If you’ve ever seen ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality show where Barbara Corcoran sits on a panel of successful venture capitalists hearing pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs, you’ll know exactly why this feisty businesswoman gives a whole new meaning to the term “loan shark.”
Given the egregious findings of the report Senator Cantwell released yesterday on behalf of the Committee, “enormously” is an understatement. The report stated that women receive only 4.4% of business loans, and that the U.S. government has never met its goal of allocating a mere 5% of federal contracts to women-led businesses.
SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet outlined the support the SBA provides and spoke more broadly about the importance of uniting the public, private entities, and the government to help women succeed. Claiming that the SBA now stands for “Smart, Bold, and Accessible,” she said, “Many people don’t have a rich uncle to open the door; the SBA is going to be the Uncle Sam to open the door.” Just as venture capital firms don’t understand the economic advantage of funding women, women business owners are often unaware of their options for loan programs.
One thing is certain: this is both a pressing and nonpartisan issue. The hearing was held in the largest meeting room of the United States Senate, yet people were still packed like sardines, because they know just how critical women entrepreneurs are to the success of the U.S. economy. It is high time we break down the barriers inhibiting women-owned businesses.
In the face of complex structural barriers and frustrating gender bias women-owned businesses face, we asked Corcoran, “What do women 40+ most need to succeed in business?” Her answer was simple: “A partner. Everyone needs a partner. I have a partner. Someone to dream with, share your trials with.” When she testified later on, the charismatic Shark joked that she’d “never seen a real senator before.” Asked by Senator Cardin whether capital or technical assistance was more important, the cunning entrepreneur answered, “Capital. Entrepreneurs are just hard-headed enough to figure the rest out on their own.”
There’s been a lot of news lately about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, including accusations that it’s being abused, that claims are skyrocketing, and that it’s about to go bankrupt.
It’s important to know the facts, and the recent post from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is an excellent summary of the critical role SSDI plays in millions of people’s lives, and what the real funding issues are.
First, SSDI payments go to people in need. The article points out that the typical beneficiary is in his or her late 50s and suffers from a severe mental, musculoskeletal, or other debilitating impairment.
Many are also poor. CBPP notes that poverty rates for disability insurance recipients are twice as high – even when taking those benefits into account.
Overall, about one-fifth of all disabled-worker families are poor; without DI, nearly half would be.
And yes, the rolls have been growing – but the reasons are from well-known demographic factors: more people, more older people, more women in the workforce – and ironically enough, the rise in the Social Security full retirement age from 65 to 66. The recession also bumped up applications, since unemployment drives those up. But approval rates actually fall when unemployment is high.
Finally, CBPP points out that the SSDI and Social Security may have challenges – but they are not about to go bankrupt. “The DI trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2016, the much larger Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund in 2035, and the combined funds in 2033 (if legislators shifted money from the retirement fund to the DI fund as needed to keep it solvent). Even after those dates, the programs could pay 75 to 80 percent of scheduled benefits; they would not go ‘bankrupt.’ DI’s 2016 depletion date is no surprise — the trustees projected it back in 1995.”
Expect more disinformation about SSDI to be broadcast in coming weeks as opponents of the program gear up to make unnecessary and damaging cuts.
“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” —Maya Angelou
50 years ago today, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the Act. Today, the EEOC enforces a number of federal statutes protecting workers from discrimination, including:
• the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin;
As we recognize the progress we’ve made as a nation in achieving equality for all, we also realize more needs to be done. Despite federal anti-discrimination laws, age-based discrimination complaints have increased by 50% over the past several years, and women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. OWL will continue its work on behalf of women 40+ in the areas of equality, economic security, and quality of life.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar is quoted in a June 27 article on female entrepreneurs written by Fox Business reporter Christina Scotti. The article, “Female Entrepreneurship Growing Faster Than Ever,” highlights the impressive growth rate (68% since 1997) of women-owned businesses, which now number 9.1 million. It also mentions a Harvard study which found that men—especially attractive ones—have a much easier time than women in securing funds from venture capitalists. Bobbie responded to these findings by calling for change: “It’s ridiculous to think males have more persuasiveness, and we need to get rid of this unfounded bias by advocating for the millions of smart and successful women entrepreneurs out there.”
