Vicky Dinges is an Adler trustee who also serves as Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, at Allstate. She chairs the National Network to End Domestic Violence Board and serves on the Board of Directors of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She is a President’s Circle Member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a member of the Executives’ Club of Chicago, the Conference Board Contributions Council and the Arthur W. Page Society.
It’s no secret women’s advancements continue to lag behind their male counterparts, and disparities in economic empowerment are at the root of the problem. As an Adler University trustee, I’m proud to serve among leaders who recognize that promoting economic justice for women should be a priority for us all. When women lack economic opportunity it affects our families, our education systems, the companies we work for and do business with, and our communities at large.
For domestic violence survivors, a category overwhelmingly comprised of women, the stakes can be even higher. The economic freedoms that many of us take for granted—opening a bank account, determining how much money we spend on lunch, the ability to review our utility bills each month or access our credit score—are luxuries a domestic violence survivor can only dream about. For domestic violence survivors, being economically empowered can be a matter of life or death.
We’re familiar with the categories of physical and emotional abuse. We readily imagine the force and tactics of the abuser; we can visualize the beatings and the mechanisms of control the victim faces. We are less familiar with, I find, the ways abusers use economic control to prevent their victims from leaving these abusive situations. Indeed, issues of financial empowerment and domestic violence are fundamentally intertwined. An abuser uses the silent weapon of financial abuse to trap a victim from leaving in 99% of domestic violence cases.
So when we talk about financially empowering women, we must be sure to provide victims of domestic violence with targeted tools and strategies to help them deal with their unique financial struggles so they can plan for safe, secure futures. Financial empowerment programs can move survivors from safety to long-term security. They can help them build safer lives for their children. And who can argue with protecting and preparing the next generation of healthy leaders, innovators, doers and thinkers?
Serving on the board at Adler University, I see the impact counseling programs and professional mental healthcare have on affecting change in domestic abuse victims’ lives. And in my own career, I’m honored to work for a company committed to using its business expertise and resources to help address this issue. For Allstate, that means empowering domestic violence survivors with the necessary tools to become financially independent.
Since 2005, The Allstate Foundation’s domestic violence program, Purple Purse, has invested more than $55 million to the cause, focusing on the core issue of financial empowerment for victim. The funds have helped more than one million domestic violence survivors take steps towards financial independence by providing life-changing tools such as financial education, job training and readiness, and small business programs for survivors.
We understand it’s crucial to support financial empowerment and freedom for women as a necessary step in ending the cycle of abuse. Simply put, we give women command of their economic power.
I encourage you to step up and join me, Adler University and Allstate in this charge. Each of us can do something to advance women. We don’t all need the backings of Fortune 500 companies or deep pockets. Simply refuse to be a bystander. Have uncomfortable but necessary conversations around economic justice and gender-based violence. Be courageous and raise your voice, hold others accountable to make sure women everywhere are empowered. Yes, that means holding our legislators and decision-makers in powerful positions accountable—but it also means our family and friends.
Empowered women mean empowered communities. Empowered communities mean an empowered world. And that’s something that benefits us all.