Category Archives for Elevate Her SWFL

Florida Almost Flunks When it Comes to Working Women


I recently heard one of the most inspiring speeches in my life about the future of women business owners and entrepreneurs in this country. Jennifer Hyman, creator of the multi-million dollar company, Rent the Runway, shared her amazing entrepreneurial story, as well as some personal issues about sexual harassment she endured along the way to building her fashion leasing empire. She was bright, bold and brave and let none of this stand in her way. She’s changing the world for young women, one dress and one initiative at a time. I got goose bumps. For the first time in my 40-plus year career, I thought things are really changing for women.

The very next day my heart sank when Brenda Tate, CEO of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation shared a new report on “The Status of Women in Florida by County: Employment & Earnings,” which gave our state a grade of D+, down from a C- in 2002, and a ranking of 38th in the country when it comes to women’s earnings compared to men.

The report was commissioned by the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance (FWFA) and produced by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). While the full report can be found at, here are a few highlights, based on 2016 data, on where Florida and the Southwest Florida region rank in terms of employment and wages:

  • In Florida and all states, women working full-time, year-round earn less than men. Median annual earnings for women in Florida are $35,000, compared with $40,000 for men.
  •  Florida women’s earnings vary by race and ethnicity, ranging from a high of $40,505 for White women who work full-time, year-round to a low of $29,878 for Hispanic women, just 59 percent of what White men earn annually ($50,631).
  • Florida has one of the smallest shares of women in the labor force in the country, 53.7 percent, earning the state a ranking of 48th. Among Florida women, those who identify as multiracial or of another race are most likely to be in the labor force, followed by Black women. Native American and White women have the lowest labor force participation rates.
  • In Southwest Florida, it’s a mixed bag with women in Lee and Collier Counties earning a median annual income of slightly above the state average of $35,000 (Lee $35,390 and Collier $35,056). Charlotte is below at $32,537, and the women of Glades earn almost $10,000 less ($25,354) than the state average.
  • The share of women in the Florida labor force went down from 2002 (55.7 %) to 2016 (53.7%). Here in SWFL, it’s even worse with Lee County at 49.10 %, Collier County at 47.80 %, Charlotte County 40.90 %, and Glades 36.30 % – all below the state average. Only Hendry County at 53.30% is near the state average of women in the labor force.

So, what’s up with Florida? While the report outlines a number of policy initiatives that the state could take that would enhance opportunities and wages for women, there may be an easier way.
Maybe Florida businesses and policymakers should simply take a look at the success of Jennifer Hyman and Rent the Runway as a role model. The company has 1,100 employees and 70 percent are women. It has raised more than $190 million in venture capital and now boasts six million overwhelmingly female members who have access to 450 designer brands to rent. Someone’s sure betting on women entrepreneurs, workers and consumers!!


Respectfully submitted by:
Carolyn Tieger
Principal, Tieger Public Affairs LLC
Advisor, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation


Southwest Florida Women’s Fund Receives $50,000 Impact Grant to Support Higher Education and Financial Literacy for Florida Women


March 26, 2018 – (Bonita Springs, Florida)-  The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation which was leveraged into $200,000 through matches to support the Earn to Learn Florida Program, an initiative of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation. Earn to Learn Florida helps low to moderate income students pursue higher education with little or no student debt. It’s a simple formula that combines student savings with financial aid, required financial literacy training and success coaching.

“Our research shows that fewer than 1 in 5 women over age 25 in Southwest Florida have earned a Bachelor’s Degree,” says Brenda Tate, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation CEO. “That’s why we took action to develop and implement Earn to Learn Florida.”

Last year the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation helped over 42 low-to-moderate income students, like Yuzellie Garcia, save for their education by matching their savings of $500 at an 8:1 ratio. This created a grant of $4,000 for each student to leverage their $500 investment in themselves. The funds are dispersed directly to their college or university to pay for tuition, books, fees and other related expenses. This helps students graduate with little to no student loan debt. Armed with the knowledge gained from the required Financial Literacy Training Program, students graduate ready for success and empowered to improve their economic mobility.

The use of Earn to Learn Florida accounts, in conjunction with success coaching, has been proven as a way to help individuals and families develop productive financial behaviors that increase the likelihood of finishing college with a degree and less debt, as well as be better prepared for post-college careers.

“Earn to Learn FL has empowered and motivated me to become a successful woman in my community and has motivated me to empower other women who do not think it is possible for them to succeed,” says Earn to Learn FL student Yuzellie Garcia.

“When the Southwest Florida Community Foundation learned that our community impact funding could be matched essentially 3 times through this innovative program helping local women through education, we knew that we had to be part,” said Sarah Owen, president & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “We believe that by funding together, our region and programs like this will be stronger and more effective.”

