When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.
– Kofi A. Annan (1938-2018; former Secretary-General of the United Nations)
As United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan championed women as the key to peace and prosperity. He understood that for families, communities, and nations to thrive now and in the future, women must thrive.
We agree. At the Women’s Foundation, we go deeper and look at what is required for all of Minnesota’s women and girls to thrive.
We begin with quantitative research, disaggregated by gender, race, place, and ability. We deepen and make the data come alive by listening to community. We believe that for individuals, families, and our state to thrive, we must have gender and racial equity. We must position and resource women and girls as solution-builders and leaders within their communities.
As I reflect on the Foundation during my final year, I am confident in the state of the Foundation and collective leadership of the board and staff. I am tremendously excited about what the future holds as we pave the way for the Foundation’s next CEO and the new perspectives, innovation, and leadership they will bring.
We Thrive When Research Leads to Action
Research is one key lever in our mission to ensure women and girls thrive. During national Older Adults Month in May, we will release a new report, Status of Older Women in Minnesota. Because women represent the majority of all Minnesotans, ages 55 and above, nearly all aging issues — from poverty, housing, and health, to age discrimination in employment and more — have a greater impact on women. The research will inform our grantmaking and policy agenda, identify new areas where research is needed, and serve as a resource for policymakers, other philanthropies, and nonprofits.
As part of our ongoing commitment to equity, we’re sponsoring the Trust Black Women and Girls Town Hall Hearing on April 13, a national series hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw (founder and executive director, African American Policy Center), which elevates the stories and experiences of Black women and girls to advance local agendas for gender-inclusive racial justice.
In April 2020, we’ll embark on our Road to Equity Tour. In communities across the state, we’ll preview our Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota research (July 2020). We’ll hear directly from communities why the research resonates in their community and identify key issues and solutions. The Tour will enable the next CEO to meet with leaders across the state to foster their understanding, leadership, and impact with communities and partners.
We Thrive When All Women and Girls are Safe
The tremendous momentum sparked by the #MeToo movement has continued to illuminate the depth and breadth of violence women and girls face in Minnesota and around the world. The attention has led to greater accountability and positive change. At the same time, we must continue work to change culture and identify and dismantle systems that result in a continuum of violence against women and girls.
In Minnesota, this means rectifying practices and policies within government and business that both silence and harm victims of sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault, and ensuring due process for all. While progress is in motion, gender-based violence remains pervasive. In response, beginning April 1 we will transform and broaden our leadership to end sex trafficking by activating a new strategic goal, “Resource innovation to end gender-based violence, including sex trafficking, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.”
As we transform our role from catalyst with MN Girls Are Not For Sale to partner, we will continue to invest in women’s safety and work with communities to end gender-based violence in all forms through research, policy, grantmaking, and increasing public awareness and engagement.
Together, we will create a Minnesota where all girls and women are free from every form of violence and can experience their homes, schools, and communities as safe places.
We Thrive When All Young Women Have Equity
I thrive when I am taking care of myself, staying true to my beliefs, and believing in me. I thrive when I can create the world around me through words and actions and be safe, healthy, and economically secure.
— Youth panelist from the 2016 African American Listening Session
Through our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), Minnesota continues to be a model for how to design equity into programming to ensure equity in outcomes. We are changing the institutions and systems that have prevented young women of color, American Indian young women, young women from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities equal access to economic opportunity, safety, and leadership. Minnesota will benefit when young women have exactly what they need to thrive.
In the coming year, we’ll strengthen and grow our partnership with new leadership in the Governor’s Office to continue to co-lead the Young Women’s Initiative. We are the only state in the nation with this type of vanguard partnership to create a state of gender and racial equity.
At the Capitol, we’re driving systems change through policy change. With policymakers and members of the Young Women’s Cabinet, we’re working to pass the Women of Color Opportunity Act (H.F. No. 841) to expand opportunities for young women of color. The Act will increase career pathways, STEM education, opportunities for entrepreneurship, and academic success for young women of color. Our two amendments to the bill — $1 million appropriation for a YWI Women of Color Internship Program, and expansion of the bill from Twin Cities’ Metro-specific to statewide — will accelerate and amplify impact.
The Cabinet is also supporting passage of bills in the House that prohibit mental health practitioners from providing conversion therapy to vulnerable adults and youth under 18; establish a task force to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women in the state; and create a noncompliant driver’s license for undocumented immigrants as a legal form of identification.
The first cohort of the WFMN Innovators program — 22 young women who received a direct, one-time $2,500 grant to move forward their ideas for change tied to the YWI Blueprint for Action — concluded in January. Innovators advocated policy to increase safety and health, launched businesses, ran for office, and more. The program was so successful that we will increase our investments by 50 percent this year. Later this month, we will award grants to 22 new Innovators and 11 returning Innovators.
The ripple effects of our model programming extend beyond Minnesota. All eight women’s foundation members of the National Philanthropic Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives (NPCYWI) will replicate our Innovators program. As the first collaborative of its kind, NPCYWI galvanizes and invests resources to amplify the collective power of young women to ensure that they are safe, healthy, and economically prosperous in a world with gender and racial equity.
We know that creating real change requires working locally — grounded in regional community needs and solutions — and then scaling nationally to impact lasting systems change. This work is complex, and Cabinet members will work on needed changes at the local, state, and national levels.
We Thrive When Philanthropies & Policymakers Include a Gender Lens
To add value to the field of philanthropy, this fall we’ll unveil and share our intersectional framework model.
While many philanthropies and grantmaking bodies regularly apply a place- and race-based lens to funding and policy decisions, gender and additional identities (ethnicity, sovereignty, class, age, ability, sexual orientation, and immigration status) are often missing. Our intersectional approach illustrates why it is important to also apply these lenses and how, together, they create a more complete picture of the intersectional lives of women and girls, resulting in greater impact.
Last year, for example, the state’s plan for the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act included ability and race, but gender was missing. We wrote a letter to the Governor and advocated strongly for the Act to include gender to fully represent the unique challenges faced by women in the state, especially women of color. Ultimately, we were successful, and gender was added to the Act. This was a huge victory and great example of the harm that can be done if a gender lens is absent. We are hopeful that philanthropies and policymakers alike will adopt our intersectional framework to place equity at the center, guide their grantmaking, and ultimately, experience greater impact.
Women & Girls Thrive When We Work Collaboratively and Collectively
The state of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota is strong, innovative, and impactful because of our shared vision and collective investments in support of research and community solutions that drive impact and systems-level change.
Together, we are an unstoppable force for equity and a Minnesota where all women and girls can thrive.
— Lee Roper-Batker, President & CEO