New Office for Washington Area Women's Foundation

Moving 2012 005As I walked through our now vacant space one last time at 1411 K Street, it made me stop and think about what that space meant to our organization over the last seven years, and what our move to a new space means for us at this moment in our history. Without all of our furniture, cabinets, staff, and – for lack of a better word – stuff in it, the space at 1411 K Street suddenly felt huge, when just a few days before we could barely maneuver around the packing crates piled high. As I closed the door on our old office and walked the two blocks to our new one at 1331 H Street, I could understand what the founders of this organization must have felt when they opened the very first Washington Area Women’s Foundation office: new possibilities, a sense of excitement and optimism, and a big step forward.

As we continue to orient ourselves in our new office layout, it’s clear what this move means to us as an organization. There’s the practical: our old office had become very cramped and frankly uncomfortable, while our new space is bright, airy and has room for us to grow. But there’s also the philosophical and aspirational: our move into this building feels like the right thing at the right time. The new space gives us a new perspective and a fresh start at the same time as we are rolling out our new strategic plan and vision for the future. It represents how far we have come as an organization, who we are now, and what we hope to be.

So as we unpack our last crates this week, I truly believe that this move will only enhance our ability to focus clear-eyed and with determination on the critical issues facing women and girls in our region.

I look forward to welcoming you at our new offices in the coming months. If you’re in our neighborhood, please feel free to stop by!

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Toasting our new office
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Board members Rachel Kronowitz & Cathy Isaacson
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Our new reception area

Nicky Goren is president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Washington Area Women's Foundation Weekly

In this week’s top stories: A new survey examines the lives of African American women.  The long-term benefits of a high-quality early education. An in-depth look at why DC residents leave high school before graduating.  Plus, one city in our area is named one of the best-paying cities for women.

The Washington Post takes an in-depth look at a new survey on the lives of African American women. “Results of a survey paint a complex portrait of black women who feel confident but vulnerable, who have high self-esteem and see physical beauty as important, who find career success more vital to them than marriage.”

Early education for low-income students has long-term benefits, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill.  The study found that adults who received a high-quality early education were still reaping the benefits 30 years later.

— WAMU is examining the high school drop out crisis in DC.  In the first installment in a series of reports, two women reflect on why four generations of their family members have not completed high school.

— Washington, DC is number three on a list of the top 20 best-paying cities for women.  According to Forbes.com, women’s mean earnings in DC in 2010 were $64,779.  However, that’s just 75% of what men’s earnings were.

Washington Area Women's Foundation's Resolutions for 2012

Nicky Goren Headshot2 SmallThe New Year is one of my favorite times of year.  It’s full of promise and potential — two things we value so much here at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.  Our belief in the promise and potential of every woman and girl in the DC region is what has fueled our work in the past, and what will drive it forward in the future.

I’m especially excited about the promise that 2012 holds.  Last year, we created a new strategic plan for The Women’s Foundation and now we begin the work of implementing it.  Our plans for 2012 include:

  • building on our successful previous grantmaking initiatives to reach more women in our community;
  • mapping out a grantmaking strategy focused on girls and launching this new initiative by the end of the year;
  • using funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to begin work on a ground-breaking national study that will examine the impact of investing in women and girls;
  • building a base for advocacy work to improve economic security for women and girls;
  • launching a new campaign that will raise funds to begin implementing the strategic plan and deepen our impact in the community; and
  • engaging more people from across our community in giving and supporting this work.

Those are just a few of our plans for 2012, and I’ll be sharing many more with you in the coming months.  I hope that you’ll take a look at them and be inspired to join us as we work to transform the lives of women and girls.  Your commitment is critical to women and girls having the opportunity to reach their full promise and potential.

Some of our Grantee Partners have shared their New Year’s resolutions with us.  Click here to read what they’ve got planned for 2012 and to share your own resolutions!

SOTU Reflections: Giving All Women & Girls a "Fair Shot"

SOTU_Pres Obama 2012I, like many in the region, sat down to watch the President’s State of the Union speech last night.  It’s an annual event that always engenders much anticipation (at least among the media pundits, political junkies, and those living in and around our nation’s capital), and this year was no exception.  Many called it “the” campaign speech, kicking off the 2012 election cycle.  Just a day before the speech, the White House said that the President would “outline his vision for an America where hard work and responsibility are rewarded, where everyone does their fair share, and where everyone is held accountable for what they do.”  Economic fairness was lauded as this year’s theme.

