- While overall, women represent a majority of those enrolled in Michigan higher education programs, low income women often do not complete those degrees due to work and family conflicts.
- Most Michigan women living in poverty have jobs that offer no paid sick days or protection from dismissal when taking time off to care for sick children.
- These problems become multifaceted when they are compounded by racism and the challenges of single parenting.
Advancing economic security among Michigan low-income women requires comprehensive policies that are data-driven, community-rooted and responsive to women’s barriers and assets. Understanding this, the Ford Foundation provided grant funding for CEW to manage the Michigan Partners Project between 2013-2016. The initial role of CEW was to convene discussions between key stakeholders: Faculty researchers from all three U-M campuses, other Michigan colleges, along with representatives of nonprofit organizations, advocates, and low-income women themselves.
In order to accomplish the goals of the project, CEW brought a wide range of stakeholders together during the first year to develop the ongoing network and determine the agenda for the next two years. In conjunction with the project, and as part of CEW’s 50th anniversary, the Center hosted a May 2014 conference on economic security and mobility for women. This conference, funded as a “Michigan Meeting” by the Rackham Graduate School, included not only partners in the Michigan Partners Project but other state and national experts who contributed to the discussion.
MPP’s academic and community partners identified the following policy areas as needing the most attention:
- Earned paid sick days
- College education
- Affordable, quality child care
- Safety net programs for which women and families are eligible
In 2015-2016, MPP began publicizing the first two of these issues through it’s MPP Spokeswomen. It also supported conferences like the Black Women’s Summit (led by MPP partner Mothering Justice) and Equal Pay Day Coalition events, which addressed the broader list of policies.
A final component of the MPP grant was capacity building for individuals and organizations working to increase economic security for low-income women in Michigan, particularly women of color. This was accomplished in two ways:
- MPP policy research on paid sick days and college supports for student parents led to briefing papers and PowerPoint presentations that can be used by the general public.
- Following a survey assessment of advocacy training needs of staff and individuals involved with MPP-affiliated organizations, CEW arranged for professional trainers to provide skills development opportunities.