principales medios de comunicación del país, por dar un ejemplo, es de considerarse. Pocos medios incluyen nuestras voces y nuestras historias, y cuando lo hacen, se enfocan casi exclusivamente en la experiencia de los Latinxs en un contexto de seguridad nacional, violencia, y conflicto en la frontera.

Cuando no es el mes de la herencia hispana, hay pocos artículos sobre nosotros, nuestra diversidad, nuestras contribuciones a la vida estadounidense, nuestro espíritu emprendedor y nuestro compromiso con la escuela y el trabajo. Si no nos esforzamos para cultivar un rango más representativo de nuestras experiencias y contribuciones, sólo estamos contribuyendo a perpetuar una narrativa despectiva y obsoleta sobre nosotros mismos.

No es de sorprenderse que, en el Distrito de Columbia, el 41 por ciento de las jóvenes latinas reportan tristeza o desesperanza a tal grado que dejaron de hacer algunas de sus actividades habituales, y alrededor del 23 por ciento consideró seriamente intentar suicidarse en el 2017. A veces, la retórica negativa que nos rodea impregna nuestro entendimiento sobre quiénes somos, cuáles son nuestras contribuciones, y qué somos capaces de hacer.

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El plan de acción de nuestra iniciativa de mujeres jóvenes (YWI por sus siglas en inglés) plantea recomendaciones de mujeres jóvenes de color—incluyendo jóvenes Latinas—que viven en DC con el objetivo de cambiar prácticas y políticas públicas que obstaculizan su capacidad para prosperar. Durante el 2017 y el 2018, La fundación de las mujeres facilitó conversaciones y entrevistas con chicas de color y miembros de la comunidad para entender qué barreras enfrentan y conocer qué soluciones proponen.

Una de las recomendaciones del plan de acción de YWI que propusieron las jóvenes, es cambiar la narrativa que se escucha sobre las chicas de color hoy en día, y cultivar su sentido de pertenencia a la comunidad. ¡Esta es una de mis recomendaciones favoritas! A veces esperamos que la próxima generación de Latinxs sea exitosa, aun cuando los planes de estudio en el colegio no incluyen lecturas con las que puedan identificarse con los autores o los personajes, cuando poquísimos programas de televisión representan familias Latinas, o cuando los profesores están con frecuencia pidiéndoles que hablen, vistan y escriban de cierta manera. Hay una infinidad de mensajes alrededor de nuestra juventud que constantemente refuerzan la idea de que no pertenecen a esta sociedad.

Estados Unidos está experimentando un cambio demográfico importante y los Latinxs son ya la segunda etnicidad más grande en el país.  En menos de 25 años, más de un cuarto de la población será de origen hispano. Estamos en una encrucijada y es momento de dejar de centrar la cultura blanca para elevar quiénes somos, resaltar nuestros logros y celebrar nuestra latinidad todos los días del año. Hoy tenemos la oportunidad y responsabilidad de crear espacios en los que nuestra juventud—y nosotros mismos—pertenezcan, y en los que puedan sentirse identificados y validados.

Si la próxima generación de Latinxs escucha una nueva narrativa de quiénes son, si cultivamos su sentido de pertenencia a este país, si hay más y mejor representación en los medios de comunicación, será entonces tal vez cuando tengamos más Latinxs trabajando en la filantropía, siendo dueños de pequeños negocios, encabezando organizaciones sin fines de lucro, dirigiendo políticas públicas y administrando negocios. Esto es lo que yo espero para mi hijo, Alejandro, un pequeño mexicoamericano que nació aquí, y está aquí para quedarse.

Alex (Claudia Williams' Son)

Alex (el hijo de Claudia Williams)

Claudia Williams es orgullosamente Latina y oficial de programas en Washington Area Women’s Foundation, donde contribuye a la elaboración y ejecución de la estrategia de programas y gestiona la iniciativa de mujeres jóvenes de Washington, DC.

 

Celebrating Latinxs All Year Long!

Celebrating our Latinidad this year during #HispanicHeritageMonth, in the wake of the El Paso shooting feels almost like a little mutiny. Almost like an uprising in which we’re saying, “we are here to stay, we are awesome, and we make this country a better place with our joy, our unapologetic laughter, our foods, and our color”. It also feels disappointing that we have to read about our traditions, our language, and our history one out of the twelve months of the year.