By Janna Starr
Secretary, OWL National, and President, The Arc Oregon
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, or discriminate against anyone because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, we might take a moment to remember that women were an afterthought in the Act. The word “sex” was not added to Title VII until late in the process when a Democrat from Virginia introduced it in a one-word amendment. Rumor had it that the Representative, who generally opposed integration legislation, did so in order to increase opposition to the bill by labor unions, which had opposed including women in employment legislation.
The rest, as we know, is history. Thanks to the strong efforts of women’s advocacy organizations and civil rights leaders in Congress, the Civil Rights Act – with the ban on sex discrimination included - was signed into law.
Women have clearly made great strides in the world of employment since then. And lately, they have been breaking ground in another business arena: entrepreneurship. A recent American Express report found that the number of women-owned businesses increased by 68% between 197 and 2013— at 1 ½ times the rate of U.S. business overall. In the last 16 years, employment by companies owned by female entrepreneurs national was up 10 percent; their revenue grew by 63%.
Of course, as in all other walks of life, women still face more obstacles than men when starting a business. A recent Harvard Business School study found that investors who were presented with identical proposals were more likely to choose the one pitched by a man. And in the first half of 2013, only seven percent of venture capital funds went to women.
If history is any guide, we know that women will ultimately prevail. The outlawing of gender discrimination in employment in 1964 was monumental, opening doors women had yet to enter. Breaking the barriers and taking leadership in entrepreneurship is nothing more than the next step.
•In 1970, only a generation ago, 62% of children had a working father and a stay-at-home mother.
•But by 2011, just one in five families fit that configuration (20.7%), while single parents headed only one in three households (31.9%), and the remaining families (52.6%) consisted of two working parents.
•In 1967, only 27 % of mothers were breadwinners or co-breadwinners in American families.
•Women are now the primary or co-primary breadwinner in nearly two-thirds of American families.
•The majority of mothers today work, and most of them work full-time – leaving most families without a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver.
Businesses, economists, labor leaders, legislators, advocates, and the media all convened to emphasize that our laws and workplaces haven’t kept up:
•Women still earn less than men. Women working full time are paid 77 cents for every dollar that men are who work full time.
•Most Americans do not earn paid family leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers the right to earn paid time off to care for a new child.
•Working families lack the flexibility at work to meet their family responsibilities. Less than half of parents can change the hours or days that they work, and only about one-quarter are able to change their location.
Given this disparity between changing workforce demographics and stagnant workforce policies, the White House Summit on Working Families focused on strategies to ensure all members of our society have equal access to high-quality jobs. Of particular significance was the increasingly important role of women as breadwinners in working families. Topics included key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, opportunities for low-wage workers, elder care, childcare, and early childhood education. Makers, the largest video collection of women’s stories, had an onsite roaming camera recording stories throughout the day from both participants and attendees.
Participants of the summit included:
•Vice President Joe Biden
•Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez
•Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
•Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress
•Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls
OWL is proud to work with Tina Tchen and the White House Council on Women and Girls to bring the workplace up to speed for women. Advance workplace equality by sharing your working family story and telling the White House how women 40+ would be helped by 21st-century workplace policies by visiting I’m Ready for Workplace Policies wall.
OWL Program Manager Brittany Reid attended the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s hearing to investigate the effect of Social Security Administration (SSA)’s recent office closures and service cuts. As a result of a bipartisan investigation, Chairman Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ranking Member Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) sought to examine why, despite the increase in case load due to the aging of the baby boomer population, more offices than ever, 64 since 2010, were being closed nationwide.
The hearing addressed the need for SSA to evolve to the changing needs of the technological world while maintaining invaluable field office locations, despite cuts of $1 billion and 11,000 staff members over the past three years.
Here at OWL we are on the same page as the Senators: face-to-face contact is essential to ensuring the economic security of our aging population.
