The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas is an organization devoted to improving the economic viability of women and girls through education; performing research to identify areas of need and securing grant money to address them; and introducing girls to careers in STEM fields.
Founded in 1998, the organization is the only one in the state focusing solely on women and girls. It was created by a group of the “Top 100 Women in Arkansas,” selected by the Arkansas Business Publishing Group. The 100 honorees challenged themselves to make a difference in Arkansas and the foundation idea emerged. The group was led by ABPG CEO Olivia Farrell; Pat Lile, president of the Arkansas Community Foundation; and Mary Gay Shipley, board chair of the ACF.
The founders put out a call for funds and more than 150 women responded, while 82 donated more than $1,000 to create a permanent endowment. The first programs were developed, as well as an annual fundraising event called, The Power of the Purse, where accomplished women would be honored and grant recipients would be announced.
In 2002, the organization acquired 501(c)(3) status. Programs include Girls of Promise, an annual two-day STEM conference for eighth-grade girls; First Person Plural, which gathers the life stories of 20th century women; an Arkansas Women’s Organization directory for those wanting to support women-oriented groups and organizations; and the annual Women Empowered Leadership Conference. Today, the organization is non-partisan, located in downtown Little Rock, and run by volunteers. It has one full time and three part-time staff members.