The Most Important Lesson in Life I Learned From My Mother

Linda Paulson-Mom-WAWF

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Area Women’s Foundation Featured In Inside Philanthropy

On Thursday, April 28, 2016 Inside Philanthropy published “How This Women’s Foundation Plans to Amp Things Up,” an article about The Women’s Foundation and our work with women and girls in the Washington region. Below is an excerpt from the article written by Kiersten Marek:

Every community across the U.S. has unique features, but the challenges facing women tend to be depressingly similar. For example, in the Washington D.C. region, as in so many other places, many women are just barely getting by economically. Women make up about two-thirds of all low-wage workers in the D.C. area, earning $10.10 an hour or less.

“There is a tremendous gap between what many women in our region are earning, and what they really need to survive and take care of their families,” says Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, President and CEO of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which serves as a hub for on-the-ground services and advocacy for women and girls in the greater D.C. metropolitan region.

This is a mandate that many women’s foundations take on—bridging the gap for low-income women so that they can not only get a job, but also get ahead, with child care services, housing, and asset building—all ways to build more financial stability into their lives, and the lives of their families.

As part of this work, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation is one of the 28 women’s foundations across the country collaborating in Prosperity Together, which pledged collectively to invest $100 million over the next five years to improve the economic security of women and girls of color. The funding investment was made in partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls in November 2015.

You can read the full article here:

Resource – Issue Brief on the Power and Potential of Women’s Philanthropy in the Washington Region.

On December 17, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released our latest issue brief: The Unprecedented Power and Potential of Women’s Philanthropy in the Washington Region

Our research hWomensPhilanthropyIssuebriefas lead us to some remarkable conclusions and suggests that turning the corner on poverty for women and girls in the Washington region is within our grasp.

The key is understanding the challenges disproportionately faced by low-income women in building economic security and tapping into the unprecedented giving potential of female philanthropists in the Washington region.

About one in five women and girls in the Washington region lives below or near poverty.  At the same time, however, women in the region have gained and will continue to gain more wealth than ever before. The report estimates that the collective net worth of women in the Washington region is more than $253 billion!  If women in this region with a net worth of $5 million or more contributed just one-tenth of one percent of their wealth to philanthropy they could collectively invest at least $45 million—more than enough to reach the nearly half million women and girls living below or near poverty in the region.

During this season of giving, and throughout the year, we encourage you to learn how you can engage in philanthropy (both big and small) to help us close this gap and ensure that all women in our region have the opportunity to thrive.

Read the entire issue brief, here.


Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s 2015 Leadership Luncheon Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thriving Struggling Cards

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

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

1 in 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not so far out of reach.

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

JFAM large

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together, we can change the FUTURE.

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

And NOW is the time.

Thank you.

Women Who Mean Business Can Transform This Community

Editor’s note: The author, Beth Johnson, is Washington Area Women’s Foundation Board Chair and 2012 Women Who Mean Business honoree.

Women's Foundation Luncheon 2014

I’m delighted to congratulate Washington Area Women’s Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat for being honored by the Washington Business Journal as one of the 2015 Women Who Mean Business.

This honor is awarded to women business leaders in our region who have broken barriers, led successful organizations, demonstrated leadership in the community and persevered in the face of adversity.

Having worked closely with Jennifer to support her vision for The Women’s Foundation, I can tell you that she’s done all of the above.

Jennifer has devoted her entire career to improving the lives of low-income and underserved women and girls. Her accomplishments are many – from launching a new program to support middle school girls and their mothers, to leading the creation of a national women’s economic security agenda. But what’s most impressive about Jennifer is her bold vision to raise the visibility of this important issue, deploy new strategies to increase the impact of women’s funds in this region and nationally and inspire others to follow her.

Jennifer’s passion for making a difference for women and girls comes from personal experience, and perhaps that’s why it’s so contagious. She has walked the same path as many of the women we serve, growing up in a small town where both her parents were laid off from work on the same day. It was her mother who stepped up to support the family through that tumultuous time, inspiring Jennifer to make it her life’s work to pay it forward and support other women who are faced with similar challenges.

Jennifer has inspired me, and many others who share the belief that women have the power to heal this community. Yes, the Women Who Mean Business honor is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women. But, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to call on this community of women business leaders to take action for change. How can we, the leaders in this community, carry the torch for the more than 200,000 women in our region who live in painful conditions due to poverty?

I challenge each one of us to follow Jennifer’s lead and pay it forward. When women take their success into their own hands, when they take ownership of their achievements, development and ambition, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

Let us move women in our community out of poverty. Let us create an opportunity for all women to reach new heights so they can achieve economic security and become agents of change themselves.

Bump, Set, Spike: President’s Day & Volleyball

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

How many little girls answer, with that wide-eyed, unbridled enthusiasm of youth, “I want to be President!”? Even last week’s episode of the television show Scandal (spoiler alert) depicted fictional First Lady Mellie Grant downing a stiff drink, before nervously uttering the words, “I want to be President. I want to run the world.”

Monday marks President’s Day, a day when we celebrate past and present U.S. Presidents, and yet there are no women among the list of 44 U.S. Presidents. In fact, when you look at women in leadership positions more broadly, you find few role models:

  • One hundred and four women (19.4 percent) are members of the U.S. Congress and of that total 33 are women of color.1
  • Women hold just 24 percent of all available statewide elective executive offices, and there are only 5 female Governors, down from the record high of 9 in 2004 and 2007.1
  • There are 23 women CEOs of S&P 500 companies, and women comprise just 19 percent of board seats at US stock index companies.2
  • Forty percent of the coaches of women’s Division I collegiate sports teams are women, marking a steep decline since Title IX was enacted.3

Much has been posited and written about why there are few women in leadership positions, from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code. As a women leader, I constantly work to challenge my own assumptions and biases about leadership, and I cringe when I hear or see some of the negative stereotypes playing out. Almost a year ago, when the President and CEO position at Washington Area Women’s Foundation opened up, I didn’t hesitate to raise my hand and say that I was ready to lead this amazing organization. And so, you can imagine my surprise, recently, when I found myself hesitating to step up in a completely different way.

At my urging, my 11 year-old daughter decided to sign-up for volleyball.  I was thrilled as I had played in high school (state champs 3 out of my 4 years!) and off and on in college, so I have a passion for the game. I quickly registered her for the local youth volleyball league, only to discover that there was a waitlist because there weren’t enough coaches. A little deflated, I told my daughter about the waitlist, but she simply replied, “Well, why don’t you coach, mommy?”

Three days later, I said yes but only after the following occurred:

  • I had a running dialogue in my head—“Well, I haven’t played in over twenty years. The game has changed so much; I don’t even know the new scoring system. I’ve never coached before. Do I really have the time? How can I fit this in while also running a nonprofit? What if I have a conflict? Will I be a good coach? What if I let someone down, especially my daughter?”
  • I asked some friends—all women—for advice, most of whom said, “Are you crazy? When are you going to find the time?” A few said, “Great, now my daughter can play on your team!,” which only increased my anxiety.
  • I emailed the head of the league, inquiring about the resources and support available, expressing my concern about never having coached. He immediately responded and strongly encouraged me to coach, saying many other moms were in a similar position.
  • I asked my husband, who without hesitation said, “Of course, you should do it. You’ll be great, and Peanut will love it.”

And there you have it—my case study of one and my “ah-ha” moment! My husband didn’t even think twice about his response to me, and in fact, I realized that two years ago no one asked him to be his daughter’s basketball coach. He simply volunteered without giving it a second thought.

See leadership occurs in both big and small ways. So while you’re enjoying a small reprieve with this three-day weekend to mark President’s Day, please take a moment to consider how you will lead. What’s the big or small thing that you will do differently so that one day no little girl will hesitate to say, “I want to be President and I want to rule the world.”?



1Women in Elective Office Database. (2015). Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Center for American Women in Politics. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from

2Knowledge Center. (2015). Catalyst. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from

3Progress and Promise, Title IX at 40 White Paper. (2013.) The Women’s Sports Foundation. Retrieved February 13, 2015 from



Super Bowl XLIX Highlights XL Gap in Men’s and Women’s Sports

Super Bowl XLIX Stadium 1

It’s Super Bowl time, which for many means parties and crowding around the TV to watch two of the nation’s top football teams battle it out for the title of Super Bowl XLIX Champion. And at least for our President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, it will mean cheering on her precious Patriots. We’ve got some big sports fans at The Women’s Foundation, and we also have many for whom the draw of the big game is the chance to watch the commercials. This year, each of those ad spots will cost companies roughly $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time.

When I heard that number, my jaw dropped. The thought of that much money being spent in 30 seconds sort of makes my heart stop, and it got me thinking about the sheer amount of money that goes into, not just the Super Bowl, but men’s sports in general. For example, every member of the winning Super Bowl team this year will receive a cash bonus of $97,000. Even the members of the losing team receive an additional $49,000 just for playing in the game. That means that the winning team’s players alone get more than $5 million in bonuses.

Want to make that number feel very, very small? The winning team of the Men’s 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil walked away with more than $35 million in prize money. The total prize pool was a record $576 million. The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world, so it is fitting that the prize pool would also be the largest. But what about the prize pool for the upcoming Women’s 2015 Soccer World Cup in Canada? After all, FIFA bills the Women’s World Cup as the largest female sporting event in the world. Answer? $15 million, all in. That’s not what the winning team gets; that is the number that is divided among all the prize-winning teams. On the positive side, that number represents a 50% increase in prize money from four years ago. The winning team walks away with $2 million this year, doubling from the winner’s prize of $1 million at the last Women’s World Cup.

While the prize money gap seems staggering, the more concerning issue with the Women’s World Cup, may be that these world class female athletes will be playing on sub-par surfaces. Even after many athletes filed a lawsuit against FIFA accusing the organizers of discrimination, saying that elite men’s teams would never be forced to play on an artificial surface instead of natural grass, FIFA refused to upgrade the playing surfaces on all but one field. And so, the players in this year’s Women’s World Cup will be playing on artificial turf, a surface that puts players at a higher risk for injury. In an interview with NPR, U.S. Women’s National Team player Heather O’Reilly, said the plan to use fake grass “is a blatant demonstration of FIFA not placing the women side by side with the men. Many men’s players refuse to play on artificial turf, actually, and the thought of it being played in the World Cup is almost laughable.”

WUSA Soccer

It would take about $3 million to upgrade the turf to sod. That is no small number, but when we look at the money being thrown at men’s sports, it really does start to feel very minuscule.

The common refrain is that women’s professional sporting events just don’t bring in the cash the same way that men’s do. And that is true. It is a vicious cycle. The Women’s Sports Foundation reports that in 2009 network affiliates dedicated only 1.6% of airtime to women’s sports, down from 6.3% in 2004. This male-dominated media coverage perpetuates smaller audiences for women’s sports. It takes money to break this vicious cycle and kick-start a virtuous one. If women’s teams had more money to invest in their talent, equipment, facilities and marketing efforts, could we see an increase in the cash earned by these teams?

I think the answer is yes. Men’s Major League Soccer (MLS) actually provides a good example. MLS reportedly lost an estimated $250 million during its first five years. But then, Adidas injected $150 million into MLS over 10 years. The league started building soccer-specific stadiums and investing in their talent and equipment. They signed a television deal. The average franchise is now worth $103 million, up more than 175% over the last five years, and the league keeps growing. Compare this to the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), which folded in 2003 after only three years despite a world champion national team and national excitement from the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Their losses were only about $100 million, not even close to the $250 million MLS weathered. Could similar confidence in women’s soccer and subsequent financial investments have saved WUSA like it did for the now profitable MLS? We’ll never know.

However, if we look to tennis, we have a great example of what could be possible if female and male athletes were treated more equitably. In 2007, Wimbledon announced for the first time, it would provide equal prize purses to male and female athletes. All four Grand Slam events now offer equal prize money to the champions. In 2013, the US Open women’s final scored higher TV ratings than the men’s final.

So while we all gather around to watch millions of dollars flood the airwaves and University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday, let’s think about how we can channel just a fraction of that into leveling the playing field for female athletes in the future.

I’m with you! What can I do?

Great question! The Women’s Sports Foundation has some good ways we can all help increase gender equality in sports:

  • Attend women’s sporting events
  • Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics
  • Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports
  • Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level
  • Encourage young women to participate in sports
  • Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete that is being discriminated against – advocate for her rights.