Invest in Women in the Washington DC Metro Area

by Washington Area Women's Foundation

We write this update on the heels of a remarkable display of women activating for change. We ask you to keep this energy alive by signing up to receive an action you can do every day for the first 100 days of the new Administration.  These are actions that add up to increasing opportunities for women and girls in the Washington, DC region and beyond.  Go to  to see today’s action item and to sign up to receive actions for us to do together, every day.  

As we organize our communities to activate Our 100 Days, we hold steadfast to our mission to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.  This year, this includes launching a health component in order increase opportunities for the economic security of women and girls.

Our focus on this work begins with the facilitating of The District of Columbia Family Planning Initiative (DC-FP Initiative), a coalition of health care providers, funders, nonprofit organizations, youth empowerment and government partners.  Our collective mission is to reduce teen pregnancy rates and empower young women to take control of their reproductive health by improving the availability of quality contraceptive information, options and health services. 

You may be surprised to learn that the nation’s capital ranks in the top 15 cities with the highest rates of teen pregnancy for young women ages 15-19. In addition to having among the nation's highest teen pregnancy rates, the percentage of young women using an effective method of contraception is low.  Only 9% of high school girls report they or their partner used birth control before their last sexual experience.  When it comes to the use of female contraceptive methods, only 23% of high school females report that they use any of the following methods: oral contraceptives, IUD or implant, Depo-Provera, shot, patch or ring.  Despite having programs in place to reduce teen pregnancy, it is clear there is still room for growth especially when it comes to education and options counseling around the full range of contraceptive methods.  

Although there are programs in place to reduce teen pregnancy in our region, there is still room for growth when it comes to education and options counseling around the full range of contraceptive methods.  That’s why the DC-FP Initiative is important. Our efforts are designed to bring attention to ethnic and racial disparities to health care, address past cultural injustices within the healthcare system, and develop a program that is sensitive to the needs of the diverse population in DC. 

We anticipate that the new Administration will pull back the recent gains made in access to birth control for all women, and that this will have the most serious implications on low-income women in our community – making this work even more important today.  


Highlights from the 2016 Leadership Luncheon
Highlights from the 2016 Leadership Luncheon

When one woman crosses a threshold or breaks through a glass ceiling, it opens doors for women and girls who hope to do the same.  When women invest in other women, they invest in themselves. These core values were at the heart of our 2016 Leadership Luncheon, which provided a unique opportunity for over 900 attendees to honor and celebrate women and girls in our region.

Our flagship event is more than an event for “ladies who lunch.”  Through our annual luncheon, appropriately themed “Together We Thrive” this year, we not only raised critical unrestricted funds so we may deepen investments in our community, but we also raised awareness about economic security issues in our region that often go unnoticed.  

Two brave women gave first-hand accounts about living in poverty, and how nonprofits helped put them on a path to prosperity. The first speaker battled drug abuse and was later incarcerated. While living in transitional housing, she learned about Goodwill’s Hospitality Training Program.  After successfully graduating from the program, she landed a job in event services at the Marriott Marquis.  Anyone who knows her can attest to her work ethic and zest for life. One of our wonderful board members pened up about her experience with childhood poverty and having parents with mental illness.  Staff at her local Big Brothers and Sisters recognized her potential. Her resilience is admirable; she is now in the C-suite at an illustrious investment management firm.

During her speech, our President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, publicly announced that our organization is becoming more intentional about addressing the intersection of poverty and race.  15.1% of black women live under the poverty line in the region, compared to 4.9% of white women.  Jennifer discussed our efforts to put our ears to the ground and hear what’s really going on in the community through the voices of young girls of color living in the DC metro area. As a foundation, we realized that data does not tell the full story of what it’s like to live in poverty.

We had the privilege of having Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, as our keynote speaker.  Jarrett also serves as the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and spoke eloquently about the council’s mission to “work with Federal executive departments and agencies to provide a coordinated Federal response to issues that have an impact on the lives of women and girls.”

Thanks to the tireless work of our staff, volunteers, and the generous donors who recognize the gendered nature of poverty, we mobilized our community and collectively raised $875,000.  These funds will allow us to make deeper investments in the community to better serve our constituents.

Here at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we are still energized from the inaugural United State of Women Summit on June 14th.  What a momentous occasion! More than 5,000 people from across the country attended the inspiring day-long event, organized by the White House.  Together, participants not only celebrated how far the nation has come in the realm of gender equality, but also vowed to change the state of women for tomorrow.

This event was of special importance to The Women’s Foundation.  Along with several colleagues from respected women’s foundations across the country, our President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat announced the launch of a national Young Women’s Initiative, which will build opportunities and close gender and race gaps for young women. Jennifer reflected on the significance of this advocacy work, stating, “It is a privilege to spark and guide philanthropic investments that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the Washington region’s most vulnerable women and girls. This initiative will focus specifically on women and girls of color and will put their voices, experiences, and needs front and center.”

