Why the United State of Women Matters

Our Executive Director, Karen Sterk, recently joined forces with Michele Ozumba of the Women’s College Coalition and JRF Board Member, Linda Brigham of Coca-Cola and Letty Ashworth of Delta Air Lines on a girls’ trip to the United State of Women White House Summit. From the moment they arrived at 6:15 a.m., they stood amidst long lines of thousands of diverse women, waiting for the greatness to begin. Looking back on it, the “greatness” they were yearning for had already started while in line.

For the first time ever, the United State of Women White House Summit brought together 5,000 women focused on economic empowerment, health and wellness, education, violence, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership and civic engagement. As Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi stated, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” We’d like to add that when women of diverse backgrounds, colors, age, and pursuits are supportedto succeed, then and only then will America be ready to reach its true pinnacle of success.

Director Sterk expresses:

“I was especially impressed with Vice-President Joe Biden’s open

remarks on America’s rape culture. It isn’t everyday that a man of such power leads a public discussion on the mistreatment of women’s bodies or to pass the Violence Against Women Act back in the 1990s. Vice-President Biden expressed that violence against women is really an abuse of power. Rape is a repulsive obsession to assert and abuse power.

Unfortunately, many of our Jeannette Rankin Women’s Foundation (JRF) Scholars have been robbed of their body’s power at some point. Rape and abuse of any kind can leave victims in a trapped state of fear. Pursuing higher education is one way to reclaim one’s power and overcome the fear of failure.”

How do we connect what we do with workforce development?

Women aren’t encouraged to be plumbers, truckers, or mechanics. Yet during one of the sessions hosted by the Department of Education, panelists shared technical education tips and lucrative opportunities from pipefitting to supply chain.

If you are a woman over the age of 35, returning to traditional higher education presents its own set of challenges. Two-year programs at technical institutions can ease these concerns, provide women equitable access to jobs more quickly, and lessen the financial burden of a quality education.

We need to make sure we are exposing women to these opportunities and shattering stereotypes of what success looks like. It comes in different colors, different degrees, different roles, and from different places.

Great summit. Now, what?

The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund and other women’s organizations are now challenged to deepen our impact and expand our reach, far beyond solely providing scholarships or jobs. We need to collaborate and maintain that same overwhelming sense of urgency and sisterhood from the summit to reclaim our power in this country as women. We encourage you to stay tuned to United State of Women events in your area.

The #stateofwomen proved that this holistic effort to uplift all women is imperative to breaking cycles of poverty, oppression, sexism, and racism. And yes, men we are talking to you too.

The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund has successfully provided scholarships to over 800 women in 40 years and in the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, “We are not done yet! We have to continue the work.”