The lack of representation of Latinxs on mainstream media, for example, is noteworthy. Few outlets include our voices and stories, and most of mainstream media focuses almost exclusively on Latinxs’ experiences against a backdrop of national security, violence, and border conflict.

When it is not #HispanicHeritageMonth, there are few features about us, our diversity, our contributions to the American life, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our engagement with school and work. Failing to advance a more representative range of stories about our experiences only contributes to perpetuating derogatory and inaccurate narratives about ourselves.

It is no wonder that in DC, 41 percent of young Latinas felt sad or hopeless so that they stopped doing some usual activities, and about 23 percent seriously considered attempting suicide in 2017. Sometimes, the false narratives permeate our own understanding of who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we are capable of achieving.

The Blueprint for Action of the Young Women’s Initiative outlines recommendations by young women of color with the objective to shift local policies and practices in the District of Columbia in support of young women’s ability to thrive. During 2017 and 2018, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color and community members to understand barriers to success and propose recommendations to improve the experience of young women of color.

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One of the recommendations of the Blueprint for Action is to shift narratives and cultivate belonging. I love this recommendation! Somehow, we hope the next generation of Latinxs is successful even when the school curriculum excludes writings and teachings from Latinxs authors, when very few TV programs represent Latinxs families, and when professors with frequency ask them to dress or talk a “certain way.” There is a myriad of subtle messages about Latinxs that are constantly reinforcing the idea Latinxs do not belong to this society.

The US is undergoing a demographic shift, and Latinxs are now the second largest ethnic group in the country. In less than 25 years, we will be close to a quarter of the US population. We are at a crossroads where it could not be timelier to move away from centering whiteness and to lean in to who we Latinxs are, to highlight our achievements, to celebrate our Latinidad every day of the year. We have the opportunity and responsibility to create spaces and opportunities for our youth—and for ourselves—to belong, to feel validated, and to connect.

Alex (Claudia Williams' Son)
Alex (Claudia Williams’ Son)

If the next generation of Latinxs hears a new narrative of who they are, if we cultivate their belonging to this country, maybe then we will have more Latinxs working in philanthropy, owning business, running non-profits, and directing public policy. This is my hope for my son, Alejandro, a little Mexican American who was born here and is here to stay.

Claudia Williams is a proud Latina and a Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC.

A Father’s Love & Resilience

My father came to the United States from India in 1961. Like many immigrants of the time, he saw America as the land of opportunity. If he worked hard, he’d make a life for himself.

In India, my father had been a refugee, his family displaced after the partition. He attended primary school in a tent, graduated early from high school, earned a bachelor’s degree, and started to work to help support his parents and younger siblings. He was doing well, but being successful in America was his dream.

So when the opportunity to move to the States arose, he took it. Never mind that no employer would accept his foreign degree. He’d earn a second one. Never mind that he didn’t have a wealthy family to support him. He’d work full time while taking a full course load to pay his own way through school. He went without meals regularly. He couldn’t afford a winter coat. In fact, he only had one suit that he wore daily and washed at night.

Never mind any of that – he was in America. His hard work would be recognized.

My mother was white, born in Connecticut. My parents met in college. Her parents disproved of their relationship. They went so far as to pull her out of school when my mother continued to see my father, a poor foreigner, despite their wishes. Consequently, my parents eloped. Without family support and with some cultural barriers, their marriage was difficult, but they had four daughters before my mother unexpectedly passed away, leaving my father as a single parent.

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Mithu and Mary married in 1966

At that time, it was not unheard of for Indian fathers living abroad who found themselves widowers to send their kids to live with family back in India until they found a new wife. That was not an option for my father. He remembered that the India of his childhood was not kind to girls. He recalled the fear of his sisters when they first menstruated because no one had told them it was coming or what it was. They thought they were dying. He recalled how dependent women were on their husbands and that not all husbands were kind. He did not want his daughters to be fearful or dependent.

He kept us in the US and raised us, as best he could, as Americans because American women could be independent and free.

My father taught me many things, whether or not intentionally. But, one of the things he made sure I knew was that hard work and self-reliance led to independence. They led to freedom.

