The Visionary Prize Recipients Announced
Recently, the first-ever Visionary Prize for Women’s Economic Empowerment, created and funded by the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation and the nonprofit Visionary Women, was presented to Sherry Leiwant and Dina Bakst of A Better Balance, a nonprofit advocacy group working to use law to advance justice for female workers so they can care for themselves and their loved ones without risking economic security. Their mission is to fight discrimination against pregnant workers and caregivers, as well as to advance paid sick time and family and medical-leave policies. “We are deeply honored to be named winners of The Visionary Prize for Women’s Economic Empowerment,” stated a letter from the award’s recipients. “When we founded A Better Balance, our living rooms were host to the reimagining of what could be possible for women in this country. Over the past 15 years, it has been incredible to grow our organization into what it is now and see the issues we have been fighting for since day one move more squarely into the national spotlight.” Laura Fox, board member and Grants Committee Chair of Visionary Women, says that determining who would receive the inaugural Visionary Prize—created to benefit a female leader or leaders of a nonprofit working to advance women’s economic empowerment in the US—was a difficult decision. “All of the applicants and finalists were incredibly impressive, so it was a very hard choice,” she says. “The finalist organizations each had a very broad impact—some provided direct support enabling women to fully participate and succeed in the workforce or succeed as business owners or entrepreneurs, and some eliminated barriers to achieving economic stability and success. The individual finalists were either founders or had significantly grown their organizations. Sherry and Dina particularly impressed the jury as founders.” Sue Hostetler Wrigley, president and cofounder of the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation drives home why protecting and empowering women in the workforce is so imperative. “When more women work, economies grow,” she says. “Women’s economic empowerment and development increases productivity, economic diversification and income parity.”
Dina Bakst and Sherry Leiwant , Co-founders & Co-Presidents, A Better Balance
While the women of A Better Balance received the $100,000 prize, the runner-up, Michelle Rhone-Collins of LIFT—a nonprofit that invests in parents to break the cycle of poverty—received $25,000. Additionally, three other finalists— Shelly Omilâdé Bell of Black Girl Ventures; Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates; and Ai-jen Poo of National Domestic Workers Alliance—received $10,000. “We know that most funders prefer to provide programmatic or restricted support,” says Fox. “With our $100,000 grant to general operating support, we want to enable the winners to deploy substantial funds in any way that aligns with their priorities as leaders. We hope it will contribute to the growth and sustainability of the organization.”
The Visionary Prize was the brainchild of Wrigley, much in part to the inequality she saw in women’s opportunities around the world. “Globally, women are paid less than men, are more likely to be unemployed than men, and are over-represented in more vulnerable jobs—all while being the predominate caregivers,” says Wrigley. “Women are less likely than men to have access to financial institutions, apply for funding or a business loan, or even have a bank account. And Covid made all of this worse, so Angella [Nazarian, co-founder and President of Visionary Women] and I felt it was a critical moment to help support organizations and the female founders of those organizations who are in the trenches doing this very significant work.” It is the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation’s hope that The Visionary Prize will aid in bringing these women and their work into the spotlight to increasingly bring awareness to and benefit their critical causes. The foundation sends its sincere congratulations to the prize recipients and finalists and has pledged to continue the award for another two years.