Building economic pathways for women

  • Posted on: 7 March 2022
  • By: minnesotangos

Emily Nohner recently joined the MINN Board of Directors. With over 10 years of nonprofit experience, she is dedicated to human development, both overseas or as she puts it- "in her own backyard.” She has amassed particular focuses on women's rights, fair housing, financial equity, increasing access to capital, and value-driven leadership. A graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a Truman Scholar, Emily looks forward to applying her experience and collaborating with MINN on outreach and furthering meaningful connections in the community. Below, she shares her reflections for International Women’s Day.

Arriving home from study abroad studying peace & conflict in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in 2005, I had been warned that the transition back to the U.S. might be challenging in the beginning days.

What I didn’t expect was the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to hit the shores of the US. The back-to-back realizations- of poverty, inequality, structures of power and policy, war and recovery, and natural disaster truly became global for me in that instance.

Since then, I have viewed development as a tool kit that can be applied without boundaries, with the aim to support humans guided by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

This year for International Women's Day, I am taking the opportunity to reflect on the economic realities faced by millions of women, particularly women of color, in America today.

We know that for the last 30 years, the racial wealth gap has grown rather than narrowed and that the wealth of white households is six to seven times the average of Black households.1 Couple that with pandemic specific statistics such as “4,637,000 is the number of payroll jobs lost by women in the U.S. since the pandemic began”2 and that “48% of Black mothers said the pandemic has had a major impact on their ability to pay for necessities like housing, utilities and food,”3 the picture becomes crystal clear: women, specifically women of color, are facing unprecedented financial setbacks that will last for generations.

Luckily, the solution (as it often is!) lies with women.

New research by Dr. Andre Perry identifies Black women as drivers of the economy in Black communities.4

I feel a new urgency to increase resources by amplifying the available economic levers, proven to work, including access to the EITC for communities of color, more credit rebuilding opportunities for borrowers, and small dollar loan programs for entrepreneurs.

As Program Manager for the Small Dollar Loan at WomenVenture, a CDFI in Minnesota, it is an honor to build pathways for women to access capital, build their credit score and work towards being even more “bankable” in the future.

Providing small dollar loans is an important gap not met in today’s lending market. The underwriting process can take a long time and require a lot of resources for little return, so large banks are not in the business of small loans.

However, sometimes, a little money, quickly disbursed can be the difference between success and failure.

For over forty years, WomenVenture has provided women of all ages, cultures, races and income levels with the tools and resources to achieve economic success through small business ownership. Learn more about WomenVenture here.

1 Cahill, Nora and William Gale. “Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap Using the EITC and CTC,” Brookings Institute. February 2, 2022.

2Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Jan. 2021

3 Bennett, Jessica, Jessica Grose, Melonyce McAfee, Farah Miller, Sharon Attia and Dani Blum. “This is a Primal Scream,” The New York Times. Feb. 4, 2021

4Sneed, James and Robert Smith. “Rethinking Black Wealth,” Planet Money. NPR, Oct. 7, 2020

MINN Fellows, individual or organization members, board members, volunteers, and Minnesota-based NGOs are invited to join the Community Voices Series. If you have something you'd like to submit, email Katie at [email protected]