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Women's History Month: There is still progress to be made in Milwaukee

Posted at 9:06 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 10:06:47-04

MILWAUKEE — About 40% of all working women in the United States are earning less than $15 an hour. That increases to 50% when it comes to women of color. In Wisconsin, 58% of working women of color earn less than $15 per hour. That's according to a new analysis of U.S. Census data done by Oxfam— an anti-poverty organization.

"Vote for representatives who actually have passed legislation that supports families. That have supported a living wage." That's the advice from Andrea Schneider, who leads the Institute for Women's Leadership at Marquette University. She points to a local step forward — city of Milwaukee employees will be eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave starting in April 2022. But she also noted, the international standard is closer to 12 weeks.

Marilka Velez, Senior VP, Senior Director of Marketing at Associated Bank added, "in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin we still have a lot of work to." As a woman in a leadership role she had this advice to share: "I think as you're growing in your career you also kind of realize this isn't necessarily about making everyone comfortable with me. This is about expressing my ideas and bringing my experience to the table — that's what I'm getting paid to do."

At this point in her career she has a voice at the table, which is why Velez values her involvement with the Women's Fund of Greater Milwaukee. "It really has helped to give me a community and resources to act as a change agent," she said. Velez currently serves as board chair.

Working women face unique challenges — but that's not the sole focus of the Women's Fund. The non-profit wants to create a community where women are thriving in every aspect of life. Lisa Attonito described it like this: "That there is safety in their neighborhoods, that they have access to education for themselves and their children, where the medical community is supporting the needs and wishes of women."

The mission of the Women's Fund is to direct philanthropic support to advance equity for women and girls. "When you're really committed to shifting attitude, behavior and culture you have to show up," continued Attonito. Both Attonito and Velez say one way to do that is to consider where you're spending or donating money. "Really taking a look at what are my values," explained Velez. "And when I'm donating to an organization — does that align with the vision of the world that I want to see?"

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