an Economic Initiative for Women in Arkansas 

The goal of Women Empowered is to ensure economic security for all Arkansas women, as well as improve the financial futures of those who have already achieved economic security. Through this initiative we educate, advocate, and innovate around issues of women’s economic security, such as asset building, access to capital, and the wealth gap. 

We collaborate with stakeholders throughout the state to support policies, programs, and initiatives that work to close the gender and racial wealth gap. We inform our work through our own research, as well as the research of others. As part of this initiative we are part of the Arkansas chapter of the Asset Funder’s Network where we also participate in the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative. 

The WFA is currently seeking funding partners to support the operational capacity and research efforts of the WFA to build its newest initiative, Women Empowered (WE). With funding, WFA will be able to shift WE from a programming format to a strategic, systemic economic policy initiative for women in Arkansas. Funds would support our steering committee, operations, and research, all of which will enable us to build WE in an efficient, methodical, and responsible way. In the first 6-12 months of work we hope to:

  1. Diversify the Women Empowered Committee with a concentration on recruiting members who add new perspectives as well as important content expertise.
  2. Produce a research report on the economic status of women in Arkansas, in partnership with University of Arkansas – Little Rock, funding will offset the costs of a graduate student researcher, research committee capacity, and printing/publication of research report.
  3. Create a short-term and long-term realistic action plan for WFA staff and the Women Empowered Steering Committee members that includes roles and responsibilities.
  4. Map other philanthropic investments, especially among funders investing in Arkansas, related to reducing debt and promoting economic security and capability for low- and moderate-income individuals.

The statistics for women in Arkansas paint a bleak portrait of their economic opportunity. Only 20% of women hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, with the overall state average hovering around 23% – all compared to the national average of 41%. Around 18% of women live in poverty and 41% of single parent households with children live in poverty, with 80% of single parent households led by women. While these numbers only provide a general sketch, the need for WE is clear. Women’s wealth and economic status depend on access and opportunities in affordable childcare, education, and asset ownership, as well as public policies that shape this access. We want WE to tackle these issues and identify and work on them in a meaningful and effective way.

WFA envisions a multiphase process for launching WE, which includes recruiting a steering committee, conducting feasibility research, and constructing a solid operating framework from which this new initiative will operate.

Our steering committee is already assembled and is comprised of women leaders in the following sectors: non-profit, business, education, government, and finance. One committee member is a consultant, whose participation has been awarded to us by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation with the express purpose of advising us on WE development. Together with this committee, we expect to identify needs, targets, and solutions in getting WE off the ground and running in 2018.