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.


Claudia Williams is 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

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.


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 is 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

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.


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 is 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 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/

October 11th Is Not Just a Day, It’s A Movement…

Seven years ago, the United Nations deemed October 11 International Day of the Girl with the goal to “galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, promoting opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” Around the world, this day is recognized by a focus on advocacy related to issues that impact young women and girls and celebrations of the strength and enduring spirits of young women.

As a foundation focused on supporting the economic stability of women and girls in our region, The Women’s Foundation carries the intent of the Day of the Girl with us every day. It is the impetus behind all of our work, but our project that speaks most directly to the intent of October 11 is our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), which is a District-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for cis and transgender young women of color and gender expansive youth of color between the ages of 12-24.

There are multiple facets to this exciting work that we have phased in systematically; First starting with listening sessions to hear directly from young women of color in DC about what they need and want in order to realize their life goals. Second, we launched a Young Women’s Advisory Council to formalize the feedback we received from young women of color and to serve as the guiding voice of the project. We, in partnership with the Young Women’s Advisory Council, hosted the GirlsLEAD Summit in March, which provided leadership and life skills workshops to 300 local young women.  And most recently, we released a Blueprint for Action, which takes the collective voice of several hundred young women and girls of color with whom we have engaged through YWI and puts forth their recommendations for an improved Washington, DC, that better supports their needs and ability to thrive.

Today, on this Day of the Girl 2018, we are excited to announce the launch of YWI’s Rock Star Fund. The Rock Star Fund will provide micro-grants to individual young women and girls to support their own leadership development and help them advance advocacy or community development projects in their neighborhoods and schools. We are piloting the Rock Star Fund this year by inviting attendees of the GirlsLEAD Summit to apply for up to $2,000 each to support their projects. The goal of the Rock Star Fund is exactly the goal of the Day of the Girl – to promote opportunities for young women and girls to show leadership.  Applicants will tell us what their leadership development needs are, and members of the Young Women’s Advisory Council well help select the Awardees. This is participatory grantmaking at it’s best – developed by young women of color, for young women of color, and led by young women of color.

While this year’s pilot will be by invitation only, we look forward to opening up applications more broadly in subsequent years. If you have questions about your eligibility for the Rock Star Fund this year, please contact Claudia Williams at cwilliams@wawf.org or call us at 202-347-7737. Applications are due on November 8, 2018.



Rainmakers Giving Circle Releases 2018-19 Request For Proposals

Rainmakers Giving Circle (“Rainmakers”) is pleased to issue a request for proposals for its 2018-19 grantmaking cycle from nonprofit organizations serving economically vulnerable girls and young women age 24 or – younger living in the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County, Maryland or Arlington County, Virginia.

The Rainmakers’ mission is to improve the lives of the Targeted Population by supporting programs that help them develop useful life skills, improve their self-esteem and achieve their full potential. More specifically, Rainmakers will award grants to programs (each, an “Eligible Program”) that make a compelling case that they will achieve one or more of the following impacts (collectively, the “Desired Program Impacts”):

• Encourage the development of confidence and self-esteem, healthy behaviors and the reduction of risk factors among members of the Targeted Population;

• Increase the competence of members of the Targeted Population in the areas of education, health, interpersonal relations, financial management, employment readiness and prospects, and/or other important life skills; and/or

Provide legal services for the purpose of preventing incarceration or loss of housing or to enhance employment or housing prospects;

All grant funds must exclusively benefit economically vulnerable girls and young women age 24 and younger who reside in the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County, Maryland, or Arlington County, Virginia. Grant funds may not be used for co-educational programs.

Proposals are due no later than Monday, December 3, 2018 at 5 p.m.

To learn more about the RFP, click here!

Towards a Thriving City: A Review of the District’s 2019 Budget for Girls, Women and Families of Color


The recently adopted DC budget for 2019 takes important steps to address DC’s substantial racial and gender inequities, through notable investments in early education, schools, housing, and homeless services. At the same time, the new budget reminds us how far the city has to go, with funding changes that fell far short of what is really needed to increase the chances for low-income residents to reach their full potential. To ensure that economic opportunity is more evenly shared throughout DC, our policymakers will need to be much bolder with future budgets to invest in essential programs that support DC families. This will likely require the District’s leaders to identify new ways to raise revenues to make those investments.

This policy brief highlights the most significant changes affecting low-income residents, and particularly low-income women, girls and families of color. Where possible, we compare the progress with a measure of the full need.

