Making a Difference 2019 - Executive Director Remarks

This speech was delivered by WFSTL Executive Director Lisa Weingarth at Making a Difference on September 19, 2019.

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At the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis, our mission is to empower women to succeed. We believe that every woman deserves to reach her full potential in education, income, and wealth, but there are so many obstacles standing in her way.

Struggling to earn a living wage while raising a family. 

Unequal opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.  

 Unequal pay from entry-level jobs to the C-Suite that often deprive women of building wealth.  

Unfair work policies that force women to choose between being a good parent and a good employee.  

These are real challenges that women in the St. Louis region face every day. These are the challenges that hold women back. These are the challenges that cost women their careers, their quality of life, and the basic dignity of being able to afford to support their families. These are the challenges we’re focused on eliminating.  

We know that addressing the barriers to women’s economic success must start in the workplace. This was our second year of asking employers to privately report their outcomes and policies on pay equity, women in leadership, paid family leave, a living wage and other issues that disproportionately impact female employees.

This year, 56 employers participated in our Women in the Workplace survey, and tonight we’re honoring 13 employers for the priority that they place on treating women fairly. This year’s honorees include::

• National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis Area 

• Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt 

• Safe Connections 

• Brown Smith Wallace 

• HireLevel 

• Missouri Foundation for Health 

• Simon Law Firm 

• Wyman Center 

• Enterprise Bank & Trust 

• MTM 

• Stinson Leonard Street 

• Washington University

• Webster University 

Many of the employers represented here tonight participated in the survey, but many did not. So, I would ask each of you to get out your phone and put in your schedule for tomorrow that you will ask your employer to participate in the survey this fall. Their response will be kept confidential - so we won’t tell anyone if you get a bad score. It’s not about embarrassing people, it’s about education and change.  

Workplace change is the first step in transforming a culture that doesn’t always value the contributions women make. But we don’t limit our work to changing employer policies - The Women’s Foundation also invests in women who are just starting to climb the economic ladder. 

So we invested in programs like LaunchCode’s CoderGirl, which helps women prepare for good, high-demand jobs in the technology sector. 

And we invested in Missouri Women in Trades, which prepares women for work in the construction industry. 

And our support of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Healing Hearts Bank provides small dollar loans to women who need them. Entrepreneurs like Brenda Smith, who turned a $500 loan into a University City bakery named A Little Something Sweet. Tonight, we have Brenda to thank for our desserts. Thank you, Brenda. 

This past year has been one of strategic development and continued growth for our organization. In the year ahead, we will increase our emphasis on workplace change by expanding our Women in the Workplace initiative to support employers of all sizes in establishing better policies.

But we also know that individual employer policies are not enough, in the context of larger, systemic issues that hold women back. 

That’s why we’re also dedicated to policy change at the local and state level. We’re focused on issues like paid family leave and pay equity, with a lens of supporting employers in doing the right thing for the people that work for them.

We’re also expanding our collaborations with likeminded community organizations like Rung for Women, a new initiative founded by Ali Hogan that will help women get on a pathway to a job with a family-sustaining wage. Rung brought the Women’s Foundation in as a co-designer, and we’re working with them as true partners in building out a new program that will open in the Fox Park next summer.

So, we have a lot of work to do. With your support here tonight, we can make the St. Louis region the best place in the country for women to work and to raise a family. The Women’s Foundation is proud to play our role in that important work, and we thank you so much for your support.