As I listened to the speech, I thought about the work that we do at The Women’s Foundation and the intersection between the federal policies discussed and the reality that women and girls in our region face, and I was once again struck by the huge disconnect that we continue to see.

The theme of the speech—economic fairness—sounds quite simple and logical.  The President spoke about how his grandparents contributed to a post-World War II “story of success that every American had a chance to share – the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”  He called this “the defining issue of our time,” saying, “No challenge is more urgent.  No debate is more important.  We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by.  Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”  Who can argue with that?  Hard to disagree with the logic, so why can’t we get there?

Ask anyone who is out in the community, working in the trenches, and they will tell you that it’s not easy. The issues facing our nation and our local community are incredibly complex and they didn’t just pop up overnight, which means that the solutions are not simple, one-dimensional responses, and the problems won’t be solved with a blink of the eye.

Take the President’s commitment to train people with skills that will lead directly to jobs and his call to cut through “the maze of confusing training programs.”  Sounds like a no-brainer — of course we should train people with skills that lead to jobs; but just this past week we were once again reminded why something that may seem intuitive isn’t.  WAMU aired a report investigating D.C.’s job training programs and detailed the disconnect between some of the programs that are receiving funding, the skill sets required for the jobs people were being trained for, and ultimately, the availability of these jobs.  The example cited was the 4,000 people trained to earn a Commercial Drivers License and the 90 people who were ultimately hired by metro, the region’s largest CDL employer. How can there be such a disconnect?

Additionally, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation, released a resource map offering a snapshot of the city’s investment in workforce development over the course of one fiscal year.  The map details more than 30 programs and services across a dozen city agencies. It’s hard to imagine how someone could possibly navigate the system in the best of times, say nothing about the worst of times.

As we think about the worst of times and the state of our economy, the President rightly devoted a great deal of his speech to jobs.  And while he called for equal pay for women, the majority of the jobs-related portions of the speech focused on nontraditional jobs where women continue to be underrepresented and face numerous barriers to obtaining and retaining these jobs.  Isn’t it time that we give equal weight and value to ensuring women are paid equal wages for equal work?  Doesn’t that fundamentally fall into the economic fairness category?  Are we ok with telling our girls to work hard and get a good education only to be paid 77 cents on the dollar?

Calling on every state to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18 is a commendable goal set forth by the President.  There is no doubt about the importance of graduating high school and pursuing post-secondary education and training.  Our research demonstrates the drastic earnings differential based on educational attainment. Women in this region who do not have a high school diploma earn just over $18,000 per year compared to women with a graduate or professional degree who earn over $70,000.

But it’s not quite as cut and dry as simply saying that we’ll require everyone to graduate. Are we prepared to tackle the myriad of issues that cause youth, particularly girls, to drop out of school?  Generational poverty, family unemployment, violence, and teen pregnancy are just a few of the laundry list of issues that are at the crux of drop-out rates.

So how do we get there? Last night, the President reminded us that “no one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”  Well, there is no better time than now for our community to pull together to ensure that the Washington region is a model community where economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources to thrive.  Now is the time to work together toward innovative, multi-dimensional solutions that put women and girls on a path to prosperity.  Let’s break the disconnect.  Where would you start?

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is vice president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov

When the Clock is Ticking, Support Networks Become Lifelines for Working Parents

clock timeAs I look at the calendar and realize that it’s nearly the end of January, I am once again asking myself an all too familiar question: Where has the time gone?  How is it possible that I’m four weeks into 2012 and have yet to really accomplish much on my to-do list?  The answer — time.

This year, my husband, my daughters and I created a set of family new year’s resolutions.  Each of us spent some time thinking about it and then, popcorn style, we shared our ideas.  Interestingly, they all had a similar theme — time.  Whether it was spending more time with the family dog (our adorable but somewhat rambunctious chocolate labradoodle Misha) or spending more time as a family exploring and experiencing the Washington region, almost all of our family resolutions involved time.

For the most part I think that I “manage” my time fairly well, and I somehow seem to balance the myriad of demands for my time (although it’s often not pretty and my daughters would probably argue to the contrary).  But I do so only because I am supported by the most amazing community of friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.  I am surrounded by a support system that allows me to pack 48-hours worth of everything into a 24-hour day, and for those times when I can’t, I have the resources to call upon others to help.

