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Posts from the ‘Philanthropists’ Category

Potholes on Road to Women’s Equality

Rocky Road to Women's Equality

The measurable obstacles on women’s road to equality cause set backs for our children and families, too.

When I attended a Women’s Foundation of Minnesota “Road to Equality Tour” event last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a boss many jobs and many years ago.  It went like this:

Me: “Why is John paid more than I am?  We have the same title, work the same hours and produce the same amount of copy every week.”

Boss: “Because John has a wife and kids to support.”

Me (out loud): “Okay.”  Me (silently): “That doesn’t sound right, but I better not say anything more or he’ll fire me.”

True story.

The Unexplained Women’s Pay Gap
Supervisors today may not be so blatantly biased, but discrimination still causes a significant pay gap for women.

According to the latest “Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota” research, published by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota,  white women earn 20% less than white males.  Asian American, African American and American Indian, and Latina women earn 26%, 38% and 43% less than white men.

Why is this data so important and so alarming?  Because working mothers are increasingly the primary breadwinners for their families.  Nearly half of white moms are the  main wage earner in their families, and 60 to 80 percent of Latina, African American and American Indian moms bring home most or all of the bacon.

So, maybe we should put an ironic twist on my  former boss’ (convoluted) logic:  Women today should therefore earn more — not less — than men, right?

Underpaying Women Hurts the Kids, Too
Another report finding I found shocking is that over the last decade the number of Minnesota families with children living below the poverty line rose 64%.

That means more than 80,000 families struggle to cover essential needs . . . food, housing, transportation, child care and more.  Hmmm.  It’s not hard to see the connection between the poverty rate and another research fact:  That 36% of Minnesota’s homeless population are children with parents and unaccompanied minors.

More on Women and Leadership, Health, Safety and Economic Status
The 2014 “Status of Women & Girls” research is rich with eye-opening economic data, plus much more on safety, health and leadership.

I found the statistics on women in leadership particularly compelling because of their potential correlation with women’s diminished economic status. For instance:

  • Since 1998, gains in women’s political representation has flat lined in Minnesota.
  • In female-dominated sectors (e.g., nonprofits and education) where 70% or more of the workforce is women, more than 70% of the top leaders are male.
  • For every 50 new independent directors who are added to Minnesota’s corporate boards each year, only about a dozen are women and virtually none are women of color.

We Can Smooth the Bumpy Road
I admire the Women’s Foundation and the Humphrey School for raising up these data that mark the giant obstacles on the road to equality.  And I also commend their unflagging efforts to create pathways to prosperity for women and girls.

Be sure to read the last section of the research report (pdf).  It features practical, actionable steps you and I can take to change outcomes for women today.  Think of our actions as filling the potholes on the road to equality.  Together we can build a smoother road that benefits everyone —  women, our families and our communities — here in Minnesota and beyond.

Photo cc Amanda Slater


The (Ethnic) Medium is the Message

Working on a project yesterday about diversity in the environment, I ran across a new (to me) national ethnic media resource: New America Media.

This nonprofit describes itself as “the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations,” and it’s funded by some top national foundations, including ones familiar to us in Minnesota: the Knight Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Ethnic Media in Minnesota
Part of New America Media’s network is Minnesota’s own Twin Cities Daily Planet, a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance (which also receives support from local philanthropies, including the Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation and The Minneapolis Foundation).

The Twin Cities Media Alliance publishes a Minnesota Ethnic Media Directory and offers citizen journalism classes and media skills workshops.  Here’s a snapshot of its work:

Why Diverse Media, Anyway?
If you’ve read this far, you might still be wondering, why are these diverse media outlets important?  You might be thinking: “If our nonprofit gets mentioned in the Strib or on MPR (or if we’re on Facebook), won’t we automatically achieve our outreach goals?”

I could write an entire post about defining and segmenting target audiences, but for now, I’ll just refer us to Marshall McLuhan’s now famous concept: “The medium is the message.”   Quite simply, we should never underestimate the vast social implications and overriding influence of the media vehicles that we choose to deliver our nonprofit news.

So who are your constituents and which communities do they represent?  And which ethnic media outlets do they prefer?  Think about this as you develop your outreach strategies . . . and explore diverse media options in Minnesota and beyond.

Teenage Girls are Blooming Flowers

GIA_2012When supporters at a Girls in Action fundraising luncheon last week heard this line — “Teenage girls are blooming flowers.” — they broke into broad smiles and enthusiastic applause.

Was it just spring fever?   Maybe, but that phrase does seem to capture the essence of this group’s work . . . to make sure every young woman — from North Minneapolis to Guatemala City — receives the nurturing she needs to blossom and achieve.

For a quick introduction to this dynamic mentoring program, take a look at this KARE 11 clip that features founder Dr. Verna Cornelia Price and girls in the program:

In the years since this aired, Girls in Action expanded across the metro, across the country to Detroit, and even to Guatemala.  Now reaching well over 2300 girls, the program focuses on motivating, mentoring, empowering, engaging and educating girls to succeed in school and life.

At the luncheon, program director Natalie Johnson Lee shared an impressive list of outcomes, such as a 95-percent graduation rate.  Lee and others thanked many partners and supporters, including such philanthropy leaders as Catherine Jordan (previously with AchieveMpls), Sandy Vargas of The Minneapolis Foundation, and Wokie Weah of Youthprise, among others.

Attending this event was my first chance to learn about Girls in Action.  It seems the group’s close collaboration with the schools is a real plus — because it breaks down barriers to access and boosts academic achievement.

Enthusiastic, emotional testimonials from program alumni also provided ample evidence that mentoring programs such as Girls in Action really do make a difference.  When they give and receive respect, girls can definitely bloom and thrive.

(For more about the benefits of mentoring, see my post on the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s Philanthropy Potluck Blog, “Young or Old, Mentoring Matters.”)

Nurturing a Seedling of Hope

SeedlingI start this blog with a sense of hope.  Just like the optimism that compelled me to plant seeds in my garden last Saturday . . . even though miserably chilly, rainy weather was forecast for the week ahead.

Nonprofit leaders and philanthropists are eternal optimists, too.  Filled with hope, ambition and courage, they believe they can plant and nurture seeds that will ultimately change society’s landscape.

I envision my blog to become a sort of raised garden bed for worthy causes.  In a raised bed, plants enjoy a little extra warmth from the sun’s rays.  With my posts, I’ll try to shine a bit more nourishing light on all varieties of charitable activities.   Sometimes I’ll write about the newest nonprofit hybrids that promise big yields.  Sometimes I’ll feature heirloom organizations that have resisted blight and delivered bushels of common good in our communities for decades.

A raised garden bed and a bit of mulch also help ensure seeds and plants have a steady supply of moisture for healthy growth.  In my posts I plan to sprinkle in resources from across the independent sector — including from Minnesota institutions (such as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, MAP for Nonprofits, Charities Review Council, and Nonprofits Assistance Fund) and from national and international thought leaders.

So, I’m simply the gardener.  If you’d like to supply some seeds of ideas that promise positive change in our communities, contact me.  I may add them to my garden bed to see if a little extra light will foster growth.  But no promises . . . because this blog is organic.  With favorable conditions seedlings may sometimes leaf out, blossom and bear fruit.  And sometimes the harsh environment may stunt their growth.  But that’s okay.  We’ll still have hope for next year’s abundant harvest.

(P.S. For the gardening record, in a previous season of my life, I also worked to lift up promising ideas to the light.  Search on “Wehr” to see some of my posts on the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s Philanthropy Potluck Blog.)