Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub

Purpose

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts’ Key Findings on the Status of Women and Girls in Western MA, 2019 highlighted that women in Hampden County were underemployed and experiencing high rates of poverty. The impact of COVID-19 on 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.

The full research report on the Status of Women and Girls in Western MA, 2019 additionally emphasizes the need for change for currently and formerly incarcerated women in this region as “a history of trauma, poverty, and/or substance use is common…and is often the reason (directly or indirectly) for their incarceration.” The report posits that resources like affordable housing, debt relief, financial assistance, access to sober housing—especially for women—quick reunification with children and other family members, and continuity of therapy and recovery are greatly needed.

A recent McKinsey report indicates that if we collectively do not act to counter the effects of the ‘shecession,’ then they estimate “global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment simply tracked that of men in each sector.” The report continues, “Conversely, taking action now to advance gender equality could be valuable, adding $13 trillion to global GDP in 2030 compared with the gender-regressive scenario.”

We are living a ‘shecession.’ A ‘shecovery’ is needed now.

Our Collective Mission

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts began 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 to launch this initiative. Our partnerships are expanding to meet these challenges—see the full list below.

Thanks to financial support from the Baker-Polito Administration as part of the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Program, the Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub (ESH) is procuring community-engaged research focused on understanding obstacles to women’s economic security. The ESH is also connecting organizations working towards facilitating community members’ successful re-entry to the workforce from incarceration.

Our community-centric work focuses on women, mostly of color and living at or below the poverty line, to understand the myriad factors that make or break an individual woman’s economic engine, affecting family prosperity.

Donna Haghighat, WFWM CEO

Framework: A Woman’s Economic Engine

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Donahue Institute developed a survey instrument that will be refined, implemented, and analyzed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Research on Families.

The interconnected determinants shown below were identified by service providers convened by the WFWM—such as housing, internet access, paid work, child and dependent care, etc.—to form the framework which will be used to survey women in communities that have historically faced disproportionate challenges to economic growth.

Determinants established by the Springfield Women's Economic Security Hub task force that define a woman’s economic security.

Determinant Definitions

Determinants Definitions
Child and Dependent Care Home or center-based affordable, accessible, quality early education and care for youngest children and older children with special needs requiring care.
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 Recovery 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 Access to safe, affordable housing and services that will help preserve housing. Access to safe, affordable systems care for young women.
Identification Having legal documentation that covers such things as identity, legal status, eligibility for work, and public assistance.
Internet Access to reliable, high-speed internet with an adequate number of family devices and fluency to navigate digitally.
Job Preparation Guidance, training, education, and connections to jobs, internships, and apprenticeships.
Money and Assets Having and getting assets and knowing how to manage money and assets including navigating protections such as insurance, unemployment benefits.
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.
Supportive Network 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.
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.

Partnerships

Our community partnerships will strengthen our common goal to disrupt the social and economic systems preventing Greater Springfield’s low-income or formerly and currently incarcerated women, particularly those of color, from prosperity.

Research Partners

  • 413Cares
  • Arise for Social Justice
  • Dress for Success Western Massachusetts
  • New North Citizens Council
  • Parent Villages
  • ROCA
  • Springfield Housing Authority
  • Springfield WORKS
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Donahue Institute
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Research on Families
  • Western MA Regional Women’s Correctional Center

Western MA Consortium to Optimize Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Re-Entry to the Workforce

  • All Inclusive Support Services
  • Berkshire Community College
  • Community Action Pioneer Valley
  • Hampden County Sheriff’s Office
  • MassHire Holyoke
  • ROCA
  • Salasin Project
  • Voices from Inside
  • Western MA CORE at Holyoke Community College
  • Western MA Regional Correctional Center
  • Western New England University School of Law Social Justice Center

Asset Map

We are excited to announce our partnership with 413Cares.org. 413Cares is an innovative community portal that provides online access for residents of Western Massachusetts to available resources from housing, to healthcare, early education, and more.

Click on one of the determinants below to access resources within that category.

Power Women Podcast Power women podcast logo

We are pleased to announce the Power Women Podcast! This podcast will engage, inform, and empower women to seek economic security.

In this audio series, we will explore women’s economic security through casual conversations and interviews. Guests of the show will share their knowledge and experience with some aspect of the framework the Women’s Fund built out for our greater Springfield women’s economic security hub—from financial health and job preparation to unpaid caregiving and housing.

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 English and Spanish.

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

We are seeking to survey 200 women and facilitate focus groups of around 30 women. With more funds committed to this initiative, 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?

Contact The Women’s Fund to let us know you are interested in helping, especially if you want to get involved in the Consortium to Optimize Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Re-Entry to the Workforce.

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?

The asset map above may be used by anyone in the community. We also link to our partner, 413Cares, on our Community Resources page.

413Cares will be working on an Economic Security Hub-specific resource page that community members will have access to via desktop or mobile devices through any browser.

When we empower women to thrive, we uplift the cornerstone of a family, and in turn, communities prosper.