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Lauren Y. Casteel speaks on stage at 2021 Annual Luncheon

Letter from Lauren: I’ve Had Enough. Have You?

// November 18, 2021

Dear Beloved Community,

At one time, I affirmed “I Am Enough” on sticky notes and in my journal. I considered buying the t-shirt. I was extending emotional support and encouragement to myself. But that was not enough.

Enough means “as much as is required.” It is a minimum.

Today I affirm these hard truths:

  • Too many Colorado women never had or do not have what is required to meet basic needs, let alone thrive.
  • Not everyone can work from home.
  • Women entrepreneurs with shuttered businesses find little to lean against much less “lean in” to.
  • Food insecurity increased the most for Colorado single moms and families of color.
  • Housing is unaffordable. Domestic violence runs rampant.
  • Anti-Asian hate surged toward women. Native women vanished.
  • Immigrant and refugee women long to be welcomed into the American Dream.

In 20 months, women’s advancement retreated 34 years to when The Women’s Foundation of Colorado was founded to fight the feminization of poverty.

Freedom to vote erodes. Masks are recommended and resisted, vaccines mandated and refused, all in the name of freedom but women are losing the freedom to decide on how to care for our own bodies.

This is not enough.

Women’s superpowers are brilliance, humanity, joy, resilience, creativity, faith, and grit. It’s expected we’ll do too much with too little. We always have. We always do. At what cost?

  • Moms without child care stitched together working and teaching from home while their mental health frayed.
  • We parked our kiddos outside of fast food restaurants to pick up wifi for school.
  • We tried to provide for our families using Supplemental Food Assistance Program, or SNAP, which excludes diapers,
    hand sanitizer, and even rotisserie chicken. So many have no option but to reuse their babies’ diapers.
  • Wage workers and frontline workers – mostly women – saved lives while putting themselves and their families at risk.
  • Masks hid our despair and caught ancient tears as historic and systemic disparities of opportunity devastated all
    low-income women – especially Black, Indigenous, and Latinas.

Survival is not enough.

Philanthropic investments in women remain grossly inadequate. Women and girls receive only 1.9% of all philanthropic dollars in the U.S., and women and girls of color a fraction of that. A fraction is not enough.

As your only statewide community Foundation in Colorado focused on gender, racial, and economic equity, WFCO is relentlessly trying to change that.

With your generous support, we granted $2.2 million dollars benefitting over 100,000 women and their families since March 2020.

For all Colorado women, our policy prowess and partners increased capacity for early childhood care and education; expanded tax credits – which are proven poverty-fighting superpowers; provided emergency supplies for babies; and ensured safe maternal health.

We invested in women-led social ventures to help close the gender and race gap in access to capital.

But I say to you I have had enough of cheering women from the sidelines because we can “make a way out of no way.” Women are the most underutilized asset in our economy. Yet, the rising tide of the stock market during the pandemic did not lift those who have no boats. The wealth gap became a gorge.

Women deserve to be more than initiatives or projects.

We are your mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunties. Also, we are your neighbors, keepers of the culture, tillers of the soil, teachers of our children, and caretakers for our elders.

We are your coworkers in every sector and setting. We are the workforce of today, raising the workforce of the future.

Make no mistake that women who have to leave the workforce WANT to work. We need paid family medical leave, equal pay and sustainable conditions, and to be seen, heard and respected.

I challenge all of us as individuals, businesses, foundations, and government to give more than the minimum of enough. I call for hope through abundance for the long haul because we all benefit.

I was the young woman whose potential was poised to be lost. I stand before you today because others extended more than enough to support my opportunities. That’s the superpower of Community.

I have had enough.

Have you had enough?

Can our Community be more than enough?

I believe the answer is a resounding… YES!

In gratitude,

Lauren Y. Casteel, President & CEO

*This speech was delivered by Lauren Casteel at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Annual Luncheon on October 21, 2021. 

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