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Calling for a Cultural Transformation: WFMN’s Response to COVID-19

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At the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, a statewide community foundation, our mission is to invest in innovation to drive gender and racial equity. Women and girls are distinctly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We call for a short- and long-term cultural transformation that centers women and girls in responsive strategies across the state and nation. 

COVID-19, a pandemic with unprecedented global impact, is inspiring a deep awakening of the inequities that exist in our society. Collectively, we are forced to reckon with the unjust conditions experienced on a daily basis by women, people of color, Indigenous people, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ communities, rural communities, and all who live at the intersections of identities pushed to the margins. The pandemic is highlighting inequities and making them starkly visible in ways we can no longer address with business-as-usual. As we build and execute a short-term strategy to amplify the experiences of women and girls in Minnesota and deploy resources directly where they’re needed most, we are calling for a cultural transformation. Let us use this time to imagine and create new ways of operating.

Our 2019 Status of Older Women in Minnesota and 2020 Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota research, completed in partnership with the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, illustrate why women and girls are uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • As service-based jobs are impacted by social distancing regulations, we know that 1 in 3 Latina, Black, and Native women work in service fields earning minimum wage, without paid sick time and other employee benefits, and depend on tips or hourly wages to survive.
  • As schools temporarily close, we know it adds additional caretaking responsibilities for women and girls who are primary caretakers of both children and elders. Nearly a quarter of full-time working mothers in Minnesota report providing eldercare during the past 3 months.
  • As elders are an at-risk population in this pandemic, we know inequities compound over time resulting in nearly two times as many Minnesota women above the age of 64 living in poverty than men, with fewer resources to face COVID-19. Additionally, older women in Minnesota are more likely to be living alone as they age, particularly older LGBTQ+ women who are more likely to be aging alone.
  • As Minnesotans are socially distancing, women and girls experiencing domestic violence and abuse are forced to stay indoors with their abusers with less access to others for help and support. One in two Minnesota women report sexual violence, and one in four report physical violence from an intimate partner at some point during her lifetime. We know we can fill Target Field almost 18 times with the number of Minnesota women who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking, and that’s before a pandemic.

Women will lead communities through this pandemic as professionals, caretakers, problem solvers, and providers. It is imperative we invest in women for whole community well-being.

We hold the following principles to guide our responsive strategies:

  • Problems and solutions are found in the same place.
  • Communities most impacted by inequity hold the wisdom to lead the collective towards lasting change.
  • Communities live multi-issue lives, which requires a multi-solution approach.
  • An intersectional equity analysis considering gender, race, place, and additional Identities such as ethnicity, sovereignty, socioeconomic class, age, disability, LGBTQ+, and immigration status is critical to create the conditions in which all people have what they need to survive this pandemic.

Responsive Strategies:

  1. Invest in the COVID-19 Women & Girls Response Fund
  2. Listening for Transformation
  3. Transform Systems
  4. Leverage WFMN Investments for Greater Impact
  5. Connect Community

1. Invest in COVID-19 Women & Girls Response Fund: Since launching the COVID-19 Women and Girls Response Fund made more than $1 million in emergency grants to 80 organizations across the state to address the needs of women and girls experiencing gender-based violence, older women, and short-term financial support for everyday needs.

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2. Listening for Transformation: In recognition of the short- and long-term impact of COVID-19, we will deploy a strategy of listening and engagement with intent regarding COVID-19 and related underlying issues and the impact of inequity for the next year. We will share what we hear to amplify and center women and girls and families in the ongoing public and philanthropic conversations and use the information we gather to inform and evolve our responsive strategies.

3. Transform Systems: As a systems change philanthropy, we will continue to invest in civic engagement and policy efforts that address the underlying socioeconomic inequities that need to be transformed for good.

4. Leverage WFMN Investments for Greater Impact: 

  • Moving forward, 100% of WFMN grants will be directed to general operations, allowing nonprofits greater flexibility in this time of uncertainty and heightened need.
  • We stand with grantee-partners as their programming and program outcomes change.
  • We will continue to advocate for the inclusion of women and girls in policy responses.

5. Connect Community: While WFMN has had to cancel our 2020 Equity Summit to protect the health of all attendees and comply with the event guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health, we are committed to keeping our community of cross-sector partners connected. Over the coming months, we will launch a series of online engagements that will create community and hold space to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls and families and our individual and collective vision for surviving the short-term and thriving in the long-term. We will share our leading research: Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota, Status of Older Women in Minnesota, and invite scholars, visionaries, healers, and organizers to share the ways they are navigating these times.

In addition, we created the WFMN Resource List for Women & Girls Impacted by COVID-19 for nonprofits directly working with women and girls and communities deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota. The list includes links to websites that are updated regularly with relevant information for the individuals and communities served by statewide organizations.

We are building a short-term strategy to amplify the experiences of and deploy resources to women and girls in Minnesota. Let us use this time to imagine and create new ways of being, operating, and living. Amid COVID-19, it is in our collective interest to make sure communities experiencing the greatest barriers have what they need to survive the pandemic and thrive in the long run. This will ensure that all Minnesotans experience economic, social, and physical well-being, both now and into the future.

With gratitude,
Gloria Perez, WFMN President & CEO

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