Take the past couple of days for example.  I’ve been under the weather battling a January cold — at home, my girls and my husband stepped up helping with dinner, making school lunches, and generally not arguing when asked to help out.  At work, I availed myself of paid sick time and stayed home for a couple of days to recover, while several co-workers emailed to inquire if there were any tasks that they could take off my plate.

But what if that wasn’t my reality? What if I was one of the more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in the Washington metropolitan region?  What if I was one of the more than 118,000 households headed by a single woman, and I didn’t have a support network to call upon?  What would happen if I lost my job because I was too sick to go to work?  What would happen if my time truly weren’t my own?

Recent research from Ascend attempted to answer some of these questions by lifting up the voices of some of the most vulnerable families across the country, asking them critical questions about their views of economic security, children, and the future.  In citing the challenges of raising children, both married and single parents agreed that these challenges are much more difficult for single parents, citing everything from financial concerns to the difficulty of not having a partner as a sounding board, to time management.  When asked about these challenges, one single mom said, “My time. Pretty much the use of my time.  You know there is so much you can do in a day and you are by yourself.”

So while I gaze at my to-do list and wonder where I’ll find the time to get through it, I am humbled by the knowledge that I will get through this list because I am not alone. I am surrounded by friends, family and colleagues who will all help me check off my tasks until there is nothing left… well, almost nothing.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is the vice president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

New Year's Resolutions for Women and Girls

This month, we invited our Grantee Partners to share some of their New Year’s resolutions with us.  Their passion and commitment to transforming the lives of women and girls and improving our community are evident in the aspirational goals they’ve set for themselves this year.

Read on to find out what some of our grantees will be doing for our region in 2012 and tell us in the comments below what you envision for women and girls this year.  Washington Area Women’s Foundation will be sharing our own list of resolutions later this month in a special e-mail message from Foundation President Nicky Goren.  Make sure you learn what we’re planning for 2012 by signing up to get monthly e-mails today!

IWPR’s 2012 Resolutions

  • During this election year, get people talking about the issues that affect women, such as jobs and the economy, the gender wage gap and workplace discrimination, STEM education, Social Security and retirement, work/family balance, and maternal and child health.
  • Celebrate our 25th anniversary by marking the progress that women have made while highlighting areas where policy changes could make a huge difference in advancing women, families, and communities.
  • Illustrate the current status of women displaced by Hurricane Katrina through an upcoming report that also identifies their specific needs.
  • Improve success rates for student parents by sharing best practices and forging strong partnerships with administrators, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers within the worlds of higher education, youth development, and early care and education.
  • Give young women opportunities to gain career experience while expanding their knowledge of research and policy issues through our internship and fellowship programs.

Goodwill of Greater Washington’s 2012 Resolutions

  • In 2012, Goodwill of Greater Washington resolves to train, equip and place nearly 200 people into local jobs that support the local economy. We anticipate that these 200 jobs will come through the continued expansion of Goodwill’s retail stores, as well as the placement efforts from our intensive job training programs;
  • Goodwill of Greater Washington also resolves to continue providing 600+ jobs to local residents through our retail stores, janitorial contracts, and administrative and support divisions, many of which are filled by people who face significant disabilities or other barriers to employment.

NOVACO’s 2012 Resolutions

At a client Life Skills meeting at NOVACO in January, several clients set goals and made resolutions.  They included:

  • believing in themselves so that they could achieve their goals;
  • being better parents; and
  • setting small goals and telling themselves that they could accomplish those goals.

One mother, Kay, reflected on how much she’s achieved so far.  She earned her high school diploma through night classes, learned to drive and got her driver’s license, and worked with lawyers to get a work permit.  She also improved her parenting skills while she worked full-time at a restaurant and was offered a management position after just one year.  She volunteered her free time as a pen pal and greeter for the USO.

DCVLP’s 2012 Resolution

The DC Volunteer Lawyers Project resolution is that every victim of domestic violence in DC seeking a civil protection order who wants representation by an attorney will have one this year.

SMYAL’s Women’s Leadership Institute’s 2012 Resolutions

  • Provide a much-needed free space for young women to gather and form community.
  • Using that space, build our community of women and strengthen our bonds through discussion and shared service.
  • Promote further discussion about maintaining healthy relationships, recognizing unhealthy relationships, and combating domestic violence.
  • Develop connections to extend our diverse community deeper into the DC metro area and beyond.
  • Seek out community partners and collaborate on at least four service projects.
  • Connect more young women to mentorship opportunities with local volunteers.
  • Long-term resolution: Create a community of confident, empowered women through opportunities for leadership development and civic engagement.

