Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub

 

Problem Statement

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Research Report on the Status of Women and Girls, 2019 highlighted that women in Hampden County were underemployed and experiencing high rates of poverty. The impact of COVID-19 on professional women in Greater Springfield has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic women—women concentrated in low-wage employment that ceased for extended periods or were laid off entirely due to the changing economy and stubborn gendered stereotypes.

A recent McKinsey report indicates that “women are more vulnerable to COVID-19–related economic effects because of existing gender inequalities.” Even women who did not lose their jobs were and still are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to exposure.

Framework

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is collaborating with key area partners: Arise for Social Justice, Dress for Success Western MA, Springfield WORKS, and the Western New England University School of Law Social Justice Center. Our partnership will strengthen our common goal to disrupt the social and economic systems preventing Springfield’s low-income women, particularly those of color, from prosperity.

The Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub has developed the framework below to capture the specific concepts that define a woman’s economic security.

Concepts that define a woman’s economic security as catalogued by the Springfield Women's Economic Mobility Hub.

Using this framework, we are currently developing an asset map that categorizes the providers that offer assistance in each of the determinants in the chart below.

Determinants

Determinants Definitions
Asset Building and Financial Literacy Having and getting assets and knowing how to manage money and assets including navigating protections such as insurance, unemployment benefits.
Assistance and Career Development Networks Guidance, training, education, and connections to jobs, internships, and apprenticeships.
Early Childhood Education, Care, and Special Care Home or center-based affordable, accessible, quality early education and care for youngest children and older children with special needs requiring care.
Community Capital and Networks Access to and confidence in an informal community (e.g., individuals, family, groups, or institutions) for all manner of help including borrowing funds, transportation, childminding, connection, support, job networks, mentorship, or sponsorship.
Digital Inclusion Access to reliable, high-speed internet with an adequate number of family devices and fluency to navigate digitally.
Food and Nutrition Access to high-quality, affordable food (or benefits providing this) and access to free education about nutrition for women and children.
Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Survival during and after trauma including domestic and/or intimate partner abuse, child abuse. Access to equitably delivered healthcare including affordable medication and mental health services.
Housing and System Care Access to safe, affordable housing and services that will help preserve housing. Access to safe, affordable systems care for young women.
Paid Work Earning a living wage or increase in wages that will not create a significant drop in public benefits (Cliff Effect). Opportunity for a flexible schedule to meet other demands and access to career advancement.
Proof of Status Having legal documentation that covers such things as identity, legal status, eligibility for work, and public assistance.
Transportation Access to safe, convenient, affordable, and reliable transportation.
Unpaid Caregiving Unpaid labor and care provided in the home for family members and for the extended family outside of the home who rely on a woman/young woman for care and labor including errands, medical appointments, and minding.

Asset Map

Asset map under construction.

Organization Website
Berkshire Bank www.berkshirebank.com
Cambridge Credit Counseling www.cambridge-credit.org
Center for Social Justice www1.wne.edu/law/centers/center-for-social-justice/
Common Capital www.commoncapitalma.org
Compass Working Capital www.compassworkingcapital.org
Live Mutual www.massmutual.com/about-us/corporate-responsibility/live-mutual-project
New England Farm Workers (Partners for Community) www.partnersforcommunity.org
PeoplesBank www.bankatpeoples.com
Springfield Partners for Community Action www.springfieldpartnersinc.com
United Way Pioneer Valley www.uwpv.org
Wayfinders www.wayfinders.org
Organization Website
Build A Life That Works/Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity buildalifema.org
Department of Transitional Assistance www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-transitional-assistance
Dress for Success Western Massachusetts westernmass.dressforsuccess.org/
EforAll (Holyoke) eforall.org/ma/holyoke
Greenfield Community College www.gcc.mass.edu
Holyoke Community College www.hcc.edu
MassHire Holyoke masshireholyoke.org
MassHire Springfield masshirespringfield.org
New England Business Association (NEBA) www.nebaworks.com
SEIU Education & Support Fund www.seiueducation.org
Springfield Technical Community College www.stcc.edu
Tech Foundry thetechfoundry.org
Valley Venture Mentors valleyventurementors.org
Viability www.viability.org
Voices from Inside www.voicesfrominside.org
Wellspring wellspring.coop
Western Mass Employment Collaborative (WMEC) www.wmecworks.net
Women Innovators and Trailblazers (WIT) witrocks.org
Organization Website
18 Degrees 18degreesma.org
Educare www.educarespringfield.org
HCS Head Start hcsheadstart.org
New Beginnings (Springfield Partners) www.springfieldpartnersinc.com
New England Farm Workers (Partners for Community) www.partnersforcommunity.org
Parent Villages www.parentvillages.org
SEIU Education & Support Fund www.seiueducation.org
Springfield Public Schools www.springfieldpublicschools.com
Square One startatsquareone.org
Wellspring wellspring.coop

First Convening, March 25, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there one factor that has the greatest impact on women in the “shecovery?”

As the framework visual portrays, many factors interplay to affect a woman’s economic security. An individual may feel that one determinant has the greatest impact on their life right now. Unemployment, childcare, asset building/financial literacy, and digital inclusion are issues that tend to be cited, but we need to listen to the community and learn directly from women experiencing economic insecurities to be able to weigh the factors in the framework.

What languages will these interviews be conducted in?

Interviews will be facilitated in Spanish and English.

What is the goal number of women you are trying to interview?

Our research partner suggested a minimum number of 100 women and our current funding only allows that sample size. With more funds committed to the survey portion of the project, we may be able to increase the number of women interviewed.

How will you capture the intersectional experiences of black and brown people in Springfield with your sample size (considering socioeconomic status, culture, language, etc.)?

We are taking thoughtful steps to ensure that black and brown women are heard in this study. Thanks to a recent study by The UMass Donahue Institute, we will be able to focus our search for participants in the areas where most black and brown women live.

The interlocking framework will be used for formulating the interview questions and will take into account the intersectional lives that women lead, particularly women of color.

How can my organization or I help with interviews?

Contact The Women’s Fund to let us know you are interested in helping. We are in the process of collecting information from those interested and will select several organizations in the coming months.

Is the goal to fund the identified gaps in the interviews?

The goal is to assess the community’s needs, identify barriers, and then address those barriers. Addressing those barriers may take the form of grant funding, but will definitely inform our advocacy. We will share the information we learn with funders and local legislators in the region.

Related to accessibility, our secondary goal is to identify the platforms or resources that connect women to the specific assistance they most urgently need. This project aims to find those resources and amplify their positive impact.

How will the asset map be accessible to the community?

It is currently being built and is available above.

We will share it with the organizations we have listed on the asset map so they can use it as a referral tool and periodically do outreach to organizations, media, and legislators.

Additionally, we are exploring existing public tools to consider a new collaboration.

Will there be support structures to help the average person access the asset map?

Our longer-term goal is to make this information accessible to all who need it. We want to learn from the women we interview who or where they currently turn to for help and what aggregator-type resources they access.

Next Steps

The next phase of our shared work will consist of hearing from women who are most affected by economic insecurity and will center women of color.

We will be partnering with a few organizations that will hire and train women to find and interview women experiencing economic insecurity. All women interviewed will receive a stipend for their participation. Help pay women for their participation by donating here.

Our Future State Vision:

  • Greater Springfield area women and young women are economically secure
  • Assistance providers are aligned through information and convenings
  • Policymakers have more information to inform decision-making
  • A regularly updated asset map
  • The Framework is revisited periodically for updates
  • Our story serves as a model for other collective community progress