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We Thrive Grants Support Education in Technical Fields 

Through We Thrive, a new Women’s Foundation fund for economic justice, the Women’s Foundation will support wealth-building by investing in education and entrepreneurship with Black, Indigenous, women of color, women who have low incomes, women 25 and older, and women in greater Minnesota. The first grants of $150,000 each support Dunwoody College of Technology and Minnesota North College. Both schools are past grantee-partners from Pathways to Prosperity, a fund launched in 2014 to create unrestricted pathways through education, employment, and wealth creation. 

We Thrive will build capacity for organizations leading in the fields of entrepreneurship and education in two phases. In the first phase, through investment in educational institutions, the Women’s Foundation is supporting women entering high-wage, high-demand fields and roles by obtaining certificates and degrees in technical, mechanical, and other STEM-related fields where women are underrepresented. 

What the Data Show 

To build economic security and wealth, women must have access to education, workforce development, employment, and childcare. Data in the Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota shows that women are clustered in low-wage work and make up the majority of Minnesota workers who are paid at or below the minimum wage, even with advanced degrees. Women are more likely than men to experience poverty in Minnesota, and especially in Greater Minnesota. At the same time, affordable, quality childcare has grown increasingly out of reach, with Minnesota ranked 7th for highest cost in the United States.  

High- and medium-skill programs and workforce need more women and gender-expansive people. Most careers requiring a technical degree are considered nontraditional for women, which is defined by federal law as employing fewer than 25 percent women nationwide. Those same careers deliver higher median wages, greater job security, family-supporting benefits, and more opportunities for advancement. By diversifying traditionally male workforces, industries benefit from new perspectives, talent, creativity, and leadership. 

Supports Make a Difference 

At Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Women in Technical Careers (WITC) is a scholarship program designed to help women students succeed in a two-year technical degree program that includes career placement and wraparound services. Students find success through need-based scholarships to cover tuition and/or childcare, a cohort model, mentorship, intensive advising, scholarship assistance, and stipends for books and childcare.  

“WITC students are more likely to persist, graduate, and find high-paying employment in their field of study directly after (or even before) graduation,” says Maggie Whitman, Program Director of the Women in Technical Careers program. “Our targeted outreach encourages more women and girls to see a future for themselves in high-skilled technical careers. Without our partnerships with generous donors like the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, this work would not be possible.” 

EMPOWER Sees Success 

At Minnesota North College on the Iron Range, EMPOWER supports the education of women entering high-wage, high-demand nontraditional fields that are well-represented across the region and support mining, construction, transportation, and heavy-industry sectors. EMPOWER has expanded educational and supportive services such as childcare, transportation, mentorship, partnerships with industries, application assistance, and connections to other campus programs for academic and social supports for women in northern Minnesota.  

Currently, Minnesota North College-EMPOWER has partnered with True North Stars/Perkins, United Steel Workers Women of Steel, Jet, Applied Learning Institute and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota to put on Women in the Workforce events for northern Minnesota high school students at Minnesota North College campuses in February. They also run summer camps to introduce young women to the trades. 

“I’ve needed help with portions of tuition payment, books, obtaining tools for my program, and fixing my car. EMPOWER has been an absolute lifesaver for me. Because I have a bachelor’s degree, I’m not able to receive any financial aid.  I didn’t know EMPOWER existed when I enrolled and EMPOWER is truly a blessing for me to be able to obtain this employment goal, shared an IT Networking & Security Student Minnesota North College’s Hibbing campus. 

What’s Next 

In the second phase, We Thrive will support Black, Indigenous, and other women of color entrepreneurs and businesses through partnerships and investments, so they have increased access to capital, technical assistance, mentorship, and skill-building resources to grow their ideas.    

With our grantee-partners and philanthropic leaders, the Women’s Foundation will invest in strategies to close the gap in generational wealth-building for BIPOC, low-wealth, and rural women and gender-expansive people across Minnesota. 

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