Tammy DeLong, from the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging in Presque Isle, Maine, shared a story about a woman who was earning a mere $434 per month and was able to claim an additional $1,000 monthly widow benefit which she was entitled to but unaware of, because she had access to a field office where a staff member took the time to ask her personalized questions and investigate potential benefits. Senator Collins said that she was struck by this story, as it made a huge difference in the woman’s standard of living, and “proves the point that face to face is so critical.”
Senators Nelson and Collins urged Nancy Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations for the SSA, to search for creative opportunities for shared office spaces, such as co-locating with the U.S. Postal Service or other such government entities. If absolutely necessary to close a field office, the Committee recommended that the SSA maintain transparency in deciding how they choose which offices to close, particularly taking into account the needs and opinions, demographics, and other factors present in each community.
While Chairman Nelson acknowledged that this will be an ongoing process, he emphasized that the Committee stands with the aging population and will seek transparency in maintaining fair access to Social Security information.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar and Program Manager Brittany Reid attended Vital Voices’ 13th Annual Global Leadership Awards Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The inspiring evening opened with Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson remarking on the importance of women in leadership, saying that women are working on issues that “are not just women’s issues, but THE issues impacting our shared futures.”
The honorees were remarkable women from around the world who are taking risks to break down barriers, empower women, and advance equality; their undertakings are nothing short of extraordinary.
The recipient of the Economic Empowerment Award was Dr. Victoria Kisyombe of Tanzania. Following the death of her husband, she had only a single cow. From that, she was able to sustain her family and ultimately founded SELFINA. The micro-finance organization has issued $16 million in credit, provided 25,000 leases to women, created 125,000 jobs, and impacted 200,000 people.
Vital Voices board member and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg presented Priti Patkar of India with the Human Rights Award for her work with children of prostitutes. Her four 24-hour shelters provide meals, education, healthcare, and the opportunity to break the cycle of exploitation.
Melanne Verveer, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, honored Claudia Paz y Paz with the Leadership in Public Life Award for her bravery as Guatemala’s first female attorney general. She has led efforts to curb the extreme violence, particularly against women, in her country.
Suaad Allami earned the Fern Holland Award, presented by co-host of CBS This Morning Norah O’Donnell, for establishing Women for Progress, the first legal clinic for women in Iraq, which counsels women in cases of divorce, custody, and gender-based violence.
Vital Voices founder Hillary Rodham Clinton presented the final award, and stressed the importance of “advancing rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls everywhere.” Razan Zaitouneh – who was abducted in December 2013 and whose whereabouts remain unknown – was given the Global Trailblazer Award for her courageous advocacy in Syria. There, she established the country’s first human rights information bank, documenting violations and making information available to the outside world.
OWL was honored to be part of an evening showcasing such courageous and innovative women. Their work is a powerful reminder of the importance, as Paz y Paz said, of “breaking the silence in demand of justice.”
Gracia currently provides management consulting services as President and Principal Consultant of G. M. Hillman & Associates, Inc. (formerly The Hillman Group, Inc.) She also serves as a Senior Fellow at Demos, a public policy organization working for an America where all have an equal say in democracy and an equal chance in economic prosperity. She contributes to Demos’s work to expand the freedom to vote for all of America’s citizens. Her previous writings include “Toward A More Perfect Union: The Congressional Black Caucus & Voting Rights” and “E-Voting and Democracy in America.”
Gracia’s previous work includes the following positions:
Chair, Vice Chair and Commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Nonprofit Executive Management:
President and CEO, WorldSpace Foundation
Executive Director, League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Interim Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Executive Director, National Coalition on Black Voter Participation
Executive Advisor, Council on Foundations
Throughout her career, Gracia has worked with numerous federal, state and local public officials, and national and local nonprofit and business leaders. She has a vast working knowledge of and appreciation for the nuances of America’s diverse communities and the importance of inclusive partnerships and collaborations to solve problems and advance critical issues. Her global experience includes travel to several countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe working with government officials and local NGOs. She served as an official representative of the U.S. government at conferences and meetings convened by the United Nations, Organization of American States, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and negotiated program partnerships with UN agencies and indigenous groups. Gracia also served as co-chair of the 2005 World Conference on Cape Verde.
