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Vermont Women’s Fund builds strong partnerships with private and public sectors

Change The Story

In Vermont, 43% of women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses, such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare. To radically change the story for these women, Vermont Women’s Fund decided they needed to scale their efforts. To do this: they needed partners.

In 2014, they committed $90,000 a year to a 3-year initiative called “Change the Story.” By partnering with Vermont’s Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women, and through support from several local philanthropic foundations, they have almost doubled their initial financial commitment. The annual budget for Change the Story is now nearly $145,000 a year – proof that strong partnerships can make all the difference.

The partners are tackling the issue from three directions: policy, program, and philanthropy. “The initiative is animated by the idea that women’s economic status will change only when state, business, and community leaders embrace and take action on the belief that gender matters,” said Tiffany Bluemle, executive director of Vermont Works for Women.

Engaging policymakers is critical. To do this, Change the Story has funded research to create a series of data-driven reports, including the broad-state level report Women, Work, and Wages in Vermont (January 2016) and the nuanced report of women at work in the state Where Vermont Women Work … and Why It Matters (April 2016). Two more are on the way.

State agencies, advocates, business organizations, and higher education institutions have widely embraced the findings. Both reports are featured on the Vermont Department of Labor’s website, and the state legislature has included Change the Story in developing a state dashboard to measure economic progress. The reports are cited in the Vermont Workforce Investment Board’s initiative Let’s Grow Kids, as well as state initiatives to increase the number of Vermonters who complete college.

By arming themselves with key data on women in the workforce, Change the Story has also been invited to work with two of Vermont’s major business alliances: Vermont Business Roundtable and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

These reports also clearly demonstrate that women in Vermont are significantly more likely than men to live in economic insecurity and are not gaining access into highly paid jobs. Where Vermont Women Work … and Why It Matters revealed that “50% of women who work full-time earn less than $35,000 as compared to 13% of all men.” Clearly, there was a need for Change the Story to look at pipeline issues preventing women access into higher paid science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs.

In 2014, only 18% of women nationwide were earning computer science degrees compared to 40% in the mid 1980s. In February 2016, Change the Story partnered with Vermont Technical College to recruit more women students into STEM courses. The project aims to increase its female enrollment by 15 to 25 percent over the next three years – one piece of the puzzle.

Another piece is culture. To engage employers in changing the experiences of women’s work, Change the Story kick started the Business Peer Exchange program. By bringing together 11 local businesses for monthly meetings, the began sharing ideas and talking about gender diversity in the workplace, building the case that diversity has a positive impact on the corporate bottom line.

Finally: they invested in leaders. For this, they introduced “Vermont FabFems,” an online, national database of women in STEM professions who are inspiring role models for young women. It is accessible to young women, girl-serving STEM programs, and other organizations that are working to increase career awareness and interest in STEM. Bluemle believes “women and girls benefit tremendously from seeing and learning about women working in nontraditional fields, and this database is one way for that to happen.”

Change the Story is not envisioned as a long-term initiative, it is intended to connect and support allies who are committed to generating awareness of women’s economic vulnerability and supporting public, private, and nonprofit policies and programs that are critical to advancing women.

Read more about Change the Story here.

Bulgarian Fund for Women’s Provocative Campaign to Put a Face to Gender-Based Violence


One in four Bulgarian women—that is over one million—are victims of physical or sexual violence.

Of these women, 67% did not report these acts of violence to the authorities due to feelings of guilt or shame. With the #Every4th campaign, the Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) decided it was time to change this.

Through an animated video (above), their 16-day, call-to-action campaign asked: What is the true face of violence?

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New Report: Partnership for Women’s Prosperity

Advancing women and girls’ economic security is more than a women’s issue—it is also a catalyst for family and community change.

Formed in 2011, the Partnership for Women’s Prosperity (PWP) is a national partnership of six leading women’s foundations and the Women’s Funding Network working together to unleash the economic power of all women — community by community. PWP supports the efforts of economically vulnerable women to gain financial and economic security through education, job training, and employment opportunities. Read More

Spark: Engaging Millennials in Policy Advocacy

Spark is educating and training the next generation of philanthropists to invest in the advancement of gender equality around the globe. For over ten years they’ve been engaging millennials in fundraising and crowd-sourced grantmaking programs—now they’re taking on policy advocacy.

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Prosperity Together Launches $100 Million Commitment to Women’s Economic Security

On November 13, at the White House Council on Women and Girls “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color” summit, Prosperity Together—a coalition of 28 women’s foundations—announced a commitment of $100 million toward advancing women’s economic security. Cynthia Nimmo, CEO of Women’s Funding Network, was there.

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New Reports: Most States Fall Short on Work and Family Policies and Women’s Political Leadership

Two new reports released today in the Status of Women in the States: 2015 series, published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), find that most states fall far short on work and family policies and women’s political leadership.

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New IWPR Report Shines a Spotlight on Women’s Health and Safety Across the U.S.

New data released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), as part of its Status of Women in the States: 2015 series, finds wide disparities across the states and among racial/ethnic groups when it comes to women’s health and safety.

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Women More Likely to Live in Poverty in Every U.S. State, Despite Gains in Higher Education

Women have higher rates of poverty and much lower rates of business ownership than men in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, despite having made significant progress over the last 25 years in attaining a college education. Read More

The Future of Women-Led Philanthropy

On October 28th, Women’s Funding Network hosted an intimate gathering of over 40 Bay Area leaders to discuss the Future of Women-Led Philanthropy.

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Cultivating a New Generation of Donors

Spark’s Amanda Brock gives Women’s Funding Network the scoop on how her organization has succeeded in engaging Millennials in philanthropy…and how we can too!

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