Lea is an expert on all things policy when it comes to increasing opportunities for women in NYC. WCC is dedicated to teaching underserved women about civic engagement, giving them the power to use their voice and vote to enact change. Lea’s favorite part of WCC is the opportunity to meet and collaborate with amazing women who care deeply about making change in their communities and are passionate about creating a more equitable NYC.
Congratulations on ringing in your name change at NASDAQ! What was the inspiration behind the new name “Women Creating Change”?
The shift from Women’s City Club to Women Creating Change (WCC) signals the active work of building the future we know is possible—and women are uniquely positioned to do this work. The new name came out of WCC’s plans for expanded impact in its second century of service, structuring comprehensive, multi-tiered civic engagement programming to broaden access to tools, resources, and educational opportunities for women who have been systemically excluded from civic processes to create change in their lives and in their communities in New York City.
Can you explain what the civic opportunity gap is?
The civic opportunity gap is a disparity in gender-based programming and policy, including resources, education, access, and networks. WCC’s research consistently finds that while many women are civically engaged, they often face barriers as a result of fundamental societal inequities and oppression like the burden of care and gendered stereotypes. When researching political participation among adult women in New York City, we have found that they are consistently excluded from civic processes in significant ways due to factors like their gender-identity, race, and class as well as inequitable policies that create insufficient social services. This makes it harder for women to participate, learn, and create change. As a result, women and gender-expansive persons—particularly Black, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, Latinx, low-income, immigrant, LGBTQI+, and disabled individuals—are underrepresented at most levels of government and throughout civic processes.
What policies should we advocate for to help bring this important issue into the limelight?
It’s important to advocate for policies that make it easier for women to engage and participate in civic processes. These policies include: expanded voting rights and access; a fair census and redistricting process; ending discriminatory policing practices and redirecting funds for policing communities toward building community health; allocating more funding and recruitment for participatory budgeting; and increasing local and statewide funding for civic learning and education opportunities for families and adults. More specifically, WCC supports passing legislation like New York’s version of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, the national Freedom to Vote Act, and bills that will lead towards no-excuse absentee voting and same day voter registration.
How does your Civic Matters initiative help improve civic engagement for women?
Recognizing the many barriers to women’s civic participation, Civic Matters is a multi-tiered initiative that seeks to identify and remove obstacles, making it easier to get civically engaged and meet the need for more inclusive, gender equity-focused civic learning and participation opportunities. The program connects women with information, education, and support to learn about civic engagement and why it matters, take on leadership roles, and engage directly in advocacy for themselves. Civic Matters encompasses four programmatic elements (Workshops, Resource Hub, Fellowship, and Leadership Institute) that WCC is developing in partnership with women who face fundamental barriers to civic engagement based on social, economic, political, caregiving, and time constraints. Civic Matters is designed to meet women where they are on their civic learning journeys and serve as a pipeline to opportunities through which women can grow.