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.