Let’s Be Bold, Brave & Brilliant for Gender Equity
There is no question that investing in women and girls raises the watermark for the entire community. I love the Melinda Gates’ quote in a recent Fortune Magazine article when she said, “if you want to make life better for a community, you should start by investing in its women and girls. When I talk to women, a universal desire is to bring every good thing to our kids. Women tend to spend their resources on their families—prioritizing things like healthcare, nutritious food, education, and all the building blocks of a thriving society. The way I think about it is that when we invest in women, we invest in the people who invest in everyone else. So when we match their commitment with our own, great things are possible.”
I couldn’t agree more with Melinda, which is why when I joined the Community Foundation nine months ago, I was extraordinarily excited about the work that had been done for women and girls in Pierce County. I was simply blown away by the generosity and commitment by hundreds of community leaders to establish the Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls in 1999 and over the course of the past 17 years raise enough money to provide local organizations with more than 150 grants totaling $625,000.
Even more amazing is the fact that while that grant-making work took place, those same volunteers grew a $10,000 initial investment into a $1 million endowment to make a positive impact for women and girls in our community for perpetuity.
Early in March I had the opportunity to be a part of my first Power of the Purse Luncheon, our annual fundraiser to support The Fund for Women & Girls. At the luncheon we announced we would be taking the rest of 2016 to conduct a landscape scan and listening project in order to gather a more in-depth understanding of the issues and challenges facing women and girls in the South Sound.
Our keynote speaker at the luncheon, Liz Vivian, Executive Director of the Women’s Funding Alliance, shared that the gender wage gap in our region (Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma) ranks 50 out of 50 for major American metropolitan areas. That’s right, our region has the worst gender wage gap in the country just behind Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Closing the gender wage gap has broad and positive implications for our entire region and state. If women received equal pay their earnings increase would amount to $11.2 billion annually which means we’d all experience a 3% boost to our GDP. As a result, each working woman in Washington State would see an extra $7,000 a year in her paycheck.
We need to stop pretending that slow but steady progress for women and girls is acceptable.
With continued business as usual, women will achieve wage parity in 2071. That means all of the young girls attending kindergarten in Pierce County schools will retire from their jobs without seeing gender equity in their careers. We can and must do better.
In the next 30 days we will be posting locations and times for you to participate in our listening project. Please join us and share your concerns, hopes and vision as we find ways together to increase opportunities and support for women and girls in Pierce County.
Kathi Littmann, President & CEO
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation