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Join impromtu conversations on current issues impacting women of Arkansas. Each conversation begins with a panel of women experts to open a discussion on a set topic. The floor is then opened to the audience for a deeper conversation.
WFA's Designing Women event is a fun night out celebrating Arkansas women designers and supporting education-focused programming for women and girls. Each year WFA recognizes the state's top women designers in three fields.
WFA is creating a directory of Arkansas women's organizations, direct-service providers, women's owned businesses and more!
WFA's grant-making program supports programs that work to improve the economic viability of women and girls through focused philanthropic efforts in areas of education.
Since 2000, Girls of Promise has introduced thousands of 8th grade girls across Arkansas to information about careers in areas related to economics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ESTEM) while giving them the opportunity to meet with women professionals in those fields.
The mission of the Women's Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) is to promote philanthropy among women and to help women and girls achieve their full potential. 

Your support makes it possible for the WFA to continue and expand our work throughout Arkansas.

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Benefits of the Affordable Care Act for the Women of Arkansas is a two-page fact sheet developed by WFA's Policy and Research Committee in December 2013.

1973-2013: A Then and Now Report on the Status of Women in Arkansas is the first update since the original 1973 Report by the Arkansas Commission on Status of Women was published. 

Examining the Future Plans of High School Girls in Arkansas: 2012 explores how and if things have changed in terms of the plans of young women after high school graduation. Click above to read the complete report.

A collection of economic data from the political subdivisions across Arkansas is used in the report Women's Social and Economic Status in Arkansas to determine women's social and economic status. This study found that women in Arkansas fare poorly economically and that wide disparities based on gender, race, ethnicity and region exist.
Social Change Expert, Susan McPherson, to Present Keynote Address at Northwest Arkansas Power of the Purse Luncheon

                                                                Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson                                                                 Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the                                                                 intersection between brands and social good, will be the                                                                 keynote speaker at the third annual Power of the Purse                                                                 luncheon in Northwest Arkansas. McPherson has more                                                                 than 25 years experience as a corporate responsibility                                                                 consultant and social change expert. 

                                                                She is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business                                                                 Review, Forbes, and Triple Pundit. She also invests in                                                                 and advises technology start-ups, serves on several                                                                 boards, including Girl Rising, and is an adviser to Girls Who CodeShe's the First, and The OpEd Project

McPherson was selected as a Vital Voices global corporate ambassador and was named as Fortune's 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter, and Fast Company's 25 Smartest Women of Twitter.The Women's Foundation of Arkansas will host its third annual Power of the Purse Luncheon on Monday, March 9, in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Arkansas from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. WFA will announce its 2015 grant award winners and recognize its 2015 Woman Business Leader of the Year.

For 16 years WFA has sustained the idea that improving the lives of women and girls in Arkansas ultimately and Central Arkansas. The money raised at the luncheon allows WFA to continue making grants to deserving organizations.

WFA is now accepting nominations for the Woman Business Leader of the Year. This award is designed to honor and preserve the names and exemplary accomplishments of women business leaders in Arkansas. Past award recipients include Judy McReynolds, CEO of Arkansas Best Corp., and Martha Moore, CEO and President of McCormick Works. Download the Honoree Nomination Criteria and Form and submit by December 31, 2014.

Sponsorship opportunities are currently available. Download information about sponsorship benefits and sponsorphip levels or call Lynnette Watts at

Reservations for the luncheon are $100 per individual and $1,000 for a table of 10. Secure your reservations today.
New Research Reveals Barriers Facing Arkansas’s Women and Girls and Their Impacts to the State’s Economy

Oct. 29, 2014 - The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas released three new studies that examine the impact of teen pregnancy and birth on education; the perceptions women have about the status of women in the home, workforce, and politics; and the links between education of women and girls to Arkansas's economic future. Hard copies of the reports are available for $10/each. Electronic copies are available for $3/each. Sales of the report go toward printing and postage costs.
To order copies, click here.

Support Women. Strengthen Arkansas.

Cottey College Going Places Tour Update

by Guest Blogger on 11/25/14

Judy R. Rogers, President, Cottey College

There is a vibe among women in Northwest Arkansas that is contagious!  I recognized it during my conversations with individual women during my visit there with the Cottey College Going Places tour and in the comments and responses I heard following the President’s Reception on Thursday evening. It comes from women who are engaged in helping other women and from women who are active in their work and their community. It was energizing. As one person I spoke with said, “Women make things happen here!”

I met women who are proactive, like Lynnette Watts, the Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. I learned about the group of women who make up her volunteer board, and they are quite impressive.  This board is producing serious socio/economic research capable of directing efforts to meet the needs of women and girls in Arkansas.  There are three publications that report this research.  The hour I spent with Lynnette passed too quickly. We both understand that education is a vital component of meeting the needs identified by the board’s research.  First, we need to get girls focused on graduating from high school and then on to college. Of course, I would say “on to a women’s college!” Why not Cottey College?

I also met women who want to see greater parity for all women. They value women’s leadership skills and want to see women better represented on boards, as C.E.O.s, in politics—in short in all areas of influence. How great that one of my remarks about recognizing women leaders brought a cheer from a member of the audience.  Another said that she also wanted to cheer several times, but was concerned that she would be interrupting. 

During my visit I had the opportunity to sit down with Amy Robinson to learn more about her coaching company and her organization, Tribe of Women.  What an excellent metaphor to say women can and must support each other through meaningful mentoring and friendship. One principle we teach at Cottey is the value of supporting each other. Our residence life arrangement of housing students in suites of eight to 10 young women in a family-like setting supports this life lesson.

I look forward to returning to Northwest Arkansas to continue conversations.  I have a lot to learn there.

The Silver Bullet: Educating Women

by Guest Blogger on 10/30/14

Bethany Stephens

In the 1940s, a film called Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet conveyed the story of a physician seeking breakthrough cures for chronic diseases which had deteriorated into urgent societal problems.  

While our collective use of the adage "there's no such thing as a silver bullet" probably has much earlier roots, it became more common after the film debuted. Today, we generally believe there is no all-encompassing cure for widespread problems affecting society. 

However, on the challenge of initiating real change in the world, there is indeed a silver bullet: the education of women.

No work of charity can be more productive of good to society...than the careful instruction of women; because, whatever be the station they are destined to fill, their example and their advice will always have great influence. 

~ Catherine McAuley, Founder , Sisters of Mercy, Ireland (1778 - 1841)

When a woman is educated, it elevates the entire family; and it's one of the fastest ways to resolve many of the ancillary problems facing communities.  

When a woman is educated, she is less likely to have children before the age of twenty and to spend the rest of her life clawing her way toward gainful employment and the quality of life she and her family deserve.

When a woman is educated and can read, she can better understand health issues and make smart decisions as a consumer. 

When a woman is educated, she gains confidence and is more capable of taking care of herself and her children – making a substantial dent in issues of domestic violence.

In the family, women make the majority of purchasing and health decisions. Women determine nutritional standards and invest their earnings back into their families. Women raise men.

Indeed, when women win, we all win.

In Arkansas, we face significant challenges related to education, economic development, and health.  Each can stand alone as worthy of our singular focus, but to make even incremental progress we must remember they are deeply entwined.  The education of women directly correlates to issues of health and economics.  

On the issue of health, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative has taken bold steps to identify actionable ways to cure health challenges across the United States. The Central Arkansas Blueprint for Health takes aim directly at the chronic health issues facing Arkansas and makes a simple but compelling assertion: better health is contagious.

On the issue of economics, the Women's Foundation of Arkansas has begun to take hold of the idea that poverty is not a problem – it's a symptom.  No physician would diagnose a sneeze, and yet we attack poverty like a contagious disease rather than a symptom at large. We must remember that poverty flees where education is rampant.

No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women. This one thing can do more to address extreme poverty than food, shelter, health care, economic development, or increased foreign assistance. 

~ Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General (2007)

Tragically, educating women is not a problem we can fix with the speed at which a bullet travels. It is a long, slow, tireless attack against the encroachment of a deadly epidemic, and many barriers persist.  

Today, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, in partnership with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, is releasing three milestone reports:

  • Our Common Journey: Linking the Educations of Women and Girls and Arkansas’s Economic Transformation
  • Voices of Women: Perceptions of the Status of Women in Arkansas
  • Delivering Better Education: The Impact of Teen Pregnancy and Birth on Education in Arkansas

The reports underscore one inarguable fact: if we educate women, it will be the single fastest way to resolve many of the problems affecting our state.

Educating women is the silver bullet for social issues in Arkansas.

We had to make the case to the whole world that creating opportunities for women and girls advances security and prosperity for everyone. 

~ Hillary Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State (2013)

Bethany Stephens worked for 14 years in nonprofit organizations and for the largest chamber of commerce in Arkansas in capacities including tourism, advertising, marketing and promotion as well as community and economic development. She serves on the statewide board of directors for the Women's Foundation of Arkansas, is a member of Leadership Arkansas Class IX and obtained her IOM (Institute for Organizational Management) designation through the United States Chamber of Commerce. Her writing has been featured in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and magazines including Arkansas LifeCelebrate Arkansas, At Home in Memphis and Edible Ozarkansas as well as many websites and blogs. Beth lives with her husband Fred and their daughters Sophie and Ainsley in historic downtown Rogers.

A Presentation to the State Legislature

by Guest Blogger on 11/01/12

For the past year, WFA board member, Dr. Lee Lee Doyle and I have had the honor of sitting on the Interim Study Committee assembled by Rep. Kathy Webb. This committee was tasked with gathering data on the social and economic status of women in Arkansas. This past week, Lee Lee, Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, Kathy Webb and I presented the report to the City, County and Local Affairs Committee of the State Legislature. I must say that the report was well received. We are hopeful that our recommendations will be seriously considered and that actions will be taken because of them. For this week's blog, I thought I'd offer my "piece" of the presentation to the Committee - Education. Thank you, Kathy, for including me - and WFA - in this process!


Madame Chair, Mr. Chair, Members. My name is Lynnette Watts, Executive Director of the WFA, and chair of the subcommittee on education. Thank you for this opportunity.

I would like to introduce the members of our subcommittee: Representative Johnnie Roebuck, Kae Chatman, Rita Fleming, Tammy Harris, Sharl Hill, Melissa Rust, Jane Gray Todd, Hilary Trudell, Jean Wallace, and Barbara Yarnell.

Education is fundamental in breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving economic security for women in Arkansas. An educated woman improves her chances of moving out of poverty, of participating in the labor market and of entering the workforce. When women have greater employment prospects and higher wages, state government saves on expenditures on public support programs and at the same time sees increased tax revenue.

In assessing the status of women in education, our subcommittee addressed issues in women's high school and college completion rates, women's faculty and leadership roles in higher education institutions,the link between women's education and their job opportunities,and the educational opportunities for incarcerated women. We were also tasked with looking at the issue of human trafficking in Arkansas.

In 2009, the National Center for Educational Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences reported that Arkansas ranks 38th in the nation with a female high school graduation rate of 77.3 percent. What this number illustrates is: 1 in 4 young women do not complete their high school education. Of the students who dropped out of school in the class of 2010, 47 percent were female. According to the Alliance for Excellence in Education, if we could keep that 47 percent in school, Arkansas would see $42M in increased earnings, $33M in increased spending , and as much as $3.5M in increased tax revenue. Thirty-seven percent of these graduates would likely continue on to pursue some type of post-secondary education.

In today's economy, not having a college education can lead to fewer job opportunities and lower potential for economic security. According to research compiled by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, only 19 percent of all Arkansas women have a college education of four years or more, ranking us 50thin the nation. This low statistic is unsettling because - as Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families points out in their report The State of Working Arkansas - "a college education continues to be the key to earning higher wages in Arkansas."

Opportunities are greatest for women who earn a bachelor's degree or higher. A recent analysis by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce tells us that 61 percent of Arkansas's jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018. Between now and then, Arkansas will need to fill over 400,000 vacancies - one half of which will require post-secondary credentials.

Two of the many factors impacting a woman's decision in pursuing post-secondary education and/or in choosing a career field of study are access to athletic scholarships and encouragement in the study of science, technology, engineering or mathematics - or STEM. Public records clearly indicate that male athletes in Arkansas receive more scholarships - both full and partial - than female athletes. Data also show that more males participate in inter-collegiate sports in Arkansas than females. I will quickly add that all of Arkansas colleges and universities are in compliance with Title IX requirements. However, what is not included in these numbers are the number and size of scholarships awarded to male and female athletes by alumni foundations.

Current data from Arkansas colleges and universities illustrate that participating in sports has a significant impact on women athletes' college retention rates. In Arkansas, women show higher retention rates during their first three years of athletic participation/study as compared to male athletes. Higher grades, higher levels of academic support and effective coping strategies all improve a student athlete's chance of remaining at the same school and completing her education.

The question of what subjects young women are encouraged to study is important in determining the jobs that Arkansas women eventually pursue or fall into. In a 2011 report from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the authors state that increasing the number of bachelor's degrees, especially in the critical STEM fields must be a priority if Arkansas is to make the transition to a knowledge-based economy. According to Change the Equation, only 29 percent of Arkansas women received degrees or certificates in STEM fields in 2009. A review of data provided by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education detailing disciplines of Arkansas graduates for the past five academic years, bears out this data: the ratio of men to women is 6:1 in engineering, 5:1 in computer science and technology, and 4:1 in physics.

In assessing the status of women in education we also looked at the positions held and salaries earned within the education system. In looking at job opportunity and pay equity within education, we suggest that more leadership training for women is needed to aid in encouraging them to aspire to and secure leadership positions within their fields. A sampling of Arkansas higher education institutions reveals that most campuses do not offer leadership courses specifically targeted for female students. Only two programs were found to focus solely on women. A pilot program to bolster retention at University of Arkansas at Little Rock hosted a program in women's leadership. And, at University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, a Commission on Women was recently established.

While women are making gains in achieving an education, they continue to hold far fewer leadership positions throughout the system. In 2009-2010 K-12 education, women made up 38 of the 202 superintendents. Not only was the number of women in this position lower, but the median salary for these women was more than $2,000 lower than their male counterparts. In higher education, women hold 38 percent of all faculty positions in Arkansas but are more apt than men to fill part-time and adjunct positions. Data collected found that of the 34 individuals occupying Chancellor or President positions in two- and four- year institutions, just six were women. Dr. Ellibee's hiring at Pulaski Tech brings that number to seven.

Among the positions of Provost, Vice President, and especially, Dean, the number of women is increasing.However, women continue to receive unequal pay for equal work in the university setting. At the Chancellor/President level, the average salary for women is over $50,000 lower than the average salary for men. Female Chairs, on average also receive more than $50,000 less than men. For faculty, the average female wage is $11,000 less than males.One cost-saving measure that education of women offers our state can be achieved by lowering the recidivism rate of formerly incarcerated women. Research tells us that the average grade level of women entering prison is 8th grade. Further research shows us that of the women who graduate with a GED while in prison, 85 percent do not return to prison. This rate increases to 98 percent if the woman receives an associate's degree. It is easy to see that investing in education for incarcerated women could translate into significant savings.

On the subject of human trafficking (for sex or labor), our main findings are: human trafficking is conducted within our state and currently no system is in place to gather data on it. The federal definition of sex trafficking or human trafficking is the act of forcing or coercing someone into the commercial sex trade against his or her will. Arkansas's definition requires proof of force, fraud or coercion - even when minors are involved in a commercial sex act.

Addressing human trafficking involving minors is a challenging problem for Arkansas. All minors involved in the commercial sex industry should be recognized as victims instead of prosecuted for offenses related to their victimization, including prostitution. Currently there is no mechanism in the state to take minor victims of trafficking (domestic or international) into custody, other than through the juvenile justice system. This victimizes the minor yet again and places her/him in an environment that offers little restorative support.

Recommendations from our sub-committee are numerous but all are worthy of review and your careful consideration. I'd like to mention a few.

  • We stress the need for more gender-based research and reporting in order to identify factors that affect female and male students differently.
  • We see a need for a keener focus on STEM fields, encouragement of women's sports, and inclusion of women's history - throughout the K-12 spectrum.
  • School accountability for dropouts MUST be increased and interventions put in place to turn around low graduation rates.
  • Local school boards should increase the number of women appointed as principals and superintendents; the ADHE and higher education institutions should increase emphasis on recruitment of women in all areas, and, women should be encouraged to seek appointments to the governing boards of higher education institutions.
  • Educational opportunities need to continue within the women’s prison system

Within human trafficking, the state definition should be changed to reflect the federal definition. All minors involved in the commercial sex industry should be recognized as victims instead of prosecuted for offenses.Supports and systems within the state must be capable and prepared to address the needs of trafficking victims. And a plan for mandatory training for law enforcement regarding human trafficking should be developed and implemented and public awareness and education about human trafficking should be improved.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity. I'd like to close by quoting Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy who operate Mount St. Mary here in Little Rock. She said, "no work of charity can be more productive of good to society, or more conducive to the happiness of the poor, than the careful instruction of women, since whatever be the station they are destined to fill, their example and their advice will always possess influence."

Thank you.