By Sheri L. Scavone
No matter your political beliefs, we can all agree that the health of the economy is a priority that affects each of our daily lives. Families in Western New York – and across the nation – face many challenges to their economic security.
Now, national and state leadership is echoing the voice of the WNY Women’s Foundation by prioritizing some of the challenges that particularly disenfranchise women and their families – directly affecting them and our economy.
We should all be encouraged to hear President Obama in the State of the Union address declare: “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue or a women’s issue and treat it as the national economic priority it is,” and “… family leave is an economic necessity, not just a women’s issue” and “women deserve fair pay.”
Further, Obama’s initiative to fund a community college education validates the successful WNY Women’s Foundation “MOMS: From Education to Employment” program at Niagara County Community College – an initiative that supports the education of single mothers to propel them into a family-sustaining job that raises them, and the children who depend on them, out of poverty.
The next day, we heard Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo present his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, which includes pursuing a bold and innovative pre-K (beginning at the formative age of 3) to 12 agenda, enacting the Women’s Equality Agenda (including equal pay for equal work), and expanding the State University of New York’s sexual assault policy statewide to private colleges and universities.
These comments by our state and national leaders reflect an acknowledgement that facilitating gender equality creates a more robust society, that early education and development for children is integral to their future contribution to our society and that supporting parents – through affordable, quality child care, fair pay and paid family time off – leads to healthier children, better employees and more secure families.
Removing barriers and providing opportunities for women and girls to achieve self-sufficiency is the mission of the WNY Women’s Foundation.
Through collaboration, public education, advocacy and strategic investments that accomplish transformative change, the WNY Women’s Foundation continues to lead efforts to achieve a vision for a vibrant Western New York community where all women and girls have the opportunity to thrive.
How great it is, for us and our partners, to now have a common discourse at the state and federal levels. Together, we will help women, and our region, to thrive.
Sheri L. Scavone is executive director of the WNY Women’s Foundation.