After twenty-five years of both professional and volunteer work with women, Gail Shapiro, Ed.M., founded Womankind Educational and Resource Center to serve the women of MetroWest Boston in July 1993. As women called for help or came into the Center, she found that many of their questions had to do with money, or more specifically, women’s lack of knowledge about, or reluctance to deal with their finances.
After researching numerous programs, Shapiro and her Board discovered that there were no financial literacy programs specifically geared towards women and their unique financial fears as well as needs. With the exception of a few financial institutions that were trying to sell their products and services, she did not find any program or organization that would meet the requirements of community women.
So in 1996, Womankind developed its Financial Literacy Project R (FLP), which offers a six-week class in basic money management for women and girls, and teaches other women’s organizations how to do the same in their communities. The mission is to ensure that women and girls are financially literate and economically secure.
Topics include goal setting and record keeping, budgeting, credit and banking, major purchases, insurance, investing, estate planning, retirement and philanthropy. The classes are presented by women financial professionals from the local community – who range from accountants and attorneys to car dealers and financial planners, all of whom volunteer their time. There is a strict “no selling” policy, so the participants do not feel pressured. Enrollment is limited and the small group environment offers students an opportunity to examine their feelings about money and the social factors that may influence their attitudes. Many of the participants enroll during a critical life transition such as graduation, divorce, widowhood, or retirement, and the Project encourages women to become more aware and active participants in their own economic well-being.
Shapiro serves Womankind as volunteer Executive Director, and is assisted by an active volunteer Board of Directors. In addition, Shapiro was the editor and contributing author of the FLP’s handbook, MONEY ORDER: The Money Management Guide for Women (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Through local classes, the Leader’s Training Program and MONEY ORDER, Womankind’s Financial Literacy Project has helped more than 8000 women from diverse backgrounds to find the confidence and skills they need to manage their finances. These women are now better prepared for a more secure economic future.