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Michigan Women Forward

In 1986, a group of incredible women from across Michigan set their political ideologies and social statues aside to address a common American message, “women don’t help other women.” At the time, only three percent of philanthropic dollars supported female gender-specific programs across the United States. In response to this serious inequity, the Michigan Women’s Foundation, the only public, statewide foundation devoted to the economic selfsufficiency and personal well-being of the state’s women and girls was born.

During the Foundation’s first twenty years as a small granting organization $3.5 million was awarded to 520 nonprofits serving women and girls. Following a review of past practices concern arose that the tradition of spreading small amounts of money over many programs had failed to make a significant impact for the women and girls of Michigan. The decision was made to focus on the creation and support of high-impact programs focusing on just three areas: accelerating women’s entrepreneurship, developing the next generation of women leaders and advancing Michigan’s women’s agenda.

To bring more recognition to Michigan Women’s Foundation to balance the equation and help women succeed, months of research and exploration resulted in the creation of a new brand. On April 23, 2018 MWF Michigan Women Forward was launched. The results and impact of MWF has increased dramatically and the Foundation is changing the lives of women and girls across Michigan, disproving the antiquated notion “women don’t help women” for good.

The vision of MWF is a Michigan where women are recognized leaders who thrive, contribute and uplift the state’s future. To help ensure the groups vision, focus is placed on four primary initiatives:

#WomanUp – Today, less than 10% of investment capital goes to women in the U.S., with even less going to women of color and low-to-moderate income women. Through their #WomanUp initiative, MWF creates opportunity for previously underserved women to start and grow successful businesses, with both education and financing programs. To date $3.3 million of investment has helped over 200 women start businesses, with 79% of their entrepreneurial clients being low to moderate income and 61% of clients being women of color.

#UGOGirls (Unstoppable Generation of Girls) For Change – Partnering with Kalamazoo Chapter of the Links, MWF provides a leadership development program targeting young ladies in grades 9 – 12. This partnership helps young women navigate the often-treacherous path from middle to high school and on into college and career. Empowering the next generation of women is at the very heart of what MWF does and they are always looking for volunteers to share their talents and experience.

#BehindEveryWoman – Hundreds of women, and a few good men, donate thousands of hours of their expertise and provide connections to ensure the entrepreneurs MWF serves have access to their experience and networks.

#HERStory – In 2018, MWF assumed responsibility of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and Historical Center. Together, they honor Michigan’s female trailblazers by telling their stories of brilliance, talent, perseverance and achievement. To date, 323 superstars have been inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

Last year, MWF launched the Women of Achievement and Courage Award. The 2018 recipients were Janice Brown, Betty Upjohn Mason and LaJune Montgomery Tabron. On Thursday, September 26, 2019 MWF will honor the 2019 recipients of the Women of Achievement and Courage Award, the Honorable Carolyn H. Williams, retired probate judge and Chairperson of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and Lynn Chen-Zhang, Chief Operating Officer of Zhang Financial. The event will be held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, downtown Kalamazoo at 5:30 PM. Tickets for the dinner are available at miwf.org/events1/womanupandcelebrate

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