WOMEN’S WAY holds a unique place in the region’s and the nation’s history. The organization was formed in the mid-1970s by a group of women running women-focused agencies that were struggling to keep their doors open. The causes they served – wage equity, rape crisis, domestic violence, reproductive freedom – were controversial and hard to fund. With a seed grant from The William Penn Foundation, they joined together to raise a collective voice and generate critical funding for issues impacting women.
Through the years, we have changed the philanthropic landscape of Philadelphia and given women opportunities to hone their leadership skills, make a difference in their communities, and become more effective philanthropists. We also worked with the United Way to bring the fledgling Donor Choice program to the Philadelphia market, opening up workplace giving to scores of donors and agencies.
Our grants have had a huge impact. As a grantmaker, we have provided over 24 million dollars to enhance the lives of women, girls and families and to provide vital support and assistance to the agencies that serve them.
In 1997, the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) was created to give younger women a more prominent role in our work and opportunities for leadership and philanthropy. The YWI still plays a critical role in our work providing young women an opportunity to engage in critical dialogue about issues impacting women, girls and families – and an opportunity to be part of the solution. It also supports young women professionally and personally by providing meaningful opportunities for networking and expertise.
As we have grown, so too has our role as a convener. Annual public education programs bring diverse groups of people together and provide access to elected officials, business leaders, and prominent community members. In 2002, we held our first Women & Influence Conference. Today, that conference is a critical public forum for members of the community to come together to focus on issues of importance to women and girls in our region.
We have always been a vocal advocate, fighting for policies that help women overcome barriers, gain equality, and advance their standing in the region. Today, our advocacy/public policy program is leading strategic coalitions and initiatives. We have developed critical relationships with legislators and community leaders that we leverage to create meaningful change.