Right now, many women and girls in our country are, whether or not intentionally, taught a counter to that message – that hard work will not be recognized or rewarded, or that women should rely on men to dictate their rights and self-worth.

This Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to thank all of the dads out there who work against that narrative, not just for their daughters, but for all of their kids. Let’s appreciate the fathers who are raising hard working, independent Americans, regardless of their gender. And let’s stand with them against the notion that America is anything other than the land of the free.

Maryland Makes the Health of Women and Families a Priority

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we believe access to quality, affordable health care is essential for women to thrive. Access to contraception is a key component of overall health care. Family planning services, including both privately and publicly funded services, are critical to ensuring women and families have the ability to plan if and when to have children.

Federal Title X funding helps ensure that women are able to access reproductive health care services, regardless of race, income level, gender identity, location, or insurance status.

The Trump-Pence administration recently issued a new rule imposing harmful standards of care on patients by limiting what doctors in Title X clinics can say to their patients about contraception. Open conversations are essential to improving health outcomes. This “gag rule” not only prohibits doctors from giving women full information about their reproductive health care options, but it also redirects  funding from clinics with a range of options available onsite, toward ideologically motivated, single-method providers—or crisis pregnancy centers—thus diminishing access to affordable health care services for millions of women.

The rule will have devastating effects on populations that are already facing significant barriers to accessing health care services. Decades of systemic inequities and racism in the operation of programs and policies have imposed barriers on certain populations— young women, women of color, LGBTQ people, low-income women, and women in rural areas— limiting their access to health care. In our region, many women who rely on Title X funding to access contraception and other essential health care services are women of color who face overlapping barriers to accessing health care, education, and childcare. Without access to Title X funded clinics, they would be unable to afford these health services on their own.

There are several legal challenges to the rule pending, and it will most likely end up before the Supreme Court. Public health organizations and elected officials, including mayors, governors, and state legislators have come out in opposition to the rule and are actively urging the administration to reconsider its position.

In the meantime, Maryland has made the health of women and families a priority by being the first state in the nation to formally opt-out of Title X federal funding.  The state legislature approved preemptive legislation that guarantees funding, at the same level as the prior fiscal year, for all family planning centers in the state if the rule moves forward. With this provision, Maryland is leading the way for the nation to defend the integrity of the Title X program and ensure basic reproductive health provisions for the women who need it most.

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Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the work of The Women’s Foundation 

A Response to The Washington Post Editorial Board

When The Washington Post Editorial Board recently released its endorsements for the upcoming Fairfax County Board of Supervisors primary election, it was criticized for supporting all male candidates. Reporters from other local news outlets interviewed some of the candidates about the questions they were asked by the Editorial Board, and it was discovered that one of the questions that the Post asked all candidates who are parents was how they will manage the long hours and stress of an elected position.

Here at Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we are all about transparency, but we also know that not all questions are helpful. Here are the top five reasons why asking a parent if having kids will affect their job performance as an elected official is completely inappropriate and totally unnecessary:

Number 5 Elected office is just one of many demanding jobs that parents perform on a daily basis.

Parents are public school teachers, nurses, police officers, members of the armed forces. If we don’t question if a parent of young children can be deployed, we don’t need to question if a parent can handle local elected office.

Number 4 Childcare is a policy issue. Full stop.

While it is difficult to find and afford high-quality childcare in the DC metro region, we should discuss the issues from a policy perspective, not as a requirement an individual needs to have in place before securing political office.

Number 3 – Answers to this question are not helpful to voters.

There is no way that a candidate, in response to this question, is going to say, “Now that you mention it, that is a problem for me. I shouldn’t run after all.” Of course every candidate is going to say that they can handle the job. They wouldn’t have decided to run otherwise. Therefore, this question doesn’t actually provide any useful information to voters or to the interviewer who asked the question.

Number 2 – Asking this question demonstrates a gender bias.

This is not a question that would have been asked if all of the candidates were male. Now, that is an admittedly presumptuous statement, but we all know it’s true. If all of the candidates were men, no one would question that the dads would be able to do the job. We know this because there are a billion books and articles on “how women can have it all” but not one about how men can. It’s just expected that men can be parents and professionals simultaneously, but people still question if women can.

Number 1 – It is wrong to judge parents differently.

