The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham is set to advocate comprehensive public policy to accelerate economic opportunity for women.

Imagine a working mom with a young child juggling two jobs to make ends meet. To cover her basic needs like child care (which averages $7,000 annually in Alabama), transportation, housing, and food, she needs an annual income of more than $40,000. But the reality is that she’s probably only making half that—about $20,000 per year, the median income for single, working mothers in Alabama. One unexpected expense or medical emergency could be the difference between having enough money for groceries and diapers or falling behind on rent and utility payments.

As Alabama’s first and only philanthropic foundation investing with a gender lens, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has been working to change this reality since 1996. In the last two decades, we have invested over $5 million in innovative solutions that accelerate economic opportunities for women and their whole families, transforming the lives of over 5,100 women and their children. Yet too many women and their families continue to experience complex social conditions that philanthropy alone cannot address.

In order to have a more holistic impact, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has made the deliberate decision to formally engage in state-level advocacy and intentionally pursue public policies that create long-lasting, systemic change for women.

Over 490,000 Alabama women experience in poverty—more than the combined populations of Birmingham and Mobile. Simultaneously, the Alabama Workforce Council predicts a shortage of 500,000 skilled workers by 2025. When considered together, these two statistics speak not only to a problem, but also to a solution that centers women as a key driver of their family’s economic success and meets the demand of the state’s growing workforce shortage.

By applying a comprehensive strategy that not only addresses the state’s workforce crisis, but concurrently moves people beyond poverty, we are strategically positioned to expand our vision to help shift this paradigm.

“When state leaders champion practical, common-sense policy solutions that optimize women’s economic potential, the result is stronger families, stronger communities, and a better Alabama for us all,” says Melanie R. Bridgeforth, President & CEO. “Beyond our philanthropy, we see advocacy as a powerful tool to impact social change. The release of the Agenda for Women, our long-term strategy for removing barriers to economic opportunity, is an intentional step off the sidelines and into the game. We welcome the charge of building power and influence to represent the voice of women at all levels of state policy and decision-making.”

The 2019 Agenda for Women includes the following top priorities:

  • Make work work: Alabama has the nation’s second lowest labor participation rate in the country. The state cannot maximize its economic growth without full participation of numerous targeted groups, including women. We advocate alignment of the state’s workforce development structures and public investment and scaling of proven models—including education, training, and critical wraparound supports—that propel more women into in-demand jobs. Such opportunities both bolster economic stability for families and simultaneously address the state’s workforce challenges. Additionally, we advocate for wages and family-friendly workplace supports such as childcare and flexible hours that put women squarely in the drivers’ seat of their own economic success.
  • Elevate quality child care: More than 60 percent of employed Alabama mothers have young children, making access to quality child care essential for women’s full participation in the labor market. Advancing policy priorities such as family-forward tax credits that put money back in the pockets of businesses, child care providers, and parents helps elevate quality child care, putting it in reach for working families.
  • Expand affordable healthcare: Physical and mental health greatly impact a family’s ability to thrive. Better health outcomes for women lead to better health outcomes for their children. Protecting and expanding Medicaid would provide health insurance for an additional 152,000 in Alabama women and stimulate economic and jobs growth for our state.

We will also actively monitor and intervene on additional issues during the regular legislative session that significantly impact the economic security of women.

“Philanthropy is the heart and soul of what we do and that will never change,” Bridgeforth continued. One of our primary roles as a grantmaker is to develop, test, and deliver proven models for solving complex social problems which we’ve done successfully since our inception. We know the key ingredients proven to increase economic stability for women; now we must elevate our reach beyond impacting the lives of 5,000 women to tackling big-picture common-sense policy solutions that transform the lives of all Alabama women. That’s the power of advocacy and that’s where we must show up.”

For a better future for all Alabamians, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham encourages all state and local decision makers, community leaders, employers, and voters to galvanize around smart solutions proposed in our Agenda for Women to strengthen and create economic opportunities for all families across Alabama.

Join us at Capitol Heels on April 25 to learn more about the Agenda for women. Capitol Heels, our first-ever legislative advocacy day, will be an inspiring dialogue on public policy solutions to accelerate economic opportunity for women, including in-depth discussions with elected officials on issues impacting women. Click here for details and registration.

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