FAIR Girls’ 2012 Resolutions

We, FAIR Girls, resolve to work as hard as we can to make sure that by the end of 2012…

  • 200 teen girl survivors of exploitation have received compassionate care, including counseling, emergency housing, assistance in finding legal and medical support, resume building and job placement, educational attainment support, and a sense of family and community at FAIR Girls.
  • 1000 teen girls and boys in high schools and youth shelters have participated in our Tell Your Friends workshop and have learned how to keep themselves safe from sexual exploitation and trafficking.
  • 1000 law enforcement officers, teachers, and social workers are better able to identify and assist victims of trafficking having attending a FAIR Girls training.
  • A law, inspired by Daisy, will have passed in Washington, D.C. ensuring that all missing teenage girls are considered “critical missing” and have access to FAIR Girls and our partners’ services when they are found.
  • 2000 hours of art therapy and economic empowerment workshops will have helped inspire and restore more than 125 girls.

Thank you to the Grantee Partners who shared their resolutions with us!  You can share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to register for our e-newsletter to learn more about The Women’s Foundation’s plans for 2012.


The Women's Foundation Supporters Volunteer on the MLK Day of Service

MLK Memorial PhotoEarlier this month, Women’s Foundation President Nicky Goren issued a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day call to action on this blog. Nearly 100 volunteers responded and joined The Women’s Foundation at A Wider Circle.  A Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation, A Wider Circle provides basic need items to local families.  The furniture, clothing, home goods and food items are donated and volunteers helped sort and prepare items for families in need.

“It was a very special morning,” said Barb Strom Thompson, a volunteer and board member of The Women’s Foundation.  “[It] generated a few tears of gratitude for the opportunity to share the morning with so many like-minded people.”

Take a look at this photo album for a few of the highlights:

Got Milk? Ensuring Young Children Have the Basic Ingredients for Learning

Girl_at_ComputerWhen evaluating early learning and school readiness it is important to think holistically about children and their environment.  In a perfect world child advocates and educators would only need to focus on teacher quality, safe learning environments, and early learning standards, but we know that is simply not the case.  Children live in families and there is a highly disproportionate rate of low-income children in single, female-headed households.  With that being said, as the Early Care and Education Program Officer here at The Women’s Foundation, I am extremely concerned about how the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s (super committee) failure to come up with a solution will affect young children being ready to learn on the simplest micro level – their stomachs.

In December, the super committee failed to come up with a bipartisan plan to reduce the national deficit.  This led to a six percent cut in the fiscal year 2013 budget for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides nutritious foods to pregnant women, infants, and children.   This will lead to many pregnant women and young children not having the resources to enjoy a nutritious meal.  How can we expect children to be able to count to 20 or learn their ABCs when we are cutting the plan that ensures that their minds are getting the vitamins and nutrients needed to process the information?   I always cringe when I hear a teacher who has a class of low-income children complain that the reason why their students are not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is because they come to school hungry – but at the same time there is some truth to that excuse.  As an adult, I know that the first thing I need to do in the morning is eat a well balanced meal before I am able to be productive.  How can I expect any less from children who, unlike me, may not have even had a warm meal the night before for dinner?

And for those who ask why we need to focus on providing food for pregnant woman, a recent TED Talk by science journalist Annie Murphy Paul looks at how learning actually begins in the womb.   In her lecture, Paul explores the field of fetal origins, a remarkable new area of research on how a woman’s pregnancy and the environment she is pregnant in affect her child’s health and overall development. A particular part of the presentation to take note of is the findings from the children born after Holland’s Hunger Winter, a time during World War II when residents of that European nation faced starvation because they were under siege by Germany, and its impact on people born in the months immediately after the siege.

In a time when we have advanced in our thinking around education and the importance of wrap around services and holistic approaches to learning, how can we stand by and let such a program be cut without making some noise?

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is giving us the opportunity to tell President Obama and Congress that supporting nutrition and other safety net programs is critical to giving low-income children a chance at succeeding in school.  Click here to find out what steps you can take to make some noise.

