Why I Went to Prison

 by Michelle Cale, guest blogger

I first went to prison in May 2010.  Luckily for me, I was able to leave the same day because I was just a visitor.  I was part of a group invited by Get On The Bus, a nonprofit organization that had recently brought together mothers incarcerated in the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) with their children, who had been brought by bus from across California.  For me, while this visit was a life-changing experience, it was just a day.  For the women I met at the CCWF – part of the largest women’s prison complex in the world – this was their life. 

We “outsiders” heard stories about overcrowding, lack of basic healthcare and preventative screenings, rationing of sanitary pads and toilet rolls, random strip searches and invasions of privacy, violence and abuse involving both guards and other inmates.  We heard about the women’s frustrations and disappointments – one of the most painful examples being that children come to visit, but are turned away because they have the wrong paperwork. We heard these women, many of them in their twenties and thirties, open their hearts about the mistakes they had made, and the way their failures had led to the fracturing of their families and the loss of their children.  It was clear that the bond these women still felt with their children, many of whom they had seen that Mothers’ Day for the first time in years, was the only thing keeping them hopeful, wanting to do well, get out, and stay out. Read More »

Payroll Software

Human Resources and recent payroll software systems have demonstrated a chilling effect. The report, Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California’s Women and Their Families, which we released with the California Budget Project has been covered in a variety of media throughout the state. Here’s a select round-up of media. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the findings in various venues throughout the state. You can read our two-page executive summary that highlights key findings here.

2/1/2012, KPBS Radio- San Diego , “California Women Pummeled By Economy And State Budget Cuts” by Erik Anderson

2/1/2012, Los Angeles Times, “Report: California women struggle with job market, budget cuts” by Chris Megerian

2/1/2012, Central Valley Business Times, “Great Recession, state budget crisis especially tough on women, says report”

2/1/2012, Whittier Daily News & Pasadena Star News, “Economic crisis and budget woes hit state’s women harder” by Brian Charles

2/1/2012, ABC 7 KGO-TV San Francisco, “Single moms making slower economic recovery” by Nannette Miranda

2/2/2012, Stockton Record, “Economic woes hit state’s women particularly hard” by Zachary K. Johnson

2/3/2012, New America Media, “Study: California Women ‘Falling Behind’—and Held Back by Budget Cuts” by Zaineb Mohammed

2/3/2012, HealthyCal.org, “Women, families hurt most by recession, budget cuts” by Kate Karpilow

2/6/2012, CA Work and Family Coalition Blog, “Women and Children are Casualties of the State Budget Crisis” by Beth McGovern

Foundation Report Reveals How Budget Crisis Hurts California’s Women and Families

Judy Patrickby Judy Patrick, CEO and President, Women’s Foundation of California

Last week, we launched our report, Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California’s Women and Their Families, prepared by the California Budget Project (CBP).  In addition to holding a press conference with CBP to reveal the report’s findings, we had the honor and privilege of testifying at a legislative hearing in the state capital. I gave testimony about why we funded this research, Jean Ross, executive director of CBP shared the findings, and at least 50 people spoke passionately about how the budget cuts have affected their lives and the lives of their families and neighbors.

Here is my testimony: It is the vision and hope of the Women’s Foundation of California that every woman, every family in California is economically secure. This is very big vision, but one grounded in our belief that equity and justice are possible. For us, economic security means that a family can meet their basic needs: a safe place to live, enough food to eat, quality child care, health care, transportation, and a good education.

As we have watched and listened to women across the state of California over the last 4-5 years, we have been continually made aware that a brewing storm threatens this vision: a deep recession in which low income women have been disproportionately impacted, coupled with a state budget process that has relentlessly cut programs designed to support and tide families over during difficult times. Moved by so many women’s experiences and stories, the Women’s Foundation of California commissioned the California Budget Project to conduct this important research and uncover the data behind the stories. Good data is the base of good policy work. It is important to build awareness in Sacramento and beyond because this puts pressure on policymakers to do the right thing. As a foundation, we invest in changing policy that impacts the lives of women and their families. Therefore, this research is very important to us. Read More »

Rediscovering LA Through Photography and Philanthropy

Jurmeddorj Nordog, Mongolian throat singer and musician, photograph by Audrey Stein

An Interview with Audrey Stein, by Emma Mayerson

Traveling is in my bones.  As a child I used to dream about traveling to faraway lands.  As an adult I have traveled to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, China, Nepal, India, Papa New Guinea, Indonesia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America.  Before each journey, I study the history, culture and customs of my destination.  Once I arrive, I try to capture the spirit of indigenous cultures, many threatened by extinction, through the lens of my camera. Finally, before I return home to Los Angeles, I often make a philanthropic gift to help meet an unmet need that I have witnessed during my travels.

For decades now I have been an active philanthropist, but until recently my philanthropy was solely directed abroad.  Why is that? Perhaps this is because while traveling abroad I spend my time in remote communities where there are many needs. As a photographer, I am especially drawn to cultures and communities that are struggling to survive in today’s competitive global economy and increasingly westernized world. Moved by what I see abroad, I have until recently chosen to focus my philanthropic efforts solely outside the borders of the United States, far from home.

