Women Who Inspire Us: Meet Our Team

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, The Women’s Foundation is proud to recognize and honor the incredible women who make up our team. Each day, these inspiring women work tirelessly to support and empower women and girls of color, investing in their futures and helping them achieve their highest potential.

Our team comes from all walks of life and brings many skills, experiences, and perspectives to our work. They are leaders, advocates, and changemakers committed to creating a more equitable and just society for all.

Today and every day, we celebrate them and the many women breaking down barriers, shattering stereotypes, and making a difference in our communities.

Meet each of these women below, and learn more about the motivation behind their work and how they empower themselves and other women.

Name: Abriana Kimbrough

Title: Program Officer, Early Care & Education

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am most inspired by the hardworking women I have the pleasure to call colleagues. The women who make the work of the Women’s Foundation possible are community leaders and dedicated activists. The passion within the organization drives me to give my best to those we serve.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I empower myself and those around me through radical self-care. By exemplifying what it means to put self first, I can pour more into my community.

 If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Jacquelyn L. Lendsey

Title: Interim President & CEO

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am inspired by the diverse group of women I work with daily at the foundation. Women who model what it means to commit to serving women and girls of color in our region every day through their outreach in the community, their work with grantee partners, and their willingness to advocate on issues that are not always popular but are necessary to move the conversation on what it will take to ensure the foundation opens doors to opportunity and safety for the women and girls we serve.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I believe as women, we have the power to control our lives and change our destinies. That power extends not just to myself but to the women around me. I hope I not only model this thinking but also encourage it.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Chika Onwuvuche

Title: Program Officer, Young Women’s Initiative

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I’m inspired by the way we engage young women and gender-expansive youth of color as decision-makers. It’s one thing to say you support youth, but it’s another to resource youth to be able to make decisions about changes they want to see in their communities. I am also inspired by the legacy of this foundation—how far we have come and how far we will go—in partnership with such brilliant and dynamic colleagues, leadership, grantee partners, and community members to create change!

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I feel empowered when I can show up as myself, and I try to ensure that the women and folks around me also feel like they can show up as their true and authentic selves. Vulnerable conversations, experiences, and interactions with my community about the strength they often wield, the rest they need and should take, and the resources needed are steps towards feeling and being empowered. Rest is essential.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Crystal Rucker

Title: Director of Development

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

As a native Washingtonian, I am inspired by the incredible work of The Women’s Foundation and our mission because we continue to invest in the power of women and girls in the Washington, DC region, especially women and girls of color. I have been even more inspired as I’ve learned more about the important work of our grantee partners and have also been inspired by our Women’s Foundation supporters who continue to invest in women and girls in our community through their philanthropic efforts. In this work, I will continue my dedication to advocating for and raising funds to support women and girls, especially women and girls of color.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

I empower myself through my faith. As I ground myself in my spirituality, I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, and no matter what challenges or adversity come my way, my life trajectory has proven to me that when I believe in my own ability, I am always provided with all that I need to feel empowered at just the right time. I am able to empower other women around me by reminding them of our strength as women. When women come together, we are stronger together because we make change happen, not only in our own lives but for the betterment of those around us.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Sylvia Padilla

Title: Finance and Operations Associate

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

What inspires me the most is collaborating with like-minded women who not only have vision and passion but are very action-oriented. The Women’s Foundation has a safe space to openly communicate and have those “uncomfortable” conversations in order to shed light on an issue and find creative ways to help the community. Hearing what my peers have to say gives me the confidence that we can get there.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

To give back to other women authentically, I first start with myself. I show grace and kindness to myself as much as possible. I set short-term goals (little wins make a huge difference!) and encourage the women around me to allow themselves to give 1% every day. Why 1% and not 100%? We as women have been operating at the “Give 100%” mentality, which leaves us rundown and with no energy to give back to ourselves, to truly enjoy the fruit of our efforts, and find enlightenment in our day-to-day life. I do my best to encourage doing things outside the “comfort zone”. I’m a habitual individual and love my daily rituals; however, this can also make the space too comfortable without enough space for growth. It ties to “short-term goals”, do something that makes you uncomfortable at least once every other month.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Sarah Weatherby

