MIDDLETOWN — The Middlesex United Way has found it important to do our part as an organization and expand our work by hosting two affinity groups, the Young Leader’s Society and The Women’s Initiative.
Today, I want to specifically highlight the important work of The Women’s Initiative, as women were affected disproportionately higher than men during the pandemic. This year’s theme for the Women’s Initiative is “elevate” — to support and elevate fellow women and children in the community.
One of the struggles women have experienced throughout the pandemic is employment. Since the onset of COVID-19, 400,000 more women than men have left the workforce. Women disproportionately carry the burden of unpaid care in households, including taking care of kids and parents, cooking and cleaning.
Even before the pandemic, women did almost twice as much unpaid care compared to men on average. In December 2020, women accounted for all of the net job losses, while men achieved some job gains. Some estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 — two full years after the recovery for men.
The Women’s Initiative is hosting a Women in Business Summit June 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. to support female business owners and those interested in starting a small business or making a career change. The happy hour networking event will feature a panel of diverse women who will share how they have managed during the pandemic and give advice on how to start and successfully grow a business.
Panelists include Pamela Steele, owner of Pamela Roose Specialty Handknits and Yarn and the chairwoman of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce’s Central Business Bureau, and Linda Jones of Linda Jones Home Improvements, based in Middlefield.
Participants will be able to share their contact information for a virtual business card exchange in addition to receiving a list of resources available for women business owners. The event is free to those who are interested and will be held on Zoom.
One of the main components of the Women’s Initative is to award small grants throughout Middlesex County to community organizations focusing on women and girls in the areas of childhood development, financial stability and health. In 2020, the group invested over $10,000 in community partners, impacting hundreds of women and their families.
To date in 2021, four community partners have received grants, which provide educational and leadership development opportunities, in addition to basic needs such as food and legal representation. This year, those who have received grants are Girl Scouts of Connecticut, Steam Train, Children’s Law Center of Connecticut, and Hinka’s Food Pantry. Funds given to the Girl Scouts will allow 25 girls in Middlesex County the opportunity to participate in the program and develop leadership skills.
Steam Train recruits and trains girls, women, and other underrepresented populations to pursue fields of study that include STEM disciplines, while the Children’s Law Center provides children and their parents access to legal services and support they could not otherwise afford. Hinka’s Food Pantry serves an average of 100 families a month.
To learn more or sign up for the summit, please email Christina Heckart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.