Read More »

Celebrating the Holidays at La Cocina

Maria Flores, Estrellitas Snacks and Ellen Monroe, Women's Foundation of California

This year the Women’s Foundation of California celebrated the holidays by taking a cooking class at La Cocina with Maria Flores, owner and cook for Estrellitas Snacks. Maria taught us to make chicken and spinach tamales. Beyond good food and holiday cheer, we also celebrated our role as the fiscal sponsor of La Cocina. The idea for La Cocina came from a donor at the Women’s Foundation of California, who owned an abandoned building in the heart of the Mission district of San Francisco.

Read More »

Change Begins At Home

Kim Carter and her staff with Race, Gender and Human Rights circle members

By Victoria Chan

I’ve always wanted to travel the world. When I was  a child, my mom would read me her journals describing her travels in Europe when she was in her 20′s. I was determined to leave the United States, to see the world. For fun, I would visit travel websites and look up costs of different one-way tickets to faraway places. When I graduated college I got a job with an international Humanitarian organization. This job allowed me to see the world and help those in need, which was in alignment with my passion. Since that first job, I’ve lived in a hut in the rural area of Swaziland, sat with lepers in India and listened to stories of women living in poverty in the Philippines.

In May of this year I joined the Women’s Foundation of California. This was my first time working in an organization with a statewide focus. Suddenly I was bombarded with issues I never thought of such as immigration, criminal justice and the struggles of undocumented students who dreamt of graduating from college and finding jobs to give back to this country that they loved so much. Read More »

Pulling Families Back from the Edge

When will we realize that supporting women’s ability to work and excel is a key factor in lifting our state’s economy?

Since 2007, child care and support for single mothers and low-income families have taken devastating blows as California struggles to balance its budget. Cutting childcare forces many women to choose between taking care of their children or keeping a job.

Judy Patrick, our CEO, recently published an article that highlights this dilemma.  Not only does Judy highlight the need for childcare, she also points out that funding childcare and early education is a smart economic investment for California. A recent study, “Economic Impacts of Early Care and Education in California” found that, “every dollar spent on Early Childcare and Education (ECE) yields $2 in economic output for the California economy.”  Judy is not alone in her efforts to highlight the economic advantages of ECE funding. Our grant partner Parent Voices directed us to this report and is already using it to inform its advocacy efforts.

And Nancy Pelosi said of ECE in a recent Washington Post article, “One of the great pieces of unfinished business [in the US] is high-quality child care; I wonder why we just can’t do that.”

Take Action with MissRepresentation.org

From Left: board member Kimberly Freeman, board chair Kathryn Downing, Dr. Kathy Magliato, president and CEO Judy Patrick and Jennifer Seibel Newsom

The first event of the Amazing Women, Inspiring Stories speaking series left many people in the audience asking, “What’s next?” At the event, Dr. Kathy Magliato and Jennifer Siebel Newsom addressed how stereotypes about women have effected them personally, as well as in their careers.  They are not alone.  Many women are currently  combating sexist stereotypes in their lives.  So, what can we do about it?  Ms. Siebel Newsom’s online campaign MissRepresentation.org suggests several actions to take.

We can start at home.  By questioning the media we are consuming and the messages this media is sending us and our families, we can adjust our media consumption to reflect our values. We can also ask questions at the dinner table such as, “Are women and girls encouraged to be leaders in the same way men and boys are?”  For more information about how to take action please visit MissRepresentation.org 

Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Dr. Kathy Maglioto Featured in New Speaking Series

Dr. Kathy Magliato and Jennifer Siebel Newsom

By Emma Mayerson, Development Assistant

“I decided to be an actress and moved to Hollywood.  When I got there, an agent told me I would have greater success if I took my Stanford MBA off my resume and lied about my age,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom told the audience at the Women’s Foundation of California’s premiere event of our new Amazing Women, Inspiring Stories speakers’ series.  Each event in the series will feature two successful, powerful and inspirational women in conversation.  For our launch event we featured Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director of Miss Representation, in conversation with Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world and author of Heart Matters. Kimberly Freeman, Director of Community Relations for Southern California Gas Company, moderated the conversation.  Read More »

Amazing Women, Inspiring Stories

By Emma Mayerson, Development Assistant

In high school I traveled to Guatemala with Where There Be Dragonsa study abroad program . For six weeks we lived in a small village in the mountains where we were each assigned a homestay and a tutor. One day, my tutor told me that her ex-husband used to physically and emotionally abuse her. Domestic violence was so common in her village, however, that when she told her sister and mother, they shrugged. When she told them she wanted to leave him, they told her she was crazy. She could not afford to leave him—what would she do for money? Like many women in her village, she had been pulled out of school before third grade to master cooking and sewing skills. Despite her lack of job skills, she was determined to find a job and leave her husband. Eventually, she found Where There Be Dragons and, though she was barely literate, asked them for a job as a tutor. They hired and trained her, providing her with the means to start a new life. Read More »


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