Title: Director of Communications

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

Every day, I am reminded of women’s critical challenges, from systemic discrimination and inequality to personal hardships and struggles. What inspires me is the resiliency, strength, and determination of the women we serve and witnessing first-hand the impact The Women’s Foundation is making within our region and nationally. I’m also inspired by our incredible staff and the sisterhood we share. Through my work, I have the privilege of highlighting not only our outstanding work and the work of our grantee partners and other community leaders and changemakers, but I have the privilege of amplifying the voices and stories of women and girls—particularly of color—to inspire and empower others, while also building a sense of community and solidarity among women.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

True empowerment comes from a deep sense of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-love. By taking the time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, setting goals for myself, and working towards them with determination and perseverance, I can empower myself in ways I never thought were possible. As far as others, I’m a Southern girl (Mississippi), and I’m all about family and community. I’m passionate about uplifting others and helping them see their own potential. Whether through mentoring or simply being a supportive friend and ally, I do my best to listen to others’ needs, provide guidance and resources, and help them overcome their obstacles.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


Name: Donna Wiedeman

Title: Executive Assistant to the President & CEO

What inspires you most about The Women’s Foundation and your work?

I am in awe of and grateful for the amazing women who do the work we are privileged to fund. Their dedication, creativity, intelligence (in all its many guises), and courage inspire me every day.

How do you empower yourself and the women around you?

By reminding them that they are already “enough.” Brave enough. Smart enough. Strong enough. Compassionate enough.

If you could describe yourself using one adjective, what would it be?


12 Inspirational Reads for Black History Month

Black History Month is a special time in February dedicated to honoring the rich history, culture, and influences of Black Americans throughout our nation’s history. It is also a time to celebrate the voices that have and continue to pave pathways that inspire and create spaces for global change.

This Black History Month, The Women’s Foundation is excited to share twelve (12) of our staff’s favorite reads written by some of the most brilliant Black writers and thinkers.

Check them out below!

All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks

All About Love breaks down why love remains elusive for many of us. From our flawed understanding of what love is to our misguided expectations of romantic love, author bell hooks examines common barriers to love and explains the steps individuals need to take for society to become more loving and nurturing.

Finding Me – Viola Davis

Finding Me is EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards) winning actress Viola Davis’ story, in her own words, and spans her incredible, inspiring life, from her coming-of-age in Rhode Island to her present day. It is a deep reflection, a promise, and a love letter of sorts to herself. 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Ghana and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. The novel shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

How the Word is Passed – Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed examines the legacy of slavery in America and how both history and memory continue to shape our everyday lives.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is a powerful true story about Bryan Stevenson, a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative—a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. It is a story about the potential for mercy to redeem us and a call to fix our broken justice system.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois – Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is the 2021 debut novel by American poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. It explores the history of a Black family in the American South, from the time before the American civil war and slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, to the present.

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart – Alicia Garza

In The Purpose of Power, Co-Founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, combines immense wisdom with political courage to inspire a new generation of activists, dreamers, and leaders. It’s a story of galvanizing people to create change and an insight into grassroots organizing to deliver basic needs – affordable housing, workplace protections, and access to good education – to those locked out of the economy by racism.

Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

With its keen observations of creative life in America today, as well as the joys and complications of being a mother and a daughter, Tia Williams’ Seven Days in June is a hilarious and romantic story of two writers discovering their second chance at love. 

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns sheds new light on the story of the Great Migration—the movement of Black Americans out of the Southern United States to the Midwest, Northeast, and West from approximately 1915 to 1970—through the stories of three individuals: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. It shows just how dramatically American culture has been changed, and continues to be changed, because of it.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves – Glory Edim

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves is a collection of inspiring essays by Black women on the importance of recognizing themselves in literature. Each contribution to the anthology is thoughtful and thorough and creates both a time capsule and an artifact of memories in literature. 

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

When They Call You a Terrorist is a reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.