Gracia believes in engaged communities, is committed to voluntary service and has served in leadership positions as an officer and member of numerous nonprofit boards of directors and commissions. Her professional memberships include the National Association of Parliamentarians.
On Tuesday, June 10, Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress and attended by OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. Mrs. Contreras-Sweet outlined her top priorities, which were to make the SBA more modern, more inclusive, and more market-savvy. On the subject of inclusion, she noted that the face of entrepreneurship in America is changing: more small businesses today belong to women, seniors, and other non-traditional groups, who often have more difficulty gaining access to expansion capital.
According to Mrs. Contreras-Sweet, more than a quarter of small businesses are now owned or led by women. She called the 20% growth in women-owned businesses over the past five years “remarkable.” She also noted that women entrepreneurs are considered underrepresented in only 83 out of 260 industry-sector categories.
OWL’s upcoming initiative will focus on this topic, since encore entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly necessary means of economic sustainability for women over 40. As always, we will work with an extensive network of private and public resources to explore the existing challenges and resources unique to women tackling new careers. The topic will also be the subject of our 2015 Mother’s Day Report.
Statement on RAISE Act of 2014 by Bobbie Brinegar, OWL Executive Director
OWL applauds Senators Mark Begich and Patty Murray for taking the lead on this important and timely legislation. Working to ensure the economic security of the more than 70 million women over 40 is one of OWL’s core missions, and the RAISE Act is a positive step toward that goal.
The changes expand Social Security to more accurately reflect the realities of today’s workforce, one dominated by stagnating wages, the erosion of pensions and other economic factors.
An enhanced and strengthened Social Security program is of particular concern to women. Women tend to earn less than men and are less likely to receive pensions from employers. They are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for family, including those with disabilities, which is another group that will receive enhanced benefits under the ACT. Surviving spouses – a sector where women are disproportionately represented – also will see improved benefits.
It is encouraging, after years of fighting just to maintain existing benefits, to see a measured approach to improving the nation’s most successful and popular insurance program. OWL looks forward to working with the Social Security community to seek passage of the RAISE Act.
In a story titled, “How the Underdog Won,” Fox Business profiles how OWL board member Carol Gardner built a $50 million business after the age of 50:
“At 52 years old, I was getting a divorce and I was in serious debt,” explains the former ad executive. “My divorce attorney said at the time, ‘Either get a therapist or get a dog,’ and I had always wanted an English bulldog, so I went looking and found Zelda. She was four months old and was the mirror image of me: she looked sad and wanted to be loved, and I needed the same.”
To read more about how Carol and Zelda built a greeting card empire, click here.
To mark the release of OWL’s 2014 Mother’s Day Report on long-term care, Keep Calm and Manage Your Future, a panel of six experts presented perspectives on the challenges of providing long-term supports and services (LTSS) at a briefing on Capitol Hill on May 8.
The briefing was moderated by Robin Strongin, President of Amplify Public Affairs and OWL board member. The group was welcomed by Kim Lipsky, Staff Director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who announced that Chairman Bill Nelson had entered the OWL Report into the Congressional Record.
Professor Donna Wagner, Ph.D., of New Mexico State University and President of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, was the primary author of the report. She highlighted the challenges faced by unpaid family caregivers, particularly the burdens on those in the lowest income group. The average unpaid caregivers spent 40% of their income on expenses related to care, and an average of 40 hours per week providing care. She emphasized the need for a social insurance program that would include LTSS. While Medicaid’s traditional bias toward funding nursing-home care over home- and community-based care has been somewhat balanced, it depends almost entirely upon each state to determine what the balance will be.
