An editorial originally published in The Times Union, Friday, February 17, 2006

Three Capital Region organizations join forces to provide opportunities for women and girls.

Today there is more hope for Capital Region working women seeking economic independence. Though there is still a long way to go - the number of female heads of household living below the poverty rate in the Capital Region has risen to 35.5 percent from 33 percent four years ago - the obstacles are not quite as insurmountable as they once were.

So mark this date: Feb. 16. That was the day the Women's Fund of the Capital Region was officially launched, at a reception at The Century House in Latham. Its goal is to raise $250,000 to help support women-owned businesses, pay for job training and enhance career programs for women and girls.

The idea isn't new. There are 100 women's funds throughout the nation, including the New York City Women's Fund, which has grown from $50,000 at its founding in 1987, to more than $2 million this year.

But in all the years since 1987, there hasn't been a similar fund in the Capital Region. Now there is, thanks to the combined efforts of the Community Foundation of the Capital Region, the United Way of Northeastern New York and the United Way of Schenectady County. They are seeking 500 women who will donate $500 each in seed money over the next year.

"Research shows that many working women are caught between poverty and a true living wage," Karen Bilowith, president of the United Way of Schenectady County, told our business reporter, Kevin Harlin, earlier this month. "These women typically must overcome multiple obstacles on the path to independence."

On Thursday, Abigail Disney, past president of the New York City fund and founder and president of the Daphne Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, delivered a familiar message to the Capital Region reception - namely, that there is strength in numbers.

In dollar terms, that means one $500 donation multiplied by 499 others will make a difference. In long-term numbers, it means a $250,000 goal will help establish an endowment fund to award grants to create economic opportunities for women and girls.

"We know that women will help other women when real needs are identified," says Deb Ryan, chief executive officer of IA Systems and chairwoman of the Capital Region Women's Fund. How many will come forward to answer the fund's call is, of course, the most important number of all.