There is a federal law against employers asking potential job candidates about a number of personal things, including if they have kids. This is in place because, presumably, as a country we don’t want to discriminate against parents. True, it is not illegal to ask a political candidate about her family, but the same ethical principle should apply. Parents and non-parents should be considered fairly for a position, based on their merits.

Instances like this help make the case for our work at The Women’s Foundation, where we center the voices and experiences of women and open doors to opportunities. As more diverse voices and experiences are included in leadership conversations, we’ll all start to ask smarter and more appropriate questions.

Census 2020: Let’s Ensure a Complete Count!

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States every ten years, but its goal is much more than just a head count. Census data plays a crucial role in the apportionment of congress and the allocation of federal resources across the country.  Businesses also use it to drive key decisions, like where to ship products or where to build new stores. Philanthropy and non-profit organizations rely on Census data to inform their objectives and initiatives. At The Women’s Foundation, we use it frequently to understand how women and girls are faring in our region, and to inform our goals, strategy, grantmaking, and evaluation. (Click here to check out some of the reports and fact sheets we have prepared using data from the Census and the American Community Survey).

An undercount of the population will have far-reaching implications for communities living at the margins. Because of a combination of factors, including structural discrimination, inequitable policies, distrust in the government, and access barriers, census counts disproportionately overlook people of color, people with lower-incomes, children, people with mental and physical disabilities, transient and recently rehoused populations, and non-English speakers.  (Explore this map to see where the hardest-to-count census tracts are in the Washington region.)

This time around, a fraught political climate and a growing digital divide—the 2020 census will be the first to allow residents to respond online—are boosting the odds against an accurate count. It is still unclear whether the census will include the controversial citizenship question the Trump administration proposed to add, but several advocacy organizations have pointed out that the mere proposal of including this question has already deterred many communities from responding.

We believe disaggregated, accurate, accessible, and current data are essential to identifying gaps, understanding which populations experiencing vulnerability need special interventions, and designing and adapting programs and policies that can sustain positive change. To support an accurate census count in our region, the Women’s Foundation joined a group of local funders leveraging resources to make sure everyone counts and everyone is counted.

Along with WRAG, Metropolitan Council of Governments, and 13 other foundations, we are organizing a daylong forum on June 6, 2019, for our Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations in our community to identify and discuss strategies to reach-out to hard-to-count communities. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to help with outreach, you want everyone in your community to get counted, and you would like to meet members of your jurisdiction’s complete count committees, make sure you register for “Interventions that Work: 2020 Census and Hard-to-Reach Communities” before May 30.

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At the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Philanthropy: Engaging Women of Color in Philanthropy

Women have a long history of volunteering their time, talent, and treasure to support worthy causes and solve some of the great challenges our communities face.

Like never before, women of different backgrounds have rising economic, financial, social, and political power thanks to their increased participation in the workforce, educational attainment, and leadership roles. With direct influence over how wealth is spent, the face of philanthropy is changing with women from many cultures and communities of color—Black, Asian, Latina, American Indian, Pacific Islanders, and more—actively participating in giving and volunteering.

As a women’s foundation, centering women as the donors and recipients of funds, we recognize the critical importance of engaging and leveraging the philanthropic potential of all women in our region, and understanding how giving connects them to each other and to the causes they support.

A new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Women Give 2019: Gender and Giving across Communities of Color, is the first to explore philanthropy at the intersection of race and gender. The report finds that gender differences are consistent across racial groups—women are more likely to give than men are—but, unlike gender, a donor’s race does not have a significant effect on the amount given to charity. When we take into consideration factors like gender, wealth, income, and education, race does not significantly influence giving.

The report challenges common perceptions about who our society sees as philanthropists, and explores the ways in which race influences how organizations engage donors from diverse backgrounds. For example, the report reveals that fundraisers are less likely to approach philanthropists of color. Women Give 2019 highlight studies that show African Americans would donate more if organizations asked them more often, and that Latinos are highly interested in charitable giving, but organizations are less likely to engage with them as often or with the same relationship depth as White donors.

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In addition to highlighting findings from quantitative data, the authors of the report conducted six in-depth interviews with women of color philanthropists. In sharing their stories, it is clear that for these women, gender and racial identities shape and guide their philanthropic work. These stories also surface some of the different pathways women take to establish their philanthropy, the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to giving, and highlights the importance of doing more to mentor and engage women of color in philanthropic endeavors.

