Financial Stability for Vermont Women & Families
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 4:30 PM
Elley-Long Music Center
Saint Michael's College
223 Ethan Allen Ave
Colchester, VT 05446
by Michell Langlais & Linda Tarr-Whelan
You are a mother of two children living in Vermont. Like other mothers, you have high hopes and aspirations for your children. You want them to have the opportunity to succeed in school, find meaningful work and raise healthy families. You, however, are raising them alone and caught in a seemingly impossible economic bind. You are stressed, frustrated and concerned because you struggle to afford your family’s most basic needs – food, housing, heat, daycare, transportation, health insurance and doctor’s visits. You worry that your challenges are lasting and will affect their future.
You are not alone. Hundreds of Vermont women share your challenge. According to the State of Working Vermont 2014, 46% of married couples with children and 81% of single mothers earn too little to meet basic needs. The current minimum wage is $9.15 per hour – only 58% of what it takes for one person to live. Over 50% of mom-only households with children under 5 years of age are living in poverty, and one in 5 women are considered poor. We believe these statistics are unnecessarily grim; supporting our sisters, daughters, mothers and friends is a responsibility we all share. How can we work together to bend the trend and improve the economic stability of women and their families?
United Way of Chittenden County’s newly formed Women’s Leadership Council is a community of women intent on making a difference. The Council harnesses the power of women to engage, educate and empower others to become leaders and actively participate in the betterment of our community. We invest time, talent, influence and resources to be true agents of change through giving, advocacy and volunteerism.
Women’s Leadership Councils are part of a national movement of United Way. More than 63,000 women in 135 cities have united based on the belief that when caring, committed women get together to create change, anything is possible. Over the last 10 years the local Councils nationwide have raised over $1 billion to support signature issues in their home communities. Their effectiveness is even stronger when these financial resources are matched to advocacy and volunteering.
Locally, United Way of Chittenden County’s Women’s Leadership Council is proud to be among other several excellent organizations with a deep reservoir of dedicated women working to support fellow women, including the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Commission on Women, the Greater Burlington Women’s Forum and EmergeVT. Even with all this good work, with new state policies on flexible work and minimum wage, and a statewide discussion about paid sick leave, there is still much to do.
United way of Chittenden County’s Women’s Leadership Council adopted financial stability for Vermont women and families as our signature issue. We recently issued a call for proposals for programs and services with potential to improve income stability strategic change in education/skill development, family resources and supports, and financial literacy. The proposals we received and reviewed as a volunteer Council are a snapshot of the many meaningful programs with potential solutions to change the lives of women in our community who struggle. They highlight multiple ways to promote personal financial empowerment, offer new training programs for jobs with livable wages and possibilities for career advancement, and provide more support for homeless women, those precariously housed and victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The Women’s Leadership Council is hosting an event on March 18 at Elly-Long at St. Michael’s College featuring guest speaker Anne Mosle, Vice-President and Director of the Aspen Institute ASCEND program. Ms. Mosle is a national leader, thinker and advocate for two-generation strategies to open pathways to a better future. Thanks to terrific sponsors, all proceeds for ticket sales and the evening’s silent auction will be invested in one or more of the proposals we received to help women achieve economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.
Join us. We invite everyone to support this event and learn from Ms. Mosle’s experience. When women thrive, our families, communities and economy also thrive. Tickets can be purchased online at annemosle.eventbrite.com.
Linda Tarr-Whelan and Michell Langlais are co-chairs of the United Way of Chittenden County’s Women’s Leadership Council. Ms. Tarr-Whelan is an author and former Ambassador to the UN Commission on Women, and Ms. Langlais is Vice President, Director of Sales for Westport Hospitality.