You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience and the Black Experience – Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown

This anthology brings together a dynamic group of Black writers, organizers, artists, academics, and cultural figures to discuss the topics that Burke and Brown have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching – vulnerability and shame resilience. It is a space to recognize and process the trauma of white supremacy, a space to be vulnerable and affirm the fullness of Black life and Black possibility, and a space that gives Black humanity breathing room.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15th) serves as a time to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success. This National Hispanic Heritage Month, The Women’s Foundation is pleased to spotlight Identity, Inc., one of our Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) grantee partners, who is ensuring a just and equitable environment for Latinx youth and their families.

Through its Workforce Experience Program in Early Childhood Education (WEX-ECE), The Women’s Foundation is pleased to provide funding to help Identity offer Latinx residents of Montgomery County post-secondary early education training in Spanish through a 90-hour certification. Since the start of this program, Identity has successfully increased the program’s participation from 10 to 30 students. 

This year, the program received 9 participants in the first cohort, and of these participants, 7 clients have completed the first 45-hour session, and a total of 6 clients have completed the full 90-hour training program. Out of 6 graduates, 3 students have successfully completed their internships, and 3 are starting their internship this month. 

Identity is also proud to announce that each student who has completed their internship has secured employment with some of them being employed at the same childcare location where they participated in on-the-job experience. Additionally, 1 student is registered for the preparation class to receive a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and is also interested in pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education.

 At The Women’s Foundation we are committed to furthering our goal to ensure gender, race, culture, religion, class, and ability equity across early education systems. Today, and every day, we are proud to stand behind Identity as they work to serve the Lantinx community and help us achieve our goal.

Rock Star Spotlight: 5-Minute Mentors

Each year, Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Rock Star Fund awards several young women of color with up to $2,000 to invest in themselves, and our community through individualized projects that foster a culture of learning, leadership, and positivity. The Fund also works to advance the Young Women’s Initiative Blueprint for Action, a plan driven by young women of color and community members to shift local policies and practices affecting young women. 

Last month, one of our 2021 Rock Star Fund awardees, Isabella “Astro” Getahun (12), launched “5-Minute Mentors”, a video series that connects young people of color with positive role models in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and provides them with the tools needed to counteract challenges and societal barriers faced.

“By selecting me, [Washington Area Women’s Foundation] gave me the opportunity to participate in this project. During the time of this project, I saw so many negative news posts about youth of color and wanted to create something that would give youth of color something positive in the media. As a result, I have grown tremendously personally and professionally. Their monthly check-ins served as important motivators, and I look forward to working with The Foundation again in the future.”

Isabella “Astro” Getahun, 2021 Rock Star Awardee

According to research, 87% of mentors and mentees say their mentoring relationships make them feel empowered and contribute to their development of self-confidence 1. Through “5-Minute Mentors”, Astro is providing her peers with a powerful mentoring experience that promotes personal, academic, and professional success.

Each “5-Minute Mentors” episode interviews women of color of various backgrounds, including those without a professional degree. The reason? Astro feels it is necessary to highlight the benefits of having a mentor, especially for prospective mentees who do not plan to attend a 4-year college.

Featured mentors include:

  • Jeanette Reyes – Fox 5 News Anchor
  • Mallory Striplin – Peer Mentor and Student
  • Erika Preira – DC Public School Administrator
  • Cherita Harrod – Engineer and Teacher
  • Stephanie Medina – Entrepreneur and Salon Owner

When we asked Astro about how she envisions “5-Minute Mentors” growing in the future, she responded by saying she wants to use the remainder of her funds to invest in her YouTube channel. She would like to also increase the number of mentors participating in her project and would like to invite mentees to submit questions for the mentors to respond to via video submission.

The Women’s Foundation is excited for Astro and her “5-Minute Mentors” series. Through our participatory grantmaking, we are helping young women like Astro create a pathway to building resilience in our young people, as well as impact in our community.

Watch Astro’s 5-Minute Mentors series here.

How a Local Non-Profit Is Helping Women and Children Find Hope

The experience of homelessness and gender-based violence bears heavily on individuals, especially women of color. The effects on children are even heavier.