The biggest challenge facing our community is not a lack of strategies to address the needs of women and girls who are vulnerable to experiencing economic insecurity, but a lack of resources. Women Give 2019 suggests untapped opportunities to increase and catalyze these resources.

Creating a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive culture in philanthropy is also about creating space and opportunities for communities of color, and in particular, women of color, to participate as donors.

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the work of The Women’s Foundation 

Recommendations to Facilitate Accessible & Affordable Mental Health Services for Young Women of Color in the District of Columbia

Centering the voices and lived experiences of young women of color in identifying challenges and solutions to improve their lives is critical to developing effective interventions to bring about change. Last year, as part of the Young Women’s Initiative, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color across DC to learn about their assets and potential, and to understand what challenges inhibit their success.

In these conversations, participants acknowledged the need for prioritizing affordable and accessible mental health and counseling services in DC. The urgency of this unmet need came up in nearly every topic The Women’s Foundation explored. Whether discussing bullying at school, the aftermath of violence, or involvement with the juvenile justice and foster care systems, young women of color talked about mental health supports as an option they need to start a healing journey and move forward.

Mental health supports are critical components of navigating trauma, but the lack of economic resources, narrow provider networks, and high out-of-pocket costs, as well as stigma around mental health issues prevent young women of color from seeking help.

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Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that in DC young women of color are not receiving the support they need. A high percent of young women of color attending high school, in particular Latinas, experience mental health disorders that prevent them from doing some of their usual activities. In 2017, one out of every ten Latinas attempted suicide, about a quarter seriously considered attempting suicide, and close to half of all interviewed said they felt sad or hopeless.

During May, organizations across the country are rising awareness about mental health, and advocating for policies that support people with mental illnesses and their families. Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and about 75 percent by age 24. Early interventions for young women of color are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.

Some recommendations to facilitate accessible and affordable mental health services for young women of color in the District of Columbia include:

For school systems:

  • Expand the number of youth-friendly, gender-responsive, trauma-Informed, culturally and linguistically competent counselors available to young women of color all the way from elementary school to college.

For community and youth-serving organizations:

  • Offer free counseling services for young women of color who cannot afford them.
  • Facilitate nonjudgmental and nondiscriminatory peer support among young women of color.

For funders:

  • Invest in cutting-edge research to better understand the mental health needs of young women of color in DC.

For government:

  • Increase and protect funding to provide mental health support and treatment to youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system.

For legislators and policymakers:

  • Remove barriers to access and participation of mental health services.

 

To read more recommendations and to learn more about ways to support young women of color in DC, click here.

Claudia Williams manages a portfolio of research and evaluation to advance the Foundation’s mission.

A Wonder & A Dream

Joanne Hurt is the Executive Director of Wonders Early Learning + Extended Day, Inc., wonderslearning.org and one of the original partners of the Equity in Early Learning Initiative (EELI)

“But, we were raising our daughter to be colorblind.”

It was the week of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday observance, and I was on the phone with an upset mother. The night before, her three-year-old daughter had announced at the dinner table that their family was white. As the Executive Director of an organization which puts social responsibility at the center of its work, our leadership team had agreed that teachers would share age-appropriate stories and biographies with children in our care.  We viewed this collective focus as an important and timely way to educate children about fairness, social justice, and advocacy.

It was not surprising to me that a white parent might think that she was teaching her child about equality by not mentioning race. But children as young as three begin to notice difference, and skin tone is one of the first physical differences that young children express curiosity about. As a white mother myself, my perspective and approach to teaching about race differed.  I would often follow my children’s lead when questions would arise, incorporating into our discussions what I had learned about anti-bias education and racial identity development. The conversation with this parent was more difficult for me to navigate because I was challenging what she considered to be her good intentions.

This conversation sparked a period of reflection, which eventually taught me that as an organizational leader, educator, and parent, I had to do more to create space for broader conversations about race.  While I had done a lot of personal and professional work around diversity, I realized that as a white person and a person in a powerful role in many families’ lives, I had the capacity to influence – and therefore the obligation — to dig deeper into the work that the teaching staff had been engaged in and expand our learning opportunities to the broader school community.