DC’s Large Racial and Gender Inequities

National and local policies have systematically under-resourced and segregated communities of color in the District, creating longstanding economic and racial inequities that undercut the strength and vitality of our city. The average income of the top fifth of DC households is now 34 times larger than the bottom fifth ($320,000, compared to $9,000). Black median household income is now less than a third of the white median income, and Latinx median household income is only half the white median income.[1]

Economic and racial injustice are distinct and intertwined in DC. Nearly all of the 27,000 extremely low-income households in the District who face housing insecurity are headed by a person of color, as are most people experiencing homelessness.[i] Black students are disproportionately suspended, and only about a fifth of Black high school students test college and career ready.[ii] DC’s Latinx population continues to have the lowest rate of health insurance coverage rate among race and ethnic groups, in part because of onerous enrollment requirements for a DC health insurance program that primarily serves immigrants. Many low-income workers in the District, particularly workers of color, continue to be victims of wage theft, and the unemployment rate in predominately Black Ward 7 and Ward 8 remains higher than 10 percent.[iii]

Budgetary solutions to address these racial and economic inequalities also need to focus on gender and an analysis of the discriminatory practices and policies that disproportionately impact women. Women in the District are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men, which amounts to a $10,039 annual earnings gap. The inequity is even starker for women of color in the District: among those with full-time, year-round jobs, Black women are paid 53 cents and Latinas are paid 48 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.[iv] Inadequate government funding for the care and education of infants and toddlers, poor job conditions, and low wages all contribute to far too many women and girls living in poverty.  In DC, there are nearly 63,000 women and girls  in households with incomes lower than the federal poverty line—that’s about $21,000 for a family of three.

FY 2019 Budget:  Important Progress Toward Equity, but Much More Is Needed

There are many critical investments in the District’s 2019 budget that will help create a more equitable future for low-income residents, women and girls, and communities of color. But those investments fall short of ensuring equitable access to health care, funding critical affordable housing needs, maintaining our commitment to ending homelessness, and providing every child with the resources they need to succeed.

  • Universal Paid Family Leave: The District’s recently established paid family leave insurance program, set to start in 2020, will help DC residents remain financially stable by replacing part of their wages when they take time off to be with a new child or to deal with an illness. The program is designed to be especially helpful to low-wage workers, with benefits replacing 90 percent of wages. Good paid family leave benefits improve maternal and infant health outcomes, and enable women to keep their jobs and advance in their careers.[v] The 2019 budget fully funded start-up costs, allocating $5.6 million for implementation and $40 million in capital costs through 2023.
  • Early childhood operators who educate infants and toddlers in low-income families are not paid enough to fully cover the costs of providing the high-quality early care and education that every child deserves. The majority of DC’s early childhood educators are women of color, whose financial security and well-being is weakened by very low wages and limited employer-sponsored benefits, like health insurance or retirement plans.[vi] The FY 2019 budget includes a significant $10 million investment to bring funding for the District’s child care subsidy program a little closer truly covering the cost of high-quality care, improving learning environments for our youngest children and the adults who care for them.

What’s Still Missing: Much more is needed to align child care subsides with the real cost of care, and build a truly comprehensive support system for early childhood development in the District.

  • Affordable Housing: People of color, and particularly women of color, bear the brunt of DC’s affordable housing challenges. The District invests in two important programs to make housing more affordable: the Housing Production Trust Fund, which provides low-cost loans to help build and preserve affordable homes; and the Local Rent Supplement Program, which provides rental assistance that makes homes affordable to extremely low-income residents. The 2019 budget maintains a $100 million investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund, and adds $4.75 million in new funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program.

What’s Still Missing:  These increases, while important, will not substantially expand the availability of housing affordable to the city’s lowest-income residents; much larger investments are required. The District has completed or planned fewer than 3,000 rental units for extremely low-income residents since 2015—serving just a small fraction of the 27,000 such households facing severe rent burden.

  • Ending Homelessness: There are far too many District residents at risk of dying without the dignity of a home. The 2019 budget adds funding for Permanent Supportive Housing for 414 single adults experiencing chronic homelessness, and $2 million for Targeted Affordable Housing for about 110 individuals. Permanent Supportive Housing provides long term affordable housing and intensive case management. Targeted Affordable Housing provides long-term affordable housing. The budget also invests $5.3 million for Permanent Supportive Housing for 167 families with children, and $7.2 million for Targeted Affordable Housing for 347 families. New funding for youth homeless services including permanent housing, transitional housing, wrap-around medical services, shelter beds, after care and prevention totals $4.7 million. The budget also added $2.5 million to the create 83 new units of transitional housing for domestic violence survivors.

What’s Still Missing:  The 2019 budget addressed less than half of what’s needed to help all residents facing chronic homelessness.  Much more is needed to realize the goals of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring, and as a result, homelessness will continue to be a highly visible problem in DC. While the FY 2019 budget enhancement for transitional housing for domestic violence survivors increases the survivor housing inventory by 52 percent, the total inventory falls far short of what is needed.