Gaps in inequality are clearly seen here in Washington, DC metro area. While our region is home to some of the wealthiest and most educated people in the world, 1 in 4 local women and girls are living at or near the poverty line.  Equally troubling is that 16 percent of African-American women, and 14 percent of Latinas are more likely to live below the poverty threshold—compared with only 6 percent of white women.  Too many women and girls of color in our region lack access to the cornerstones of economic opportunity: affordable child care, workforce training for sustainable careers, and education about asset and wealth-building.  At The Women’s Foundation, we want to change this grim reality.

Although The Women's Foundation has always created opportunities for women and girls of color to thrive, we are now vowing to directly tackle the barriers that are creating these gaps in outcomes.  We recognize the need to intentionally talk about race, racism, and racial equity. We must increase our understanding of the unique barriers facing girls and young women of color in our community.

As a first step locally, together with our partners, we are hosting a series of listening sessions to hear what young women in our area—who are living at or near the poverty line—have to say about the reality of the barriers they face and opportunities available to them in their schools, families, and communities. These listening sessions will shape recommendations for investments in programs, policies, and research. We will connect with a wide range of stakeholders, including government, business, nonprofit and community leaders, to flesh out these recommendations into actionable plans. We will initially focus on DC, but hope to expand across the region over time.

At The Women's Foundation, we know that we have a responsibility to women and girls, and to our community, to call the question and engage in the difficult and uncomfortable conversations that others may shy away from.

Chances are you or someone you know has faced nerve-wracking financial uncertainty at some point in life. You’ve worried about how to cover bills; find quality, affordable child care; or you’ve been frustrated by barriers preventing you from advancing your career.  

This is far too common a reality in the Washington region, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  Working together, we can achieve a better future 

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we know that while bold visions are needed to move the needle on poverty, bold actions are long overdue.   That’s why we recently launched Together We Thrive, our five-year strategic plan for achieving consistent economic stability for all women and girls in our region. 

During the first five years of Together We Thrive, we are committed to achieving the following: 

  1.  Advocate for improved policies on behalf of women and girls.
  2. Pilot new methods of philanthropy and community engagement as a way to drive greater philanthropic change in our community.
  3. Quintuple our investments in the region’s women and girls in order to reduce the number of women and families living in poverty.
  4. Embolden the entire Washington region to collectively invest an additional $100 million.

Making this bold vision of moving the nearly 500,000 women and girls living in poverty to a place of consistent economic stabilitya reality requires the commitment of our entire community.We are excited to get to work with elected officials, business and community leaders, philanthropists, and YOU to coordinate these efforts region-wide.

We’ve wasted no time in beginning to execute this plan.

  • In December we launched donor advised funds (DAFs), which will provide us with a tool to further engage women in their philanthropy and deepen the impact we’re having in the community.
  • We are working with the White House Council on Women and Girls and other women’s foundations across the country to craft a strategy focused on women and girls of color. In the coming months, we’ll be engaging in a series of listening sessions to hear directly from women and girls of color.
  • We are leading systems change work on child care in the region by funding, facilitating, and convening a new Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network. This network will be mapping competency-based career pathways that are linked to quality and compensation and can be used across the region. As a result of this work, our region is one of five states participating in a national network convened by the National Academy of Medicine to receive training and technical assistance as we craft our regional plan.

Join us in encouraging the growth of a model community and changing our region’s future. Read the entire plan, “Together We Thrive: Opening Doors to Prosperity for All Women and Girls in the DC Region” here. 

Washington Area Women's Foundation recently released a groundbreaking issue brief on women's philanthropy in the Washington region.  By combining first-hand experiences of philanthropists with a critical examination of regional and national data through a gender lens, we have found that turning the corner on poverty for women and girls within our region is within our grasp.

"I've experienced personally - and I think studies support this - that if you empower women, you will save the world, so that's why I like to give to women..."   -Lorena, Philanthropist in the Washington region

By our estimates, if every woman in our region with a net worth of $5 million or more contributed 0.1% of their wealth to programs tailored to the unique needs of women and girls, they could collectively invest at least $45 million - enough to have a significant impact on helping the nearly half-million women and girls living below or near poverty in our region attain economic security.

"Women never had money to give...Now we have wonderful women who are working hard and doing good jobs and getting paid a lot of money, and they need to know how to give." - Tamicka, Philanthropist in the Washington region

A rough estimation of woman's net worth in the Washington region is over $253 billion.  With this vast amount of resources, women have the potential to significantly grow philanthropy.  In fact, research shows that women proportionately donate more of their own wealth to benefit communities than men.  On average, high net worth women give close to four percent of their total net worth each year, which is twice as much as the two percent men give.

"I'm a big believer in outcomes and results.  I'm just a big believer in putting money where things are working best." - Eleanor, Philanthropist in the Washington region

The biggest challenge facing our community is not a lack of strategies to address the needs of the region's most economically vulnerable residents, but a lack of resources.  The complexity of poverty is overwhelming, but we have the expertise needed to do something about it, especially if we tap into the incredible giving power of women in our region. 

Join us and become a philanthropist with the unprecedented power and potential to change our community!

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Organization Information

Washington Area Women's Foundation

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Michelle Johnson
Development Associate
Washington, DC United States

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