CEW Receives Ford Foundation Grant to Lead Women's Economic Mobility Project

The Center for the Education of Women has embarked on The Michigan Partners for Women's Economic Mobility, an exciting new project funded largely by the Ford Foundation. This three-year project will be the foundation for ongoing CEW advocacy efforts in the years to come. The Ford Foundation has generously provided over $380,000 to CEW towards developing this project.

CEW as convener

The project is a collaboration involving faculty and researchers from all three U-M campuses, as well as from other Michigan colleges, along with representatives of nonprofit organizations, advocates, and low-income women themselves. The primary role of CEW is that of convener of a joint effort by these partners to 1) identify policy and system barriers and supports to increasing the economic mobility of Michigan's low-income women of color, 2) to share what is learned, and 3) to sustain and support positive outcomes for the long term.

In conjunction with this project, and as part of CEW's 50th anniversary, the Center will also be hosting a May 2014 conference on economic security and mobility for women. This conference, funded as a "Michigan Meeting" by the Rackham Graduate School, will include not only partners in the Michigan Partners Project but other state and national experts who can contribute to the discussion.

Partners are essential

In order to accomplish the goals of the project, the design brings a wide range of stakeholders together during the first year to develop the ongoing network and to determine the agenda for the next two years. Already a core group of partners has been involved in developing the funding request for the Ford Foundation and the intra-University proposal for support of the 2014 Michigan Meetings conference.

We anticipate our partners addressing these question as they meet together:

  • What are the greatest barriers to low-income women attempting to leave poverty?
  • Can we identify policies or practices that help to support women in this goal?
  • Which barriers emerge as the most imperative to address, or as the most likely to make a difference?

Because the urban centers of Detroit and Flint include high percentages of single women heading households, women of color, and women in poverty, the Michigan Partners Project will focus its attention first on those two areas. It is there that the partners will begin to address the needs identified in year one. In addition, we will expand the network by supporting graduate student research, providing two local activists with sabbaticals so that they might advocate for policy regarding a specific issue, and bringing in additional local partners. 

The result of the work conducted in the first two years will inform year three, which will focus on developing sample policies and practices for dissemination to similar groups across the state and beyond Michigan. At the same time, the Center will use its national networks to share both the project's collaborative model and generalizable research findings with others. 

At CEW, we consider this project to be just the beginning of an emerging and evolving statewide partnership. As we look beyond the next three years, we anticipate bringing the model to other metropolitan areas in Michigan and, ultimately, developing statewide recognition of and engagement with the difficulties low-income women have in achieving economic mobility. 

The importance to our state cannot be overemphasized: the challenges that Michigan women and their families face when trying to become self-sufficient are as multifaceted as they are difficult. For example, almost 10% of Michigan women are unemployed and many more are underemployed. Although well-represented in Michigan's institutions of higher education, low-income women struggle to complete their degrees due to work and family obligations. The Michigan economy was among the hardest hit in the recession of recent years; our aim is to ensure that low-income women participate in and benefit from the current recovery.

Ebony Reddock heads new initiative

In order to quickly begin our project work, we have hired Ebony Reddock as the Coordinator of the Michigan Partners Project. Ebony's experience working in academia, as well as in nonprofits that address the issues of women and girls, will enable her to connect with the collaborating partners with an understanding of their concerns, approaches, and desired outcomes. In addition, Ebony has a deep knowledge of the issues facing low-income women, including her dissertation work on African-American paternal grandmothers care giving for teen fathers. She expects to receive her Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Michigan this spring. 


If you would like to contact Ebony about this project, email her at esandusk@umich.edu.