Winston-Salem women’s giving lauded

Jill Tiefenthaler
Jill Tiefenthaler

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In November, the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem awarded 11 grants totaling $162,511 to benefit the women and girls of Forsyth County.

The fund, comprised of more than 720 local women and administered by the Winston-Salem Foundation, has awarded a total of almost half a million dollars in its three years of grantmaking.

Members of the fund, each of whom contributes to a grantmaking pool, include corporate and nonprofit leaders, educators, community leaders, students and volunteers.

At the group’s awards luncheon on Nov. 11, a keynote address was provided by Jill Tiefenthaler, provost of Wake Forest University.

An excerpt of her remarks follows.

Remarks by Jill Tiefenthaler, provost, Wake Forest University

Four years ago, one very special small group of women came together to start The Women’s Fund of Winston- Salem, and ever since then they’ve changed the lives of many women and girls in Forsyth County.

Last year alone, they raised money to help homeless women overcome barriers to housing and self-sufficiency, provide hands-on science education to fifth-grade girls in economically disadvantaged schools, train guardian ad litem volunteers to represent the interests of children in domestic violence cases, provide services and resources to Latina teen mothers to encourage them to stay in school, and provide an arts-based education and mentoring program to empower girls in developing positive solutions to their problems and challenges.

When we think of how many lives have been touched, how many imaginations have been ignited, how much potential has been tapped, it’s simply astounding.

I know that if we, collectively, decide to focus on economic empowerment for the women and girls in Forsyth County, we can continue to make a genuine difference in this community.

But why should we focus on this project and not another? Because one thing we know for certain is that putting resources into the hands of women-who continue to face economic disadvantage-is a proven way to advance the education and health of our children, the strength of our families, and the future of our planet.

Here’s what we know about the economic status of women in our country today.

Right now, women are almost 50 percent of the labor market, and we may become the majority at any moment.

But on average, women are paid less and work more part-time jobs-and they are disproportionately affected by many issues such as poverty, family responsibilities, lack of health care, and violence.

As the Center for American Progress reports, discrimination is still alive in the workplace.

Women are paid less than men, even when they have the same qualifications and work the same hours.

Women who work full time earn only 77 percent of what men make. Women are also segregated into low paying occupations-and occupations dominated by women are low paid.

And, as a result, women in America are more likely to be poor than men. In fact, the gap in poverty rates between men and women is wider in the United States than anywhere else in the Western world.

Fifty-nine percent of adults in poverty are women. Single mothers face very high levels of poverty. Nearly 30 percent of these 13 million families are impoverished, as are their children.

Black and Latina women also face particularly high rates of poverty. Over a quarter of all black women and nearly a quarter of Latina women are poor.

Poverty rates also increase for women during their childbearing years and again in old age.

Then, when children are born, women are more likely to make sacrifices to raise them, especially when parents are not living together. Eight in ten custodial parents are women, and custodial mothers are twice as likely to be poor as custodial fathers.

Because women are more likely than men to care for children and elderly or disabled family members, women are more likely to work part time or take time out of the workforce to care for family.

Twenty-three percent of mothers are out of the workforce compared to just 1 percent of fathers.

There’s no respite in old age either. Thirteen percent of women over 75 years old are poor compared to 6 percent of men.

Finally, there’s the issue of domestic and sexual violence, which has tremendous negative economic costs for victims and society.  Women who are victims of violence are prevented from improving their economic power through education and job training, are more likely to lose jobs and earn lower wages.

Given all these factors, it’s almost shocking when you realize that currently less than 7 percent of philanthropic dollars are directed to programs that specifically support women and girls.

While women continue to face a steep uphill climb, we also know that women do have growing economic power-and they use it wisely.

Globally, women earn about $13 trillion annually and the Boston Consulting Group estimates that number will increase by $5 trillion to $18 trillion in the next five years.

A number of studies show that a woman’s decision-making power over spending increases as her share of household earnings increases.

So, as women’s incomes continue to grow, so will their influence in how families allocate spending.

And the research also indicates that what women purchase is different than what is purchased by households where women have less economic influence. Women are more likely to buy for the household and to buy for the children including food, healthcare, education and clothing.

Families benefit when income increases, regardless of the source.  However, the benefits are greater when women earn. Children, especially girls, start school sooner; access to and quality of healthcare increases, and families save more.

We need to garner the clout of women in this community to empower other women and girls to make our community a better place.

For example, we need to recognize the power of diversity in our community; by engaging women and girls of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, talents, and beliefs, we truly make our community-and one another-stronger.

I challenge all of you to recognize the collective power in this room, celebrate all that we are doing and think about what more we can do for our community together.

By giving our dollars to an organization that specifically supports women and girls, we are targeting our investments to a group that not only has great need, but will also produce a big bang for your buck.

Women and girls continue to face economic disadvantage yet we know that their economic empowerment results in big gains for families and communities.

But we need more than your money. To empower women and girls, we also need your time and your talents.

Be a leader, a mentor or take other roles to support various groups that are doing good work by giving your insights, ideas and time.

Become more familiar with the way the Millennials see and approach the world-be supportive of their idealism and find ways to encourage and celebrate their good work.

Finally, use your influence on boards and in schools, the voting booth, and the community.  You may be surprised at how much you can do on behalf of women and girls right here in Forsyth County.

It is up to us to convince others to join in making this critical investment in our future.

Your money, time, talents, and influence will make a difference.

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