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by Roselande “Roe” Louis, Senior Program Associate, Leadership and Aspen Forum on Women and Girls

Long before the pandemic, racial and gender injustice created barriers that prevented women of color from accessing quality jobs and equitable healthcare. Today, these challenges have only been exacerbated. We see this in the disproportionate unemployment and maternal mortality rates, particularly among Black women. Although Black women continue to make significant contributions to their families and society, including being the top breadwinners and the most educated demographic earning postsecondary degrees, the road to economic recovery and well-being is still further from their reach than their counterparts.

As a Black woman, I can’t help but think about how my life and the lives of generations after me depend on solving these issues. First, we must acknowledge the structural barriers at the intersection of race and gender and the compounding effects that perpetuate economic inequities. Next, beyond recovery, we must commit to taking bold action to transform and lead systems that do not leave Black women and their families behind.

Throughout the last two years, it was hard not to be reminded of these inequities and structural shortcomings. But through my work on the inaugural season of our AscendTogether webcast, I learned about potential solutions as we invited policy, philanthropic, and systems change leaders to virtual conversations about creating more equitable pathways for families to achieve economic mobility.

For each of the five episodes in the series, Ascend’s Executive Director and the Aspen Forum on Women and Girls’ co-chair, Anne Mosle, invited courageous changemakers to share how they were creating and seizing opportunities to transform policies, systems, and the public conversation. Rooted in equity, Anne set the table for leaders from all levels—from community-based pioneers to C-suite managers and White House cabinet members—to amplify their big ideas for just and equitable family well-being and economic mobility.

For me, the final episode of the season was the most powerful. It highlighted the White House Gender Policy Council’s release of the National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality. This document is the US government’s first policy plan to address gender inequality and presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that all women benefit from its full and equitable implementation.

The National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality sets forth ten interconnected priorities and brings close attention and a whole-of-government approach to the systemic barriers and discrimination that disproportionately impact women, girls, working families, and LGBTQIA+ communities. By design, the strategy covers domestic and foreign policy in its scope and is grounded in an intersectional approach. From Ascend’s work with transformational leaders in communities across the US, we see time and again that an intersectional lens, one that sharpens the focus on the connections between race, gender, and class, can reveal new paths to economic mobility and family well-being.

For this briefing, Anne Mosle sat down with Jennifer Klein, co-chair of the White House Gender Policy Council, and Wendy Chun-Hoon, director of the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. To share a local implementation perspective, Ascend fellow Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, the CEO of Springboard to Opportunities, joined the discussion and brought in the voices of the women and families she serves. SOAR Fellow Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, an expert on economic policies and obstacles women face in the workplace also joined the conversation. Hundreds of advocates around the country, working at every level of policy and advocacy for women and families, tuned in and participated.