Dr. Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Family Foundation suggested that the emphasis should shift away from Medicaid – currently the only public insurance for long-term care – toward reforming Medicare. Medicare is already a publicly financed health insurance program, and more can be done to expand coverage of the services and supports needed to provide the necessary continuum of care. She argued that one should not have to become impoverished before receiving help with LTSS. In addition, she argued for mandating Medicaid to support home- and community-based services, and raising the minimum wage as a strategy for providing more and better qualified paid long-term care workers.
Richard Gelula of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care focused on the needs of persons with disabilities. Drawing on his long experience in the field (and the recent experiences of his 95-year-old mother), he emphasized the need to focus on quality of care, even more than the mere quantity of care available. He warned that the current move to put long-term care into managed care programs, where the focus is on a business model, is not likely to put consumer needs ahead of profit. (During the discussion period, Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s aide asked the audience to share experiences with managed care for Medicare programs, an issue currently facing Illinois, among other states.)
As Jessica Brill Ortiz of the Direct Care Alliance noted, “Direct care work is expected but not respected.” Her organization advocates on behalf of paid direct care workers, who are usually underpaid, with few or no benefits. They are likely to report for work even when ill or injured, and often have inadequate training for the complex work they perform. A common result is high turnover, which typically translates into poor quality care because of the lack of continuity. She recommended investing in this non-portable workforce by increasing the minimum wage, providing benefits, reforming immigration policies, expanding Medicaid, and improve training and supervision requirements. All these steps could help grow the middle class and enhance quality care.
Julie Maggioncalda of the Capitol Hill Village represented the Village Movement as one of the desirable pieces of a long-term care puzzle. Villages are membership organizations designed to help seniors remain in their communities by providing neighbor-to-neighbor assistance, along with referrals to professional services. There are currently 144 Villages in operation, with another 100 or so in formation. She provided examples of the ways in which her Village supports members, many of whom need few professional services, but some of whom develop substantial needs overnight. Julie trains volunteers to act as care navigators for very frail older adults who are at high risk of institutionalization.
Chris Dawe is the former Health Care Policy Advisor for the National Economic Council at the White House, where he coordinated the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He pointed out the importance of the innovations included in ACA to improve the coordination between hospital care and home- and community-based care. He noted that the growing crisis in long-term care is a middle-class issue, with major economic impacts for all those involved. He suggested involving larger employers who are affected (economically) by employees who have heavy caregiving responsibilities. While he understands the need to work in coalitions, blending public and private solutions, he is not very optimistic. As he said, “There is no robust political imperative” for any real action yet.
To view a video of the briefing, please click here.
America stands at a critical juncture. As our population ages and lives longer, we are experiencing a fast-growing need for long-term care, services, and supports. With this increased need has come a growing recognition of what has been too long denied: America’s system of long-term care, services and supports is broken. What happens at the intersection of demographics and policy over the next decade will affect countless American families and help shape the national economy.
In our 2014 Mother’s Day Report, Long-Term Care, Managing Our Future, OWL takes an in-depth look at the issue of long-term care. The report highlights the urgent need to ensure quality care and protect consumers from the catastrophic long-term care costs that can devastate individuals and families. More than an overview, the report is a call to action, with important policy recommendations for lawmakers.
Mark your calendar for 11:00 a.m., Thursday, May 8, when OWL will release its annual Mother’s Day Report at a briefing on Capitol Hill in Room 188 of the Senate Russell Building.
This year’s topic is Long-Term Care: Managing Our Future - a critical issue. We’re observing the report’s release with a briefing on the Hill, lending OWL’s voice to the recent outcry for a long-term care system that works.
*Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chair, Senate Special Committee on Aging (schedule allowing)
*Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Member, Senate Special Committee on Aging
*Chris Dawe, former Health Care Policy Advisor, National Economic Council, the White House
*Donna Wagner, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State; President of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
*Diane Rowland, Executive Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation
*Jessica E. Brill Ortiz, National Advocacy Director, Direct Care Alliance
*Julie Maggioncalda, Director of Volunteer and Social Services, Capitol Hill Village
Our facilitator will be Robin Strongin, President of Amplify Public Affairs and Founder of the award-winning Disruptive Women in Health Care blog.
We look forward to seeing you on the Hill on May 8!