  • Family Income Support: This past April, the District implemented a policy that eliminates the time limit in DC’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which were passed one year ago as part of the 2018 budget. This protected 6,000 families from losing all income assistance and ensures, going forward, that all parents will have resources to care for their children. As part of this change, families also received a substantial increase in their cash assistance benefits, which had been around $160 a month to a family of three. The city’s 2019 budget includes funding to increase benefits for all families by 11.8 percent. A family of three will see their benefits increase from $576 per month to $644.
  • Health Care Coverage: Having health insurance protects families from escalating medical debt after an illness or an injury, and improves health outcomes for DC residents. Moreover, as more people have health coverage, it helps maintain affordability for everyone else. The budget includes $1.1 million to implement a District-wide insurance requirement for health coverage that will require most District taxpayers and their dependents to maintain health coverage unless they qualify for an exemption. The requirement will largely mirror the previous federal “mandate” before it was repealed in late 2017 and will help protect insurance coverage affordability and prevent more residents from becoming uninsured.

What’s Still Missing: The District continue to keep in place an onerous enrollment requirement in its DC Healthcare Alliance Program, which provides health insurance primarily to immigrants ineligible for Medicaid. The burdensome enrollment process is keeping thousands of eligible residents from accessing care. Legislation to reverse this requirement, which would improve health care coverage for DC’s immigrant residents, has been adopted but was not funded in the FY 2019 budget.

  • School Health Services: The trauma of living in prolonged stressful environments can lead to developmental challenges and exacerbate the systemic inequities that many children of color already face growing up in the nation’s capital. The 2019 budget increases funding for school-based mental health by $3 million and maintains $1 million to continue the New Heights program that supports students who are pregnant or parenting. DC leaders also added $4.4 million to support the School Health Services Program and ensure that all DCPS and public charter schools have registered nurses or licensed practical nurses on staff full-time.

One in six District youth suffer from emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions, yet only one-third of DCPS and public charter schools have full-time mental health clinicians. [vii] Greater investments are still needed to provide trauma-informed health services in schools, neighborhoods and child development centers, particularly for LGBTQ students and students of color. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students consider suicide at a rate 2.75 times higher than heterosexual peers; for transgender students the rate is 3.2 times higher.[viii] High school Latinas consider suicide at a rate 3.5 times higher than white classmates.[ix]

PreK-12 Education: The District does not invest enough resources to provide every student with an excellent education, particularly low-income students and students of color. The 2019 budget makes some significant investments in education, partially addressing this under-funding. The increases include: fully funding special education reforms adopted in 2014, including supporting infants and toddlers with developmental delays, faster evaluations for families, and enhanced transition planning for special education students completing high school; doubling funding for Community School partnerships to turn more schools into community-serving hubs; and increasing summer and after school (out-of-school-time) programs by $10.6 million, reversing budget cuts that have greatly limited access to these programs for low-income students in recent years. The budget also increases the ‘at-risk’ weight in the DC Public School and Public Charter School funding formula, designating $2 million more for supplemental supports for low-income students. And the budget increases the base level of funding for DCPS and public charter schools by 3.9 percent, from $10,257 to $10,658 per-student.

But both per-student funding and supplemental funding for low-income students are still far lower than expert recommendations.

  • Workforce Development: The number of private-sector jobs in the city grew by 27 percent between 2000 and 2016[x], but this rapid pace of job creation has not translated into wage growth for all workers. Instead, wages earned by the lowest-wage DC workers have barely changed in the last decade. Most low-wage workers in the District are women of color. Because women of color are more likely to support children on their own, low salaries disproportionately limit their economic wellbeing.[xi] To ensure that the city’s ongoing growth benefits the DC residents and workers who have been left behind, the 2019 budget dedicates $1.5 million to Career Pathways Innovation Fund and increases money for adult education programs that serve low-literacy adults by $500,000.
  • Metro: DC residents, particularly low-income residents, often rely on public transportation to get to work, buy groceries and accompany their children to school. The breakdowns in service in recent years affect residents’ ability to keep a job or keep up in class. The 2019 budget funds DC’s annual $178 million commitment to a regional funding stream (Maryland and Virginia have pledged $167 million and $154 million respectively.

The city is also taking steps to remedy distressing economic and racial inequities through progressive legislation. The 2019 budget includes some funding for critical new legislation:

  • Phasing Out Harmful School Discipline Practices: When schools rely on exclusionary discipline –such as suspensions—students miss lessons, fall behind upon return, and are more likely to drop out. The Student Fair Access to School legislation adopted this year steers schools away from exclusionary school discipline practices, including out-of-school suspension, which disproportionately hurts students of color and special education students. To support this legislation, the budget invests in the newly established School Safety and Positive School Climate Fund, which includes at least $450,000 new dollars for Restorative Justice Models that better address the root causes of disruptive behavior.

What’s Still Missing: Larger investments are still needed to fully implement the legislation.