Improving the status of women in Florida requires enhanced educational opportunities, investments in women’s entrepreneurship and steps to narrow the gender wage gap to elevate Southwest Florida women and girls; Visit  to learn more. Social connect at  To inquire email

About the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation

The Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation, serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties, is the only non-profit in Southwest Florida focused exclusively on women and girls and was the first to publish academic research assessing the status of women in the area. The Women’s Foundation elevates women and girls by investing in programs that educate, boost security and entrepreneurship, and advocate from a woman’s perspective. For more information, visit email Follow the Women’s Foundation online at and on

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit


Chico’s FAS, Inc. Empowers Local Women Through Educational Partnership with The Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida

Chico’s FAS, Inc. Empowers Local Women Through Educational Partnership with The Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida

May 29, 2017 – (Fort Myers) ElevateHer SWFL is proud to announce a year-long partnership with Chico’s FAS, Inc. through its Matched Savings for Education program. As part of this partnership, Chico’s FAS will help provide women the opportunity to continue their college education and pursue their dreams of achieving success in the workplace.

Led by the Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida, ElevateHer SWFL helps boost the economic development of Southwest Florida women and girls through strategic partnerships, collaboration and investments in programs that fund education, security, entrepreneurship and advocacy.
“ElevateHer aligns with Chico’s FAS’ values and mission to support women’s empowerment, well-being and education,” says Jessica Wells, VP of Public Relations and Corporate Communication for Chico’s FAS, Inc. “We are proud to partner with a program that provides the opportunity for women to achieve their dreams of a college education.”
Chico’s FAS’ 2017-2018 ElevateHer SWFL sponsorship will focus on investments in educational attainment for women as a key workforce development strategy, helping to find solutions and raise awareness of a critical gap in equity for women. Fewer than one in five Southwest Florida women over age 25 have attained a bachelor’s degree. The Matched Savings program offers hard working women the opportunity to save for education, participate in financial training classes and receive individualized career coaching. Women earn $8 for every $1 they save, turning their required $500 in savings into $4,500 that is paid directly to their college.
For ElevateHer SWFL sponsorship opportunities, please contact Brenda Tate at (239) 908-0301 or


The Company, through its brands, Chico’s, White House Black Market, and Soma, is a leading omni-channel specialty retailer of women’s private branded, sophisticated, casual-to-dressy clothing, intimates and complementary accessories. The Company operates more than 1,500 stores in the US and Canada and sold merchandise through franchise locations in Mexico. The Company’s merchandise is also available at, and For more detailed information on Chico’s FAS, Inc., please visit


Podcast: Just say YES & Adjust Along The Way (And Other Leadership Tips From Our Founder Brenda Tate)

Podcast: Just say YES & Adjust Along The Way (And Other Leadership Tips From Our Founder Brenda Tate)


Our Founder and Director Brenda Tate had the chance to join the Mastermind with Heather Christie Podcast to talk about life, leadership, business and the importance of collaboration and strategic alliances. Here are a few highlights of the conversation. Click on the image above to listen to the full podcast!

Brenda’s Words on Good Advice She Received From a Mentor When She Was Struggling to Make a Decision

Just say YES, keep moving forward and adjust along the way if you need to.

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On Strategic Alliances:

Strategic alliances are built one conversation at a time.

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Never approach your corporate partners as if you're begging.

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On Leadership Philosophies:

Focus on the mission, find talented people to surround you and then get out of their way!

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Brenda’s Advice for Her 21-Year-Old Self

When asked about a single piece of advice Brenda would give to her 21-year-old self, she referenced the teachings of the book The Four Agreements. Here are the four principles of practice:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

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Rebecca Richardson and Baird Wealth Management are $5,000 sponsors of 2017 ElevateHer SWFL

Rebecca Richardson and Baird Wealth Management are $5,000 sponsors of 2017 ElevateHer SWFL

Rebecca Richardson – Director, Baird Wealth Management & Brenda Tate – Founder, Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida

Rebecca Richardson and Baird Wealth Management an international wealth management, capital markets, asset management and private equity firm, have donated $5,000 to support ElevateHer SWFL, an initiative of the Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida, serving Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. ElevateHer SWFL sponsors women and girls by facilitating matching grants that fund programs to educate, boost security and entrepreneurship and advocate from a woman’s perspective.

Rebecca Richardson and Baird Wealth Management’s grant will support signature initiatives of The Women’s Foundation, which include: ElevateHer SWFL, Kiva U.S. Microloans, Matched Savings for Education and Human Trafficking awareness and prevention.

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