“We will not go back to what was, but we will move towards what will be.”
As we reflect on the wise words of poet Amanda Gorman, we see the intentions of young women and youth in Minnesota who have stood up to write history – driving political solutions designed to secure economic justice for generations to come. to come.
Through the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota (YWI MN), the Women’s Foundation and its partners are on a mission to create a Minnesota where every young woman thrives. We engage the leadership and vision of women impacted by economic barriers to create long-term solutions. As co-chairs of the Young Women’s Initiative Executive Council, we see the power in connecting cross-sector leaders from business, government, philanthropy and communities across the state to the vision of young women and gender-neutral leaders. We know that focusing solutions on those most directly affected is vital for economic justice and that driving policy change is a key ingredient to achieving lasting results.
The pandemic has caused great hardship across the country, but it has cast a particularly harsh light on the deep inequalities in our state — realities that young women and communities of color know all too well. We have seen the power of investing directly in the recovery of our families and businesses, but we continue to live amid stalled progress on gender and racial equity in all areas, including the employment, education and health care.
A report from the Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, “The unequal impacts of COVID-19 on workers in Minnesota” [PDF], reveals that the pandemic has exposed unique vulnerabilities for women, especially Black, Indigenous and Colored women: these workers are concentrated in the essential workforce with higher risk of virus transmission and greater vulnerability to layoffs. This, combined with Minnesota’s large workforce gap between what we have and what we need, means we need to look at the strengths and opportunities for young women in the workplace of a new way.
However, many of these young workers face barriers, including race and gender, that prevent or limit their participation, including barriers to affordable and accessible childcare, limited access to family leave paid for medical reasons and low salaries. Simultaneously, without the strong representation of this demographic in our workforce, Minnesota’s economy risks losing a vital source of talent, creativity and leadership. Black, Indigenous and women of color have long been innovators, carriers of culture and centers of families – we must build on this vital legacy if we hope to ensure Minnesota’s continued economic growth and competitiveness.
So how do you remove the barriers? To change outcomes and build financial stability and prosperity, we must advance bold policies centered on women and young women of color. As co-chairs of the Executive Council of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, we view economic policy as an effective and essential tool for harnessing this change. But to develop and drive policy change, no sector can go it alone.
The Women’s Foundation and a coalition of cross-sectoral partners led the development and passage of the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) – enacted on Mother’s Day 2014, with broad bipartisan support. Designed to protect and promote opportunities for women in the workplace, the new law was a historic victory – addressing the root causes that prevent women in Minnesota from gaining an economic foothold and securing a pathway towards prosperity.
Through the collaborative model of the Young Women’s Initiative, we can build on this success and continue to implement bold, inclusive policies that target women and families. This year, we are calling for cross-sector solutions that support marginalized young women in our state. On our policy agenda, one area where we recognize a clear need for investment is strengthening our state’s care infrastructure to value women for the essential work they do as caregivers. As we partner with organizations and coalitions driving policies to strengthen women’s economic futures and create opportunity, young women are leading their families, on the frontlines and on Capitol Hill with bold demands climate justice, community safety and economic opportunity that center the value they bring to the workforce. We can and must bring the voices of young women leaders to their workplaces, schools, homes and communities.
We all have an active role in writing our story for the next generation. As we await the next special legislative session, we have no choice but to look the inequalities and injustice of our past in the face and engage more Minnesotans in demanding economic opportunity and equal leadership for all. women and girls. Fairness in design produces fairness in results. History tells us: when women are economically secure, Minnesota families and communities thrive.
“For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we were brave enough to be. —Amanda Gorman
Gloria Perez is President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Peggy Flanagan is the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. Verna Price, Ph.D., is CEO of The Power of People Consulting Group, founder of Girls in Action. They are co-chairs of the Executive Council of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota.
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