Women's Foundation Director Anna Beth Gorman Says Interest in Equity Pays Off

Women's Foundation Director Anna Beth Gorman Says Interest in Equity Pays Off
Anna Beth Gorman, executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (Karen E. Segrave)

Anna Beth Gorman was named executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas in April 2016. Prior to that, she served as chief membership volunteer program officer for the Girl Scouts Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Gorman began her professional career in public service working for the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs.

Gorman earned her master’s degree in public administration and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Anna Beth Gorman was named a 2017 Woman to Watch by Soirée magazine.

We understand the Women’s Foundation is making some changes in its mission and focus. Tell us about those changes.
As we near our 20th anniversary, we’re taking a very close look at how we better women in Arkansas. The WFA has two strategic initiatives: Girls of Promise and Women Empowered.

Through Girls of Promise, we are the leading equity partner for access, opportunity and engagement in STEM education, programs and career exploration. Through Women Empowered, we are seeking to understand women’s role, impact and opportunity in the Arkansas economy. Both initiatives help drive our mission of helping women and girls realize their full potential through an economic lens.

What are your thoughts on Arkansas’ goal of promoting women-owned businesses in the same category as minority-owned businesses? Is that a good idea?
I think that strategies to address equity are necessary. Equity is about fairness. Women- and minority-owned businesses are still at a disadvantage because of the legacy of economic disenfranchisement. I hope I live to see the day come when we don’t have to be intentional about programs that ensure minority groups are not disenfranchised. But reality and history tell us that just because access exists, that does not mean the playing field is fair.

What are the hard-nosed, bottom-line, dollars-and-cents, capitalistic arguments for an inclusive society?
If capitalism depends on private ownership and a competitive marketplace, then an inclusive society is a strategy to ensure healthy competition ... Women make up more than half the population. Women are an untapped talent pool. Our current wage gap of 79 cents compared with a dollar earned for the male counterpart translates to a $6 billion dollar loss for the Arkansas economy. Imagine what our state would look like if we built economic equity for women into our long-term development plan.

What can we do here in Arkansas to address national issues like the gender wage gap, reproductive rights, parental leave and affordable as well as accessible child care?
Arkansas-based companies need to examine closely the opportunity cost of the turnover of employees based on low wages, parental leave, health care coverage and access to child care. Businesses should not be penny-wise and pound foolish. Recruiting and retaining a healthy productive workforce is essential to the bottom line success of a business … Businesses are losing more women because families make parental workforce decisions based on the ability to stay as primary caregivers for children, aging parents and other immediate family members.