Saturday, August 27, 2011

Women's Initiative Talks Job Creation with Nancy Pelosi

By: Ellen Snook, Marketing Communications Director 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Microfinance: A New Approach to Preventing HIV/AIDS

By: Guest Blogger, Sara Eisenstaedt, Microenterprise Fellow

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Celebrate the Power of Women Entrepreneurs!

By: Ellen Snook, Marketing Communications Director

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lack of Financing Putting the Brakes on Startups

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Congressman George Miller Meets with Graduates

By: Guest Blogger, Theresa McMenomy, Microenterprise Fellow

Friday, February 18, 2011

Non-Profits not Necessary?

By: Guest Blogger, Gabriel Germanow, Women’s Initiative Fellow

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Latinos in a Digital Divide

By: Guest Blogger, J. Lopez

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beware of Immigration Scams

By: Elizabeth De Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

Monday, February 7, 2011

Empowerment: Getting Women Working in a Women’s America

By Guest Blogger, Matt Borden

It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing. That's what a robust democracy demands. That's what helps set us apart as a nation.

President Obama uttered these lines introducing his third State of the Union Address. Women stood with the president as he made his way down the center aisle. The 112th congress sat down in a new seating arrangement, democrat next to republican, with hope to restore civility on the hill and to display respect for representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

17 women form a record 17% of the Senate. At a record 17.47%, 76 of the 435 members of Congress are women. Currently 3 of the 9 Supreme Court justices are women in large part due to recent appointments. 7 was the record for most women serving as state governors at 14% until Sarah Palin resigned, leaving 6 current women governors at 12%.

The president’s speech follows a fierce two years of vibrant and at times aggressive political opposition. Obama mentioned winning the future as a nation, hopefully an economically secure future that women are becoming more a part of everyday. But how, you ask, can our future look so good if right now things are looking so bad? That has to do with the very thread of our liberal society.

By liberal I don’t mean elitist, blue-state democrats. On the contrary, I mean to include anyone who supports a legitimate democracy. The ideas that make up classic liberalism are so obvious and accepted today that we hardly stop to think carefully about them or what it means to live in a liberal society.

The fact that the United States is a liberal society is made evident by the value we place on material goods. This is why I was able to count no fewer than 200 different cereal options during my last trip to the supermarket. That we are a liberal society is why more women are now graduating from college than men are. Individualism, competition, the right to property, small government, and private business, these values are all a part of classic liberalism.

Liberalism is the American ideology because as a culture, the United States has formed its social conventions upon these founding principles. The way we think about ourselves in relation to others, status, what we conceive of as progress or achievement and how we work for it, the status quo, indeed our whole worldview is largely shaped by liberal values.

So you might be thinking, what does any of this have to do with a secure future for women? Loads. I’m talking about entitlement, enfranchisement, and empowerment. Aminur Rahman of the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada studies the social impact of microcredit on women in the Third World. He makes a fundamental distinction between entitlement, enfranchisement, and empowerment.

As Rahman explains in his book, Women and Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh, entitlement is one’s prerogative; it is their right to having something, be it a material good or a right or a freedom. Enfranchisement describes one’s ability to participate in decisions about their own entitlement. Empowerment is about action; it is the power one evokes by acting on their rights or freedoms. These three E’s can be thought of as steps in a staircase because reaching a higher step necessitates the successful achievement of an earlier step.

These three E’s are useful for thinking about how women are laying claim to their rightful position in American public culture. In fact just to think that women are deserving of equal status is testimony to the entitlement women now hold. Suffrage, or the civil right to vote, is also known as “political franchise.” Congress voted to pass the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution granting women’s suffrage in 1920. Women became legally entitled to the same rights as men that year. But this is not to say that men and women have nothing left to strive for.
It is a fact that women doing the same work at the same job are paid less than men.

There exist large gaps between the sexes in metrics measuring income, wealth, and business ownership. If the government distribution amongst the sexes weren’t skewed enough, reports suggest only 13% of partners at Goldman Sachs (Wall Street’s elite) are women. These contrasts suggest real equality is not a historical event but a significant goal America is still working towards. The good news is that gaps in economic and political achievement are narrowing steadily. The beauty of our liberal nation is that real equality can be achieved in a foreseeable future.

Women’s Initiative works to empower women by helping them realize that they have the power to build assets, be safe, and achieve prosperity. Woman leadership and self-employment are not about politics or ideology but about taking ownership and making equality an active process with lasting results, starting with business. These positive changes in business translate as social empowerment in every other part of women’s lives. Women can make a big impact in winning the future by working for themselves. Business and competition care not about sex or gender but about merit because as our president said tonight, it is what our democracy demands.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Microenterprise: An exciting idea for job creation

Liz Hamburg, president of Upstart Ventures and a supporter of Women's Initiative in New York, just posted about microenterprise and job creation on her Huffington Post blog. Check it out here:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

OpEd urges Gov. Brown to stimulate homegrown business

Claudia Viek, CEO of the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, has a great opinion piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle making the case for microenterprise development and job creation. Check out her insightful piece here:

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Plan for Creating New and Rewarding Jobs

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

With unemployment rates still well over 9% nationally and poverty at an all-time high, I have been struggling since President Obama’s State of the Union Address this week to understand how the president’s plan is going to create new and rewarding jobs, especially for those hit hardest by the recession – women and women of color.

Although most new job creation in the US has been in small business and most small business growth is happening among women- and immigrant-owned business, the president’s plan does little to leverage the most promising area for job creation in the US – microenterprises run by women and immigrant entrepreneurs.

The tax write offs for small business that the president mentioned will have the greatest benefits for the small businesses with the highest revenues. These tax write offs will have little impact on microenterprises, which by definition require relatively little capital investment.

Women’s Initiative graduates created and retained 3,818 jobs in the Bay Area in 2010 alone. This is an impressive number but microenterprise organizations like Women’s Initiative are only serving a fraction of their potential target population because of lack of funding and government support.
In fact, an investment in microenterprise development would address some of the other issues the president spoke about, including the need for public investments in R&D and clean transportation and energy technologies in order to compete with other nations such as India and China. Small firms in the US produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms; these patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited. In addition, the majority of Women’s Initiative graduates start “green” businesses with innovative approaches to eliminating pollution and keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum.

Finally, the president spoke about our need for educational reform to meet the growing demand for a college educated workforce. The most powerful determinants of a child’s educational success are the mother’s employment status and income. There are millions of low-income mothers who dream of starting a business today so she can support her family and provide a safe, secure future for her children.

Everyone deserves a Ms. Waters, the principle the president told us the students thanked for showing them that they were smart and could make it. The women entrepreneurs who come to Women’s Initiative build lasting connections to a network of supportive women who show them that they are smart and can make it and 70% are still in business five years after training.
A plan to win the future must include microenterprise development for women and women of color and the support they need to win a future for themselves, their families, and communities.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Realizing King's Dream

By: Ellen Snook, Director of Marketing & Communication

Today, as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, I am reminded that his fight was not just for racial equality, but also for economic equality. In April 1967, he addressed this issue in a speech at Stanford Univeristy:

There are literally two Americas . One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America , millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity

But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America . This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

But we must see that the struggle today is much more difficult. It’s more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. And it’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.

With poverty at an all-time high and the wealth gap at record highs as well, King’s “Other America” continues to be all too real. It continues to be true that women, women of color and single mothers run the greatest risk of living in poverty. 

Every day at Women’s Initiative, we see the power of economic equality. Women who have become successful business women and increased their income and assets improve the lives of themselves, their families, and their communities. They're pulling themselves up, regaining dignity and feeling safe and secure. By achieving economic self sufficiency and becoming community leaders, these women not only are living their own dream, but Dr. King's as well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Challenges in the Year Ahead

By: Elizabeth de Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

Reading the news at the start of this year, I learned in Equality, a True Soul Food (NYT 1/1/2011) that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possesses a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent.

Let that sink in…

Almost all of the people in America own collectively less than the wealthiest one percent! Trying to imagine this, I see a room of 100 people. If 90 of these people owned one car, the one hundredth would own more than ninety cars!

In reality though, we know that many of those ninety people wouldn’t even own a car or have enough to afford basic expenses such as medical care, housing, or food.

Inequality isn’t just a problem impacting the poorest of the poor. It impacts everyone, causing anxiety and distrust as well as mental and physical ailments such as heart disease, suicide, and cancer. There is much evidence that violent crime such as gang violence is directly related to inequality.

In 2010 Women’s Initiative helped 895 women become economically self-sufficient and create 3,818 jobs for themselves and others through their businesses but inequality still grew at a faster pace nationally. Our challenge in 2011 will be to scale our programs even faster, so every woman in the US will know she has the power to keep her family safe, build assets and achieve prosperity.