This International Women’s Day, we’re taking a step back and examining the unique barriers women face to achieving economic security. We must stay committed to eroding these barriers if we hope to improve the lives of low-income people.
As part of International Women’s Day, people across the country and around the world are pausing to recognize the invaluable contributions of women in every field, every sector, and every community. But they’re also organizing around #DayWithoutAWoman, staging walkouts and other demonstrations to bring attention to persistent barriers that are unique to women—barriers that are magnified for women of color, women experiencing poverty, trans women, and others. In this important historical moment, we must stand firm in our commitment to improving lives in these communities.
At Living Cities, we are committed to scaling strategies that create living wage jobs and enable families to build wealth. Ensuring that women are supported through these strategies must be an explicit priority. The wage gap is still significant. Access to healthcare is limited and creates unfair financial burdens on women. Workplace policies often hinder progress, too, and access to capital for women entrepreneurs is severely limited.
In a recent survey of tech startups, 61% of founders said their boards are all-male. In the same survey, respondents predicted that tech startups are, on average, 14 years away from matching the gender and ethnic makeup of the United States. More than a quarter believe it’s more than 20 years away.
And even more surprisingly, asked if their organization has a strategy to promote diversity and inclusion, only 14% of founders responded that they have formal plans or policies in place.
We can’t be satisfied waiting for the status quo to move at a glacial pace. Philanthropy and the business community have an important role to play. We must step up in a big way, building on investments like the BuildNOLA Mobilization Fund, which helps minority- and women-owned businesses in New Orleans compete for city contracts, and the Urban Innovation Fund, which invests in early-stage social innovators with an emphasis on women and people of color.
So far, 76% of startups supported by the Urban Innovation Fund have had a woman or person of color on the founding team. With dedication and commitment, I believe we can move much closer to this number and close other gender-based gaps in employment, income, and wealth among women in U.S. cities. I’m proud of my own employees who’ve taken the time today to stand up for these principles and commit to having Living Cities continue to live up to them every day.