A woman in Philadelphia can find business loans, apply for affordable housing, report sexual harassment at work, get free financial counseling, and find pre-kindergarten for her child.
But she’ll have to go hunting across the internet or ask around to learn about each service.
In New York City, however, that information and more is available in one hub, thanks to an innovative, interactive website the city launched last month specifically for women. Women.nyc pulls together city resources to make them more accessible. A button translates the site into any one of 10 languages.
Philadelphia is working on its own version of a women-centric resource guide. The Philadelphia Commission for Women in the Mayor’s Office plans to post at least a partial guide for women and girls on its website this summer.
“It’s been our intent” since the commissioners were appointed two years ago, said Jovida Hill, executive director of the 27-member commission, which has been discussing what form the guide should take. “We all come to this with a common goal. And that’s gender equality,” she said.
New York’s initiative and Philadelphia’s fledgling guide are attempts to address gender wage gaps, career stagnation, and other forms of gender-specific discrimination that hold women back.
So far, Philadelphia’s guide is a paper packet with a list of contact information and websites for groups such as the city’s public health centers, the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, and the Asian American Women’s Coalition, organized broadly by topic.
New York’s guide is more comprehensive and organized by the service rather than the provider. Women can search to “find a job,” “run a business,” and “stay healthy.” The site grew out of the city’s we.nyc, which focuses on women entrepreneurs.
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, said she wishes the site would add resources for elder care.
But she says Philadelphia — and every other city — should use New York’s “very comprehensive” website as a guide. “I’m impressed,” she said.
New York’s goal was to design a website to combat online-information overload, or “digital hell,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, who heads the women.nyc initiative. Glen wanted a site that was “easy, accessible, not too bureaucratic.”
A resources hub also helