13 December 2014

Ms. Foundation for Women calls for justice and an end to police violence

Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO Teresa C. Younger issued the following statement on December 12, 2014, in support of nationwide marches for justice and an end to police violence:

“In Sanford, Florida, Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and countless cities and towns across the country, systemic racism has trumped justice. The criminal justice system is broken and immediate federal action is required to fix it. President Obama has proposed measures to restore justice, including the formation of a new task force to promote effective policing while building public trust. We reiterate our call on Congress to support the president’s efforts – and to do even more.

”Every public official in this country needs to listen to the victims of the criminal justice system’s racism. We must lift up the voices of people of color and really listen to their everyday experiences. Florida. Missouri. New York. No place is safe if you are a person of color. Walking down the street with a bag of candy. Knocking on a door to ask for help with a broken car. Walking away from a police officer. Every activity is a perceived threat if you are a person of color.

“There are so many stories of men, boys, women and girls of color who have been victims of the criminal justice system’s racism, too many to list and far too many to dismiss as unfortunate mistakes or justified acts of self-defense. Yet, countless Americans continue to deny the plain truth: In America, the lives of people of color are not valued or respected.

“The systemic racism of the criminal justice system is at the root of the wholesale slaughter of people of color. Until we fix that, people of color will continue to live in fear and lives will continue to be lost. We must dismantle the system that kills and unjustly imprisons people of color and rebuild it together, with all of us at the table – women and men of all colors, LGBTQ people, young and old, immigrants and Native people, rich and poor, people with disabilities. Every voice must be heard and valued.

“We stand and march with people across the country who will take the streets on Saturday to call for justice and demand an end to police violence. We commit to continuing to organize dissent, raise our voices in outrage and demand reforms to build a nation of justice for all.”


For 40 years, the Ms. Foundation for Women has secured women's rights and freedoms with a special commitment to building the power of low-income, immigrant and women of color. The foundation invests funds, time, expertise and training in nearly 100 trailblazing organizations nationwide.

28 November 2014

Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa C. Younger on the Ray Rice appeal

This issue is not going away for the NFL . . .

While we are disappointed in the rationale of the decision to overturn Ray Rice’s suspension, this has always been about more than one case. This issue is not going away for the NFL.

Despite and because of the repeated fumbles in handling the Rice case, the NFL is at a crossroad. There is much talk of moving forward with bold and effective new policies and programs to change the culture of football. Now, Commissioner Goodell and the NFL franchises must walk the talk. They must dismantle the sexist machine that is the NFL and rebuild it to respect and include women at all levels.
Public service announcements are a great start. But we want and demand more. Specifically, the NFL and its franchises must:
  • Respect women’s voices, including cheerleaders, and integrate women into its workforce of executives, coaches, referees and players – and ensure that women of all colors have equal representation at its tables of power;
  • Require all of its vendors and advertisers to respect and value women too; 
  • Be culturally competent, inclusive and transparent – including women, people of color and LGBT people among the architects of all NFL policies and programs – not only those pertaining to violence against women; and
  • Further invest in programs that benefit women and will change the culture of sexism within football.

26 November 2014

Thankful for Our Feminist Foremothers

Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa C. Younger share her Thanksgiving reflections . . .

This Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how grateful I am for women who paved the way for me. From Sojourner Truth to Gloria Steinem, I appreciate the blood, sweat and tears our foremothers sacrificed in their fight for women’s rights. I also appreciate the friendship and mentoring that has helped me every step of the way on my path Finally, I am especially grateful for all the supporters who help move our work for women forward. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “Sometimes, idealistic people are put off the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people.”

I couldn’t agree more. One of my early mentors told me that I have an obligation to introduce two people to each other each day. That’s because she knew that networking is essential – not only to our success as individuals, but also to further our cause for women’s empowerment collectively. We need to expand our networks, mentor other women and constantly create new circles of collaboration to build the strength we need to be successful.

Networking is part of my listening tour. During a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I was able to meet with a host of women leaders, including the heads of women’s funds there and some of their grantees. Thanks to current and past Ms. Foundation board chairs Heather Arnet and Cathy Raphael, we were able to strengthen our ties to allies there. By making those connections in Pittsburgh, we’re going to be more effective as we continue our work for women throughout the country. Forging stronger relationships with women’s state and local funds will enable us to coordinate on campaigns and initiatives where our issues intersect, maximizing both resources and impact.

My advice to all women: Make as many connections as possible. Build your personal network of contacts, friends and mentors. Do your bit to help another woman. All of us have something to offer; mentoring is not only for executives. After your first weeks on a job, there is always someone coming up behind you. Reach out and help her – even if it’s only to offer small bits of advice or information.

Don’t confine your networking to work. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a basketball game, community meeting or doctor’s appointment, don’t miss the opportunity to make connections. And be sure to use your connections to help the causes and organizations that you support.

Women account for half (or more) of the population. Imagine what we could accomplish if we all worked together. This month, try to make one new contact or mentor someone. Sisterhood truly is powerful – but only if we commit to helping our sisters.

Thank you for all that you do!

09 September 2014

Ms. Foundation for Women Calls Foul on NFL

Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO Teresa Younger issued a statement following the NFL’s response to video footage of Ravens player Ray Rice brutally attacking his then-fiancé.

“The public outcry upon seeing videotape of Ray Rice brutally attacking his then fiancé was loud enough to prod Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Ravens to impose stronger penalties – removing Rice from football, at least for now.

“This latest reminder of the NFL’s violence against women problem renews concerns about its new policy, which only begins to tackle the issue of domestic violence among NFL players and fails to address the larger issues of other forms of violence against women and rampant misogyny within the NFL.

“From the skimpy, sexualized “uniforms” cheerleaders are forced to wear to the denigrating ads during big games from companies like Go Daddy, the NFL shows a pattern of sexism. Even now, the commissioner appears to fall short of implementing systemic change that will get at the root cause of the violence. He may have dropped the ball again by failing to move bold initiatives that do more than punish players by actually supporting women.

“The NFL must stop promoting sexism on and off of the field – and start promoting women. (Perhaps it’s time for the commissioner to step aside and a woman to step up.) Goodell must lead by example and show that he and the NFL value women, including women’s leadership in and contributions to football.

“As fans, we should be demanding a higher standard of accountability and responsibility from football players and officials. In fact, Goodell only seems to take stronger action when the public outcry has been loud.

“Sports fans, we need to demand better. We have the power to force the NFL to change. Join the Ms. Foundation in calling on Goodell to be a leader in ending violence against women.”

08 July 2014

Ms. Foundation grantee's initiative improves women's health with a question...

The following article about the Oregon Women's Health Foundation's initiative to improve women's health by having doctors ask "one key question" appears in Slate Magazine:

“Would You Like to Become Pregnant in the Next Year?”

A simple, routine question can improve health care.

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case may keep access to contraception out of reach for many women. In sharp contrast, a new program in Oregon puts reproductive health care front and center for all women.

The Oregon initiative, called One Key Question, aims to make sure that during each medical visit, a woman of reproductive age is asked: “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?”

25 April 2014

Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program hailed for raising standards for low-wage workers

Ms. Foundation for Women grantee the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is featured in a New York Times article about its Fair Food Program. The article reports that the program has been hailed as one of the most effective efforts to raise standards for low-wage workers:
“'This is the best workplace-monitoring program I’ve seen in the U.S.,' said Janice R. Fine, a labor relations professor at Rutgers. 'It can certainly be a model for agriculture across the U.S. If anybody is going to lead the way and teach people how it’s done, it’s them.'”
 The Fair Food Program implements standards to raise wages and safety standards, including policies to stop verbal and sexual harassment. Key to its success, enforcement of the standards is not left to the employers:
"A former New York State judge, Laura Safer Espinoza, oversees the inspection apparatus, which interviews thousands of workers, audits payrolls and conducts in-depth interviews with farm managers.  There are lengthy trainings for crew leaders, and six of them were fired after her team investigated allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment."
Click here to read the entire article. 

24 April 2014

Take Our Daughters to Work Day -- 21 years later

Take Our Daughters to Work Day: The Trojan Horse
by Marie Wilson, Ms. Foundation for Women honorary founding mother and president emerita

Today (Thursday, April 24, 2014), we will again celebrate Take Our Daughters to Work Day; the program that The Ms. Foundation for Women launched in April of 1993.

Based on research by Carol Gilligan and her colleagues at Harvard, Take Our Daughters to Work Day’s publicly stated goal was strengthening the honest voices of pre-adolescent girls by linking them to adults who cared about girls' lives, and introducing them to the workplaces they would eventually enter.

It did its job and changed the lives of millions of girls across the US and the world. But for the foundation, it was also a Trojan Horse.

Since the research showed that pre-adolescent girls resisted losing their truth-telling authentic voices, we knew our young female visitors would remind adult women of the voices of fairness and justice that they themselves once used, but subsequently silenced.

And our daughters did not disappoint!

In the workplaces, girls asked probing questions about women, men and work:  why are you investing in tobacco when you don’t want me to smoke?” “Why aren’t there more women in the newsroom?”  “Your job is boring…didn’t you ever want to do anything else?”

The first year, we toyed with a press conference to reveal our broader vision. At the close of the day we would have some of our adult hosts speak about what these “outsider” observations taught them. But we chickened out.

Eventually, however, we heard stories from workplaces where girls’ viewpoints altered ad campaigns, policies and even provoked evaluations of long held practices.

Plus there were the moving stories of girls who looked at their parent’s work through a different lens, and took pride in working class jobs that the world does not always honor. As a daughter of the working class, it moved me when girls wrote us about seeing how valuable the work of a parent was; especially when the job was one often undervalued by society.

Anywhere I travel, young women come up to tell me how this day changed their lives. I’m glad to report that many of them are working on ways that they can play it forward.

The justice seeking voices of girls will enter the workplaces again this week. But once more, their voices will not just be directed at the workplace; they will often challenge the unfairness that our country is struggling with today.

This is the work that we all need to be taken to. My hope is that our daughter’s voices and their justice-seeking questions will strengthen our resolve to be a fairer society; one that works for all our nation’s children.

18 April 2014

Effort to protect farmworkers from sexual assault is gaining momentum

From the Coalition of Immokalee Workers blog:

“The Fair Food Program is a transformative, model program”

study conducted in 2010 found that 80% of farmworker women report that they have experienced sexual harassment on the job.  That number is incomprehensible, until you stop to think of the immense imbalance of power between workers and their employers that defines most farm labor jobs.  The near total dependence of many farmworkers on their bosses — for everything from employment to, in many cases, housing, transportation, and, in the case of guest workers, even their right to live and work in the country — is the kind of relationship that lends itself to abuse.  As a result, sexual harassment in the fields is effectively endemic, and has been for decades.
In one sector of the agricultural industry, though, that devastating story is starting to change, and two recent articles highlight the gains women farmworkers are seeing in the Florida tomato industry today thanks to the Fair Food Program (FFP).  In the words of the CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo, who worked for years in the tomato harvest before joining the CIW staff two years ago to help educate her fellow workers on their rights under the FFP, “When we arrive home at the end of the day, we can hug our children happily, knowing that we didn’t have to sell our dignity in the fields.  We brought it home with us.”

01 April 2014

National Latina Institute for Health takes the fight for women's health to the UN

Taking the Fight for Reproductive Justice to the United Nations...

"[There is a] health-care crisis—not only for the women in the [Rio Grande] Valley but for millions of other women in the country."

Ms. Foundation grantee the National Latina Institute for Health (NLIRH) recently traveled to Geneva to share their report: "Nuestra Salud, Nuestra Voz, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Reproductive Health Care in the Rio Grande Valley." Lucy Felix,  field coordinator the NLIRH Texas Latina Advocacy Network/Red de Abogacía de Latinas de Texas, tells the story of her trip to deliver the report on RH Reality Check:

Every single day, I talk to Latinas and immigrant women across the Rio Grande Valley, listening to their stories, hearing about their families, and teaching them how to stay healthy. Last month, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to travel to Geneva with our allies from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and speak before the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of all of the women in my Texas community who are suffering from a lack of reproductive health care. It was my opportunity to tell them everything I have heard and spotlight the urgency of this health-care crisis—not only for the women in the Valley but for millions of other women in the country.

Read the rest of Lucy's story.

14 March 2014

Ms. Foundation for Women Fellow Lindsay Rosenthal speaks out about child sexual abuse and girls in the juvenile justice system in today's New York Times (March 14, 2014). Responding to an article about access to health care for incarcerated people, Lindsay shines a light on the particular obstacles that girl in the juvenile justice system face -- especially those who are victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

11 March 2014

Ms. Foundation for Women grantee the VERA Institute for Justice has published an important new report, "Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities: A National Snapshot."

Here is an excerpt:

Children with disabilities are three times more likely than children without them to be victims of sexual 
abuse, and the likelihood is even higher for children with certain types of disabilities, such as intellectual or mental health disabilities.

However, sexual abuse of children with disabilities has not garnered the attention of policymakers, 
practitioners, advocates, or community members. These children are also less likely to receive victim services and supports that are more readily available to other victims because of a variety of factors including barriers to reporting and a lack of responses tailored to meet their unique needs. Without receiving support, these children suffer serious long-term aftereffects, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, as well as an increased risk of victimization in adulthood.

Click here to read the entire report.

30 January 2014

Raise the minimum wage for all workers

by Ms. Foundation for Women Program Officer Aleyamma Mathew

During his State of the Union address, the president of the United States announced that he would issue an executive order that will raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. In making the announcement, the president challenged Congress to follow his lead by raising the federal minimum wage for all workers.

Missing from the debate are workers who are paid the federal “tipped” minimum wage (also known as the subminimum wage that is paid to workers in certain jobs that traditionally are tipped). Currently, the tipped minimum wage is only $2.13 per hour. The workers paid this rate, who are predominantly women and often are the head of household, struggle to support themselves and their families.

According to a report released by Ms. Foundation grantee the Restaurant Opportunities Center, "[t]he vast majority of restaurant workers are unable to provide basic economic security to themselves and their families, meaning they must routinely choose what necessities their families will forego as they struggle to make ends meet."

As we embark upon a national dialogue about income inequality or opportunity, we must not leave behind the millions of women – and men – who are paid a subminimum wage. These workers must work multiple jobs to make ends meet. They struggle to cobble together child care – often during evening and night shifts, and often at unaffordable prices.

The restaurant industry – one of the fastest growing – impacts 10 million workers in this country.  Seventy percent of restaurant servers are women.  The scales of economic justice are tipped out of balance, and women bear the brunt of the injustice. This occupational segregation of women in low-wage jobs makes improving wages a top priority for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

It’s time to raise the tipped minimum wage and to improve the working conditions of tipped workers. Doing so is not only good for the workers and their families; it’s good for our communities and the economic future of our country.