  • Comprehensive Supports for Infants and Toddlers: The groundbreaking Birth to Three For All DC legislation passed this year builds on the success of DC’s universal pre-K3 and pre-K4, by focusing on better serving our infants and toddlers with a comprehensive approach. The legislation calls for fully funding DC’s child care subsidy program, raising compensation for early educators, and improving access to health services and supports for families. The 2019 budget commits $1.3 million to seed key components of the legislation, including additional home visiting, the development of a salary scale for early educators, expansion of the Healthy Steps pediatric model, and on-site classes for early educators earning higher credentials. The $1.3 million is financed through an increase to the District’s tobacco tax, which will help reduce tobacco use among DC’s youth over time and improve population health.

What’s Still Missing: Far more funding is needed to fully implement the important reforms in this legislation, rising to about $500 million ten years from now.

  • Ensuring DC Government Construction Projects Create Good Jobs: (PLAs) are single-site collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and project contractors that govern the conditions of employment for all craft labor on a construction project. Developers often enter PLAs with unions because they promote quality, safety, timely delivery and cost efficiency. The 2019 budget funds legislation requiring that all DC government building projects valued at more than $75 million are built under a project labor agreement There are many jobs that come into the city via economic development subsidies. Female workers dominate the city’s growing leisure and hospitality industry, more specifically the industry is dominated by women of color. When the District has the opportunity to attach high quality job standards to projects receiving subsidies, the District should do so. This could dramatically improve the quality of life for many female workers in the District. The District should also continue to strengthen its workforce development systems so that women who matriculate through job training programs receive quality jobs after completion.
  • Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services: Federal threats to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) jeopardize the law’s critical improvements toward women’s health coverage and benefits.  The FY 2019 budget includes $107,000 to fund recent Council legislation that requires DC insurers to cover certain health care services for women under the ACA without cost-sharing, including breast cancer screening and counseling, contraception, screenings for HIV, and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases.

Looking Ahead at What’s Needed to Create a Fully Equitable Budget

The progress made in this year’s DC budget reflects an acknowledgement by DC’s leaders of the tremendous gender and racial inequities in our community, and a commitment to address them.  Yet the many places where the new investments in the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget fall short show that the District lacks the resources necessary to meet the needs of DC residents. If we continue down this path, we will make small incremental changes each year to reduce inequities —but not get anywhere close to eliminating  them.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Leveraging our strong economy, vibrant population, and unprecedented prosperity can give us the tools we need to make investments that are scaled to the size of our needs.  In particular, the District’s leaders should look to raising new revenues in a progressive way—from the households and businesses benefiting the most from the city’s strong economy—and using those revenues to strengthen essential programs that support girls, women, and families in the District.

On September 28th, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released our Young Women’s Initiative’s Blueprint for Action, which presents recommendations for a DC that better supports and embraces the strength of young women of color. The Blueprint represents the collective voice of more than 200 local young women of color and provides guidance for policymakers, government entities, community based organizations, school districts, and funders on how to address the challenges identified by young women in the District.

As we consider DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s budget analysis with a focus on girls, women, and families of color, we invite you to consider their fiscal recommendations alongside the recommendations of young women directly, as outlined in the Blueprint and seize this moment as an opportunity to work toward lasting change for young women in DC.

Read the full Blueprint for Action here. If you have questions about how your organization can utilize the Blueprint’s recommendations, please reach out to us at programs@wawf.org or 202-347-7737.

[i] Claire Zippel, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, “Building the Foundation: A Blueprint for Creating Affordable Housing for DC’s Lowest-Income Residents,” 2018.

The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, “2018 Point-in-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness in the District of Columbia.”

[ii] Office of the State Superintendent of Education: “State of Discipline 2016- 2017 School Year”; 2016 – 2017 PARCC Scores

[iii] 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S1701, https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF

[iv] National Partnership for Women and Families, “DC Women and the Wage Gap

[v] National Center for Children in Poverty, “Paid Family Leave: Strengthening Families and Our Future,” http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_1059.pdf

[vi] Early Childhood Educator Compensation in the Washington Region, Urban Institute, April 2018.

[vii] Kwarciany, J. (2017, September 25). Back to School: Focusing on Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.dcfpi.org/all/back-to-school-focusing-on-mental-health/

[viii] Office of the State Superintendent of Education Government of the District of Columbia, Mental Health Fact Sheet (2017) https://osse.dc.gov/node/1351701

[ix] Office of the State Superintendent of Education Government of the District of Columbia, Mental Health Fact Sheet (2017) https://osse.dc.gov/node/1351701

[x] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Department of Labor Current Employment Statistics Survey (2000-2016) https://www.bls.gov/ces/

[xi] Katherine Richard, “The Wealth Gap for Women of Color,” Center for Global Policy Solutions, October 2014, https://globalpolicysolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Wealth-Gap-for-Women-of-Color.pdf.