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TRANSITION FORUM – Women’s Funding Network President/CEO Chris Grumm Urges New Gov't to Embrace Women as Experts,Decision Makers

November 7, 2008 Posted by Linda Basch Linda Basch: What is your vision for an Obama administration?  Who are your ideal Cabinet picks? What new offices, government departments, or agencies would you like to see set up? (We invite your biggest-sky thinking here, far out of the box!) Chris Grumm: Barack Obama's election is an exhilarating opportunity for new leadership and especially for women's leadership. This is a truly exciting time in history and we are on the cusp of a transformational moment for the world. Obama, both now as he creates his team and after January 20th, can bring a critical mass of women to decision-making tables, harnessing the visions of the best and brightest women from business, academia, government and the nonprofit world. This step-change - the infusion of women's ideas voices and leadership across the board - will catalyze real change in this country and worldwide. Rather than creating new agencies, Obama needs to reframe how existing agencies work. Women must be recognized as experts and partners in every agency, ensuring their voices and solutions are integral to policymaking on every critical national and global matter. We have the opportunity to ensure established departments and agencies function for the benefit of us all, fully addressing conditions challenging women and families who are disproportionately affected by issues such as poverty or unequal access to healthcare. Below are a few examples of how existing departments could embrace a new, expanded focus to achieve greater impact:

  • Every department collecting data on women;
  • the Department of Labor making major strides on the economic self sufficiency of women and their families;
  • the Department of Health and Human Services ensuring access to health care for everyone;
  • the Department of State practicing global compassion and collaboration with foreign policy negotiations;
  • and a Department of Education focused not only on excellent education for children but on the involvement of families and communities in the preparation of our future workforce.

LB: How else do we move women and the issues women care about most from the margins to the center in this new administration? CG: Acknowledging the pivotal role of women leaders on every social challenge will make the difference. We have moved beyond perceiving 'women's issues' as a distinct or separate category, which marginalizes us. Obama has the power to make the leap to seeing women as partners and strategists on every issue that matters. Obama could intentionally embrace the 'woman effect,' which is how the organization I lead - the Woman's Funding Network - describes the momentum gained when women's leadership is fully utilized to bring about human security worldwide. The 134 women's funds of the Women’s Funding Network know when a woman is economically secure, her family is economically secure; and when families are economically secure so are communities and nations. The 'woman effect' describes how this logic gains even greater momentum when women - particularly those women who are most dramatically impacted by problems such as poverty or violence - are empowered to take leadership roles as solution-builders. Galvanizing women's leadership will accelerate the progress of whole communities not only in this country but globally as well. President-elect Obama speaks about being part of a true global community - we are not just one village or one state - and acknowledges we are part of a global patchwork of leaders and change-makers. In this way, he has the potential to be a President without borders, our first President with a fully global vision and outlook. LB: What's been most missing in Obama's platform around women's issues, and what messages would you like to send the transition team to rectify this going forward? CG: The Obama policy platform is rich in content and policy as it relates to those concerns most impacting the lives of women and children. He sees women as critical decision makers and experts. So he must focus not on what is missing but what gets emphasized. The campaign focused on the middle class but that focus must widen to include those with low-to-no income. They must be as important as the middle class because they are critical to our society's health. The low-income and no-income Americans need access to resources for jobs, retirement, health care and security so their lives can be as fulfilling as those who hold the majority of the nation's wealth. Women's funds demonstrate that when women partner and collaborate across income lines they can imagine - and achieve - the boldest of visions for revitalizing their communities. From boosting community wealth in Florida to creating sustainable new jobs in Rhode Island and strengthening workers' rights in Mexico, women's funds are a model of the revitalized approach to community leadership Obama should take. Women’s funds can also be vital resources and partners to the new administration as they seek to elicit ideas and solutions that will make a difference from women who are closest to major challenges. Today, in the wake of President-elect Obama's historic victory, we are telling our children anyone can be President of the United States or a world leader. So surely we can show them everyone - women and men, people of every income level and none - can be part of building a vibrant and inclusive new vision for our country and the world.


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