Wonders’ focus on the teachings of King grew out of the work of the Wonders Diversity Committee.  Beginning in 2004, to support children’s identity development and strengthen teachers’ confidence in engaging in conversations, this voluntary staff committee met monthly to educate ourselves on the principles of an anti-bias approach and strategies for implementation. Throughout our organization today, there is a shared commitment to nurture an environment that supports individual identity development and social justice advocacy.  

Since January 2018, Wonders, along with partners School Readiness Consulting and The Campagna Center, has been actively engaged in a regional pilot of the Equity in Early Learning Initiative (EELI), which was funded by the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, housed at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.  EELI seeks to develop best practices in early childhood leadership, teaching and learning, and family engagement around equity-focused practice; as well as a clear agenda to elevate the DC metro area as an exemplary early learning model for equity leadership and social justice education at the programming, systems, and policy levels.

Through discussion and facilitated training, teachers report feeling more confident in integrating practices that build children’s healthy identity, talking openly about differences, as well as helping children recognize and work against bias and injustice. Parent focus groups identified the need for resources to help families feel more prepared to build their child’s healthy identity, talk openly with their child about human differences, and help their child recognize and work against bias and injustice. Early childhood leaders have learned strategies for leading their respective organizations with a vision and framework for equity.

As a collective, we have defined educational equity as, “the recognition and undoing of historical and systemic injustices that occur within a system. Educational equity is the result of eliminating individual, organizational, and institutional policies and practices that prevent the realization of children’s lifelong learning and self-actualization, regardless of racial, cultural, economic, or any other social factor.”

I am grateful that our work has grown from the early days of the Wonders Diversity Committee to the regional effort that is the Equity in Early Learning Initiative.  Each year when we celebrate as a nation the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I think back to my conversation with the mother who called me all those years ago, and I wonder how my conversation with her would be different today; and I am reminded that equity work is a personal journey, as well as a community responsibility.

 

Recap: Washington Area Women’s Foundation 20th Anniversary Luncheon

Washington Area Women’s Foundation hosted its annual Leadership Luncheon on October 30, celebrating 20 years and raising over $877,000.  The Foundation honored youth activist Naomi Wadler, who delivered an inspiring speech about the importance of voting. The Luncheon also featured an opening performance by Largo High School Band and a special performance by The Women’s Foundation’s Young Women’s Advisory Council and F.R.E.S.H.H. Inc.

The Leadership Luncheon focused on celebrating and highlighting the work of The Women’s Foundation over the past two decades. The organization highlighted the first Leadership Awardee, Marta Urquilla, Chief Program Officer at the Education Design Lab and former Executive Director of Sister to Sister/Hermana a Hermana. She discussed the impact of the first award saying, “When the Women’s Foundation called us in 1998, it wasn’t the small grant we received that mattered most. It was that the Women’s Foundation SAW us. And in turn, we SAW ourselves and our own success in creating a future where all girls would thrive.”

Young leaders age 12-24 from Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) and Griot Girls of FRESHH Inc Theatre Company performed. The script was developed from the experience of the participating young women with the topic: leadership.

“It takes leadership and intentionality to bring together our community to work toward solutions, and that’s what Washington Area Women’s Foundation has done for 20 years. And it’s what brings us together today. In many ways, we’ve come full circle, and as we look to the future, we will also be returning to our roots,” said Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, President and CEO, Washington Area Women’s Foundation. “Next year, we will relaunch the Leadership Awards, providing general operating support to smaller organizations working to improve the economic security of women and girls, with a specific focus on women and girls of color.

After the first part of the program discussed young leaders, The Women’s Foundation honored one – Naomi Wadler. “When you are an activist at 12, and it is ONE WEEK, before the MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION of certainly MY lifetime if not all of yours, well it’s frustrating,” said Naomi Wadler. “So I thought my shaved, orange hair might motivate all of you.  Motivate you to not only go out and vote because I can not, but to bring every single person you know with you. Truly, tell everyone you know that if some 12 year old girl can shave her head and dye it orange, the least they can do is go and vote!!”

The Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Luncheon was generously supported by Capital One, Deloitte, iHeartMedia, WASH.FM and Kaiser Permanente among others.

For more information about Washington Area Women’s Foundation or to donate, visit www.thewomensfoundation.org.

DC Race & Wealth Gap: Implications for Philanthropy

DC is in an economic boom. By most measures, the District is thriving, and with an advancing economy, our policymakers and residents are having economic security conversations in ways that we have not seen before—debating the appropriate implementation of paid family leave and the viability of having a separate tipped minimum wage, for example. However, there is a piece of this conversation that is missing from the dialogue: whether the economic boom that DC is experiencing is only for White residents.

You see, there are at least two stats that suggest that Black residents are not benefiting from DC’s prosperity as much as White residents. First, median household income in DC for White families continues to rise and is currently $134,000. However, Black household income has not changed in the last decade and hovers at $42,000.[1] With the cost of housing, child care, and other expenses in DC being as high as they are, any resident can tell you without looking at any stats, that $42,000 is not enough to raise a family here.

The second data point to consider is DC’s staggering Black-White unemployment rate gap. In fact, DC currently has the widest racial unemployment rate divide in the country, with Black residents eight times more likely to be unemployed than White residents.[2]  We know that this gap is not a regional trend. In fact, while Maryland and Virginia also have Black-White unemployment rate gaps, those rates are far less stark than DC’s statistic.

So, if White residents are prospering, but by and large Black residents are not in the same ways, why is this happening? And more importantly, what is the District going to do to about it? The Women’s Foundation has some thoughts about what philanthropy can do.

Two years ago, The Women’s Foundation adopted a racial equity lens, in addition to our existing gender equity lens. This was crucial to our work to support the economic stability of women and girls in the DC region.  What history and our own experience show is that no matter how many job-training programs you fund, the gap between Black and White employment will sustain unless we are intentional about addressing systemic racism across all issue areas and within our own organizations.

We are not alone in this belief. Over the past few years, local and national foundations have increasingly adopted racial equity and/or racial justice lenses, including our local partners Consumer Health Foundation and The Meyer Foundation. We encourage philanthropy to continue to consider the role that systemic racism plays in our systems, regardless of issue area.  Because the economic security of DC’s Black residents is intrinsically tied to academic achievement gaps, practices of redlining in the housing sector, the racial gaps in maternal mortality rates, and all of the other ways that as a society we either overtly repress or simply overlook racial minorities.

We believe that philanthropy cannot conduct business as usual. We need to take a stand, individually and as a sector. Regardless of our giving areas—whether we invest in education, health, workforce development, or the arts—or the communities we focus on—women and girls, young people, older populations, veterans—we can review our giving and organizational practices to ensure we are actively contributing to the reduction of barriers raised by systemic racism.

As a women’s foundation, for us this means ensuring that our work supporting women and girls in the DC region is intentional about how the needs of and opportunities for women and girls of color are reflected in our research, advocacy, and grantmaking. In recent years, we increased the racial and ethnic diversity of our staff; launched a Young Women’s Initiative to spotlight the voices of young women of color in DC; and worked with the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, housed at The Women’s Foundation, to incorporate a racial equity lens into its grantmaking and to provide racial equity training for its Grantee Partners. This is just the beginning. We continue to work to ensure that our operational practices and programmatic work are community-led and intentionally supportive of women and girls of color.

Other foundations will implement racial equity differently and focus on different populations and issue areas. That excites us. We look forward to collaborating with other philanthropic entities toward a holistic systems change effort that could affect all genders and age groups across all issue areas.

We encourage foundations that are interested in implementing a racial equity lens to reach out to us about our journey or to Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers to inquire about the racial equity work they are doing with their members. Because the first step on this journey is asking questions and starting a conversation.

[1] DC Fiscal Policy Institute, DC’s Growing Prosperity Is Not Reaching Black Residents, Census Data Show. https://www.dcfpi.org/all/dcs-growing-prosperity-is-not-reaching-black-residents-census-data-show/?utm_source=DCFPI+Blog+Subscribers&utm_campaign=b03f319f34-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_71c838dca1-b03f319f34-111156113

[2] WAMU, DC’s Black Unemployment Rate Remains among Highest in the Country. https://wamu.org/story/18/05/18/d-c-s-black-unemployment-rate-remains-among-highest-country/