Since 1855, the Young Women’s Christian Association has combated injustices against women and led the fight for gender equity across three centuries. As a pioneer of social movements, the YWCA helps showcase efforts like the ones ESG investors can lean on to support women’s issues as well as racial equality, which has become the organization’s co-mission. For those seeking to learn how to empower women, the YMCA offers ample models and resources.
Pioneering Women’s Issues
The YWCA has a long history as a leader of social change and has been a major player in women’s rights in America across three centuries.
- 1872: The first YWCA employment bureau opens in New York City.
- 1889: The first African American YWCA branch opens in Dayton, Ohio.
- 1915: The first desegregated YWCA conference is held in Louisville, Kentucky.
- 1919: The first gathering of medical women is held at the YWCA’s International Conference of Women Physicians and includes attendees from 32 countries.
- 1960: The Atlanta YWCA cafeteria opens to Black Americans, becoming the city’s first integrated public dining facility.
- 1997: The YWCA develops TechGYRLS to provide technology education in an all-girl environment.
- 2004: YWCA USA hosts a summit on eliminating racism in Birmingham, Alabama.
- 2015: Stand Against Racism becomes a signature campaign of YWCA USA.
Promoting Racial Justice
In 1946, the YWCA adopted an “interracial charter” establishing that “wherever there is injustice on the basis of race, whether in the community, the nation, or the world, our protest must be clear and our labor for its removal, vigorous, and steady.” This effort culminated in the adoption of the One Imperative in 1970 to “thrust our collective power towards the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, by any means necessary.”
YWCA advocates against racial profiling through such activities as issuing reports highlighting patterns of police conduct and state action that criminalize and impair women of color. These reports promote awareness about the impact of structural racism and help the YWCA build community relations among advocates for racial justice. YWCA USA’s signature campaign—”Stand Against Racism,” launched in 2015—resonates still today.
Securing Women’s Economic Freedom
YWCA policies support women’s empowerment and economic advancement through programs that address:
- Job training
- Financial literacy
- Salary negotiations
- Leadership skills
YWCA programs advocate for fair wages and equal pay as well as safe and inclusive workplaces free of discrimination and harassment. The YWCA’s family and financial programs help women build solid futures. For instance, the YWCA has provided childcare programs since 1868 so that parents can obtain and retain gainful employment while still promoting child development and school readiness. Women can also look to YWCA housing programs for assistance in finding safe, affordable, and fair housing.
Safeguarding Women’s Health
Highlighting the YWCA’s collaborative approach to solutions, the YWCA’s Young Women Choosing Action program stems from a three-year collaborative partnership with Centene, a healthcare organization serving low-income and underinsured Americans. Designed for low-income girls and women ages 13–19 who may have varying experiences with trauma, stress, and structural oppressions, the program addresses the unique challenges they face in today’s world. It does so by helping young women build skills and decision-making habits that grow their capacity to become leaders and agents of change.
Assessing YWCA Women’s Empowerment EFT
The YWCA now offers the option to invest in companies that support women and racial justice. Established in 2018, the YWCA’s Women’s Empowerment EFT (WOMN) allows investors to contribute to companies with policies and practices that encourage gender equity.
The YWCA uses nearly 20 filters to evaluate the performance of WOMN holdings for factors such as gender balance in the workplace, equal compensation, work-life balance, favorable gender equality policies, and dedication to transparency and accountability. The YWCA then rebalances the portfolio each year based on its findings.
As of August 25, 2021, WOMN has generated a 25.08% annualized total return since its inception on August 24, 2018, placing it within the top percentile of the 1,256 funds in Morningstar’s US Fund Large Blend Category. At the moment, WOMN’s five largest holdings are Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, and Nvidia.
The YWCA Offers Opportunities for Change
With its long history as an agent of social change, the YWCA has become a significant force for change in America, offering options for investors looking to make an impact with their investments. It also offers a holistic approach to issues ranging as widely as workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion to boosting representation for women in STEM. As YWCA programs commit to racial justice and economic prosperity within the WOMN EFT, it opens new paths to equitable empowerment for the benefit of thousands of women each year.