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we are committed to improving the lives of women and girls in the Washington, DC region, and are pleased to support our grantee partner House of Ruth to provide a safe haven and sense of hope for women and children facing such challenges.

House of Ruth is a leading provider of housing and supportive services for women and children experiencing trauma associated with domestic violence, homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, and poverty in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1976, House of Ruth has assisted more than 14,500 women and children and continues to serve more than 1,000 individuals each year through tailored programs that support clients’ development, well-being, and ability to rebuild safe, independent, and sustainable lives.

Our partnership supports House of Ruth’s programs like Kidspace Child and Family Development Center – a free and nationally accredited child development center for children ages six weeks to five years old. Kidspace provides trauma-informed care to families experiencing homelessness to ensure children are nurtured and receive the development skills needed to reach their highest potential. Through this partnership, House of Ruth is able to help women like “Jayda” who – like many others – has faced challenges and trauma and is looking to provide her children with an educational environment to help them succeed.


Jayda is a mother of two children enrolled at House of Ruth’s Kidspace Child and Family Development Center. She is expecting and is looking forward to enrolling her third child as well. At Kidspace, Jayda has formed strong relationships with the staff and other parents. She is very involved – often advocating shared concerns from fellow parents and utilizing available resources that allow her to seek advice on how best to support her children’s development while improving her well-being

When Jayda has a question, she is able to reach out to House of Ruth’s Family Engagement Specialist where she receives parenting advice and techniques that she can effectively implement at home. When she had concerns about her daughter’s ability to manage emotions and express herself, Kidspace was instrumental in developing solutions to help her daughter communicate. When she went through a domestic violence situation, House of Ruth connected her to its Domestic Violence Support Center to receive counseling.

Jayda lost her job due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Since then, House of Ruth has been working to find her living space that will meet her family’s needs and provide encouragement and support as she looks to secure a new position and get back on her feet.

We are proud of the work House of Ruth is doing in our community and for women like Jayda.

To learn more about House of Ruth, visit https://houseofruth.org/.

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

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

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

Example of Vision Board

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

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

-Aras Tobin, 2021 Rock Star Awardee

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

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

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

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

Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative Announces 2021 Docket

Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been the home to the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) since 2008. This month, the ECEFC is excited to announce the awardees for its 13th year funding together!

The ECEFC is a collaborative investment model with 11 current members, including The Women’s Foundation, that pool dollars and make collective grant decisions toward early education systems change in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. For the past few years, the ECEFC has focused on supporting the leadership and advancement of the largely women of color and immigrant women early education workforce.

“The ECEFC allows us to meet the needs of our association without us having to fit into a set box,” said Diane Volcansek, Executive Director of Northern Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children. Diane added that the ECEFC’s giving process is “supportive and intentional. They really get to know us, and then trust us to use the funding in the way that is best for us.”

The ECEFC is proud to invest $351,000 in the following organizations during 2022:

Collectively, and with other partners, these organizations are working to ensure the voices of early educators are at decision-making tables related to the early education industry and workforce.

Testimony to DC Committee of the Whole Budget Hearing

Thank you, Chairman. My name is Martine [Sadarangani Gordon].  I’m a Ward 3 resident, Vice President of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and a member of the Under 3 DC advocacy coalition.

I’m also a mom of two young kids, and I am here today to reiterate the need for increased, long-term public investment in early education. For far too long, our society has relied on parents paying significant sums for childcare and early educators earning poverty wages to finance the system. My own childcare costs in 2021 will exceed a third of my income, but on the other side of things, more than 34% of early educators in DC are living in poverty. It is a cruel joke that early educators in DC do not earn enough to afford childcare for their own children.

Councilmembers, economic instability wasn’t caused by the pandemic. Many DC families have struggled for decades, in part, because of how expensive it is to pay for basic needs – housing, healthcare, and childcare among them. Childcare costs alone can eat into 80% of a local family’s income. There is a reason other wealthy countries pay for social supports, like early education, for their residents. They know most hardworking people simply can’t afford to do it on their own. We, here in DC, cannot expect any measure of economic stability if we do not better subsidize these costs and ensure livable compensation for our most valuable workforce. 