Maya Garrett is the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative Program Officer at The Women’s Foundation.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation Weekly

In this week’s roundup of news affecting women and girls in our community: We wonder what Dr. King might say about the high rate of poverty among women and girls in the DC area.  The top five findings of 2011 from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.  The impact of Pre-K on the achievement gap.  Is it time for a poverty revolution?  Plus, a young, aspiring scientist is headed for a national competition as her family deals with homelessness.

— Ahead of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Women’s Foundation President Nicky Goren visits the MLK Memorial and reflects on what Dr. King would think about more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in the DC region.

— The Women’s Foundation is inviting supporters to join us and volunteer at A Wider Circle on MLK Day.  Click here for details.

— The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) — a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner — has posted a list of their top five findings of 2011. Topics on the list include how women have fared during the economic recovery, the unmet child care needs of student parents and how much paid sick days would save taxpayers.

East of the River Magazine explores the innovative work of AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School.  The article also takes a look at the impact a quality Pre-K education can have on the achievement gap.  AppleTree is a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner.

— “In the fight against poverty, it’s time for a revolution,” David Bornstein writes in a commentary on The New York Times website. Bornstein calls for re-defining poverty, restructuring how social services are handled, and focusing on collaborative, long-term solutions.

— Here’s your feel great story of the week: a 17-year-old Long Island high school student whose family had to move into a homeless shelter a year ago is a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search competition.  Samantha Garvey says she doesn’t have the best home life, but she hopes that she made her parents proud by being one of just 300 students nationwide to participate in the semifinals of the competition.  You can watch her story here:

A Call to Action on MLK Day

MLK Memorial PhotoThis past weekend, my two boys and I had the opportunity to visit the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  The visit was organized through our congregation, Temple Micah, as part of its celebration of Dr. King’s birthday.  Both the sermon, delivered by a guest speaker, Rabbi David Saperstein, and the visit to the stunning memorial site along the tidal basin, reinforced for me why I joined Washington Area Women’s Foundation and why the work of The Women’s Foundation and the non-profits we support is critical and relevant now more than ever.

Among the many quotes that flow through the memorial, one in particular stood out to me:  “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”  And yet, as Rabbi Saperstein pointed out so eloquently in his discourse, the world in which we live is far from what Dr. King wanted for us.  While Dr. King’s legacy is the civil rights movement as we know it, he was fundamentally about equality and economic justice for all and Rabbi Saperstein’s observations prompted me to think:  What would Dr. King say about the more than 200,000 women and girls in our region who live in poverty and an even greater number who struggle to find a way to have three meals a day?  What would he say about an education system that is failing so many children in our region and perpetuating the cycles of poverty that have existed for generations?  What would he say about the women and girls in our region and across the country who continue to face barriers to their economic success and well-being?

What he would probably say is that he is not satisfied, that we should not be satisfied with the status quo.  He would want us to act – to do whatever we can to address these inequalities.   For better or for worse, so many of Dr. King’s themes still resonate today.   We can’t let go of “the fierce urgency of now;”  we must continue to find ways to come together as a community, join forces, and help our neighbors in need, particularly as needs reach an all-time high and government support wanes and dwindles.

Each year, on Dr. King’s birthday, I recommit to the ideal of creating the “beloved community” that Dr. King aspired to.  I use the day as a way to reflect on how far we have come and how far we have to go.  And I find a way each year to mark the day by joining in the MLK Jr. National Day of Service.  This year, I will be serving with my family and and other Foundation staff and donors at A Wider Circle, one of Washington Area Women’s Foundation Grantee Partners.  I hope you will consider joining me.

Dr. King believed that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  That concept is at the heart of what Washington Area Women’s Foundation is all about.  The Washington region cannot flourish if the more than 200,000 women and girls in our region continue to live in poverty.   When women and girls do not have access to resources and the opportunity to improve their lives, it is an injustice that affects us all.  Now is the time to work together to ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

I hope that you will join me and my family on January 16th at A Wider Circle.  Volunteer activities will include:

  • helping families select donated furniture and home goods;
  • sorting donated items;
  • painting the warehouse;
  • helping pick up donated goods.

Volunteer shifts are from 10am – Noon and 1pm – 3pm on January 16th.  To sign up for a shift, please email lallen@wawf.org or call (202)347-7737 x211.  To ensure that all who want to volunteer are able to participate, please sign up only if you are sure that you will be able to join us on the 16th.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Nicky Goren is president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation