Advancing Women's Economic Security

Advancing Women's Economic Security

In Tennessee, the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis is working to reduce poverty by 5 percent over five years in a zip code, 38126, where 62 percent of adults and 76 percent of children live at or below the poverty line. 

In Chicago, 460,000 workers now have paid sick leave thanks to the work of the Chicago Foundation for Women and a coalition of community, faith-based, women's advocacy, and labor organizations.

In Massachusetts, the Women's Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts piloted a support program that helped Jamielee, a mother of two young children, get a car — and on the path to a college degree and employment, along with 76 percent of the program's participants.

These are just a few of the things that women's foundations across the United States are doing to advance women's economic security.

In September, the Women's Funding Network unveiled a new Economic Security Digital Storytelling Platform to highlight the important work our members are doing for women and girls around the world. The site allows visitors to explore economic security data and grantmaking strategies, as well as powerful stories of the women, programs, and organizations that are driving and creating positive change for women.

The site is the first step in our Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) "commitment to action," which was announced at the 2016 CGI Annual Meeting. With our commitment, the Women's Funding Network joins No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project (an initiative of the Clinton Foundation), Vital Voices Global Partnership, WEConnect International, and almost thirty other organizations in a multi-sector coalition dedicated to advancing the gender equality targets of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Through the commitment, WFN will continue our work of moving no- and low-income women into stable jobs, with the goal of reaching an additional 80,000 women over the next five years. To do that, we plan, in partnership with ten U.S. women's foundations in our network, to establish a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program called Advancing Women in the Workforce.

Improving women's economic security is one of the most critical issues of our time. Worldwide, the face of poverty belongs to women and children. In the U.S. alone, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research report 2015 Status of Women in the States, women are 30 percent more likely than men to live in poverty.

Women's funding organizations are working hard to turn the tide, community by community, woman by woman. The latest Women's Funding Network member data shows that, in 2015, our members invested more than $74 million in moving women and their families out of poverty. And our recent Economic Security Benchmarking Reportrevealed that these investments most commonly support financial literacy training, job training, and trades training and placement. In fact, of the many programs our members invest in, more than 50 percent of the foundations surveyed for our report confirmed that they invest in those three because they are particularly effective.

In addition to supporting direct service programs, women's funding organizations also invest in efforts to change things at the systems level by engaging and training diverse groups of women in civic participation and promoting women-friendly policies at the local, state, and federal levels. An example of the latter is Minnesota's Women's Economic Security Act (WESA). In 2014, efforts by the Women's Foundation of Minnesota led lawmakers in the state to support the successful passage of WESA, marking "the first time in state history that policy makers — Republicans and Democrats, alike — prioritized women's economic security as key to the overall economic security of the state and of all Minnesotans." The legislation includes fourteen separate laws covering everything from job protections for pregnant and nursing women, to an increase in the minimum wage and increased funding for the Minnesota Department of Education and Economic Development, to the creation of a program aimed at increasing the number of women in non-traditional, high-wage, high-demand occupations.

As our new Digital Storytelling Platform makes abundantly clear, this kind of progress is happening all around us. But there's more work to be done. Funders, policy makers, individuals — none of us can rest until economic security is a reality for every woman and girl, in every community.

Will you join us?

To learn more about what women's foundations around the country are doing to ensure the economic security of women, please visit economicsecurity.womensfundingnetwork.org.

Cynthia Nimmo is president and CEO of the Women's Funding Network.