I know we just got a whole lot of federal money, but that is not sustainable funding. That’s why the time is now to increase taxes on the highest income earners so we can help families to not have to live in poverty. A tax increase on households with taxable income of more than $250,000 would represent just 3% of taxpayers in DC, and we know that those households represent the wealthiest taxpayers who have fared well during this pandemic. In exchange, a tax increase like this would allow for a $60 million enhancement to our childcare subsidy program. So, please raise revenue. 

On a related topic, as someone who had both my children before DC’s paid leave program started, I am strongly against any proposal to use any surplus dollars from the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to cut taxes to corporations. That money belongs with the hardworking families and caregivers who need it.  I urge you to reject that proposal and use those funds to expand paid family & medical leave instead.

You have heard, and will continue to hear, today from early educators and parents who are pleading for change to our systems. DC residents are supportive of increased investments in early education. We have seen that through both recent surveys and through the widespread public support of DC’s universal prek program. 

I have worked on early education policy in DC for over a decade, and I know that the changes needed are not all legislative. But I assure you, they are not insurmountable. What you, as Councilmembers, can ensure is that the funding to make those changes is available. You have the power to make things better. A tax increase on just 3% of our wealthiest folks can go a long way.

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

By Halie Mariano and Elyse Shaw

This Blog was originally published on IWPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pay Home Visitors Their Worth

Unless you’ve participated in a home visiting program yourself, you probably don’t know what home visiting is or what a home visitor does. In truth, there are different types of home visiting models, and the job of a home visitor can be slightly different depending on the model and individual family needs. But, regardless of the program, home visitors help families navigate complex resource and support systems so that families are healthy, safe, educated and economically secure.

That’s a huge job, and you’d think that anyone doing that job would be paid handsomely. Not so. Like many largely women workforces, they are undervalued and underpaid. Despite the fact that 81% of DC home visitors hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 34% report being satisfied by their salary. Further, more than half of DC home visitors report that their overall compensation is inadequate, and a third of DC home visitors do not anticipate being able to stay in the field long-term due to the lack of fair compensation. In a recent report by the DC Home Visiting Council, a home visitor is quoted as saying, “Nobody wants to be complacent. In this field, you can get very complacent, because the pay is low, but there’s no room for growth. You can be the best at it, and you’ll still be running in place.”

Aren’t we tired of this story? The hard working Black and brown women putting their heart and soul into their work to help their neighbors, all the while not earning enough to sustain their own families?  And it is Black and brown women who are home visitors locally. In fact, 84% of DC home visitors identify as women, 56% are Latinx and 27% are Black. Only 12% of DC home visitors are White. In DC, we know that home visitors aren’t just helping families navigate systems effectively, they are supporting mostly Black and brown families navigate historically racist and sexist systems, all the while being survivors of those systems themselves.

So, once again, we have a largely women of color workforce performing critical work to reduce infant mortality, improve child outcomes, reduce child abuse and neglect, and so much more; yet as a community we ask them to do very hard work for very little pay. And when those same women leave the field for opportunities with higher compensation and greater opportunity, we are left with the difficult task of recruiting for a position that we know doesn’t compensate commiserate with the level of skill required.

This issue is, of course, more complicated than just raising salaries. The funding for home visiting programs is a mix of federal and local government dollars and private philanthropic funds. Many programs operate in an environment of constant scarcity and uncertainty. That alone makes it difficult to hire, retain, and compensate staff. But, we can do better. As a community, we can commit to valuing home visiting as a critical element of a comprehensive system of care. We can demand a stronger public investment in home visiting programs that allows for higher rates of compensation for the workforce.

DC is a wealthy District with a high cost of living. Families are struggling, and unfortunately those who want to serve families are struggling too. Let’s find a way to make this right. Let’s pay home visitors what they are worth.

Learn more about DC home visitors and home visiting programs by visiting the DC Home Visiting Council website.