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  • Perdita Henry

Member Spotlight: Texas Women’s Foundation

By Perdita Henry

We’re in the final days of Women’s History Month 2021. It’s a month many of us have spent thinking about the way’s women have contributed to the world; for the United States, it’s our first with a female vice president. But I can’t help but think about all the ways we continue to fail women in our country and in our state.


We are a society that holds rigid constructs of what it means to be a woman and how femininity should be performed. Because of these societal expectations, women must constantly face down hurdles meant to force conformity to patriarchal standards that are rooted in white supremacy. From a gender pay gap influenced by race, to the astronomical costs of childcare, a lack of research into women’s health, a lack of healthcare access, the pink tax, the pandemic wiping out professional gains, especially for Black and Latinx women. Then there’s racism and misogyny, we saw a particularly horrific example of that last week in Atlanta where eight people were killed, six of them women of Asian descent.


Being a woman is not easy, which is why the Texas Women’s Foundation has dedicated itself to being “a catalyst for positive change across the state, with a focused mission and vision to empower strong women to build a better world,” says Vice President of Programs, Lisa de la Garza.


We are a community-supported organization that invests in the power of women and girls to drive positive change. Through research, advocacy, programs and grantmaking, we advance economic and leadership opportunities for women, girls and families to build stronger, more equitable communities for all, where women and girls are full participants.”

There was no more fitting of an organization to spotlight during women’s history month than an organization that looks at the lives of women holistically and continuously asks itself, how can we empower women and girls to live the lives they desire in every way possible.


The Foundation released the 2020 report, Economic Issues for Women in Texas. In it you define the challenges facing women in the state and one of them is access to health insurance. What are some of the most striking details the data revealed?


Several issues around access to healthcare were revealed from our research. One of the most striking is that Texas women are twice as likely to be uninsured compared to other women across the country. That means over 1.9 million adult Texas women live without the financial shield of health insurance coverage. Our research also revealed that Texas ranks 50th in the nation for health insurance coverage for women. The lack of health insurance is especially felt by new moms resulting in high levels of maternal mortality and morbidity, especially for women of color. For a woman without health insurance, a single medical emergency can threaten her financial stability and have a profound impact on her overall economic security.


What do you think companies and organizations can do to become more mindful of the lives of women they employ?


When women become mothers, most do not stop working. In fact, 63 percent, or 2.5 million, of Texas mothers are working. Supporting leave policies to ensure women do not have to choose between their wages and their health or the health of their children or family members is just one of the ways companies and organizations can be mindful of the lives of the women they employ.


You all have several leadership building programs—The Leadership Initiative, Women’s Leadership Institute, and the Young Women’s Initiative. What are these programs and how do they contribute to the development of women and girls?


Texas Women’s Foundation established its Leadership Initiative, making a $2 million annual commitment to develop and support programs, policies and practices that increase the number of women in leadership positions, and create and fund new opportunities for women and girls to lead. Our Leadership Initiative invests in helping girls become strong women, and prepares women to lead in their lives, workplaces, and communities, which in turn make our state a better place for all.


The Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) is a program developed by the Foundation’s Economic Leadership Council (ELC) to strengthen and accelerate the pipeline of women in leadership positions at all levels of society. The Institute provides senior-level women a customized leadership curriculum and meaningful interaction with powerful corporate leaders and other high-potential, senior-level women.


The Young Women’s Initiative strives to ensure all young women – particularly young women of color – lead, prosper economically, and live safe and healthy lives. This cross-sector effort empowers and affirms young women by engaging current and new community partners, our donor community, service agencies and the public sector through research, collaborative grantmaking and advocacy.


This first-of-its-kind program is a seven-year, multi-million-dollar investment focused on young women of color, ages 12 – 24, living in under-served southern and western sectors of Dallas County. It provides training, resources and support, enabling these young women to identify and address their personal circumstances and needs, recognize opportunities to be part of making real system changes, and make and implement a plan to improve their health, safety, and economic prosperity.


Much of your work and advocacy focuses on the empowerment of women. How does your Economic Security Initiative help women of different socio-economic backgrounds?


Providing women and girls with access to critical life and work supports such as education, childcare, healthcare and housing is essential to women’s economic security. The Texas Women’s Foundation invests for the long-term in sustained programming that moves women and girls from surviving to thriving; and gives them control of their lives and their families’ futures.


Our Child Care Access Fund and Health Care Access Fund are successful examples of how our intentional investments in cost-effective, efficient programs produce meaningful change for low-income women and their families. Our collaborations and targeted grantmaking through the Strategy Funds are providing women and girls with greater access to child care and healthcare – two critical life and work supports that are essential to women’s economic security. To date, our Economic Security Initiative has impacted more than 53,247 Texans, including 31,584 women and girls from diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities.


Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?


Access to affordable healthcare is one of the single most prominent factors threatening the economic security of women and their families. The high cost of care, access to affordable health insurance, and potential income loss or possibility of overwhelming debt due to illness or injury all diminish women’s financial stability. That is why it’s important for the Texas Women’s Foundation to be a TWHC member.


To be part of a Coalition with other organizations who prioritize a woman’s access to healthcare not only aligns with our mission but helps us all in advancing our advocacy efforts to increase the continuity of care and eliminate financial and geographic barriers to healthcare.


What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to the Texas Women’s Foundation?


For the Texas Women’s Foundation, an ideal future for women’s health care would include state legislators crafting a health insurance option that closes the “Coverage Gap” for low-income adult women. This coverage gap is particularly concerning given the high rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among Texas women. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes the opportunity for states to increase healthcare access to people with low incomes by expanding Medicaid, a joint state-federal program. The intention of Medicaid expansion was to fill the gap made up of people who couldn’t afford to purchase health insurance but earned too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid.


An ideal future for women’s health care would also include state and local legislators making paid sick leave an earned benefit that is available to more working women, so they can go to the doctor or stay home when they, or their children, are sick. Similarly, private sector employers can enact policies to provide paid sick days. For women, the inability to earn paid sick days can have particularly devastating consequences.


Is there anything I haven’t asked you about your organization that you would like to talk about?


In addition to research, programming and grants, Texas Women’s Foundation advocates for policies and practices in local communities and at the state level where innovation and investment can help empower women, lead to positive economic and social change, and achieve equity for Texas women, girls, and their families. The Texas Women’s Foundation is keeping our eye on several issues and pieces of legislation on childcare, student debt, tenant and landlord regulations, and access to health insurance in our advocacy agenda. We will be sharing this information liberally with supporters, particularly through our Army of Advocates Calls to Action. We invite others to sign up for our Army of Advocates at www.txwfecoissues.org to receive the most up to date information on actions you can take, easily, and physically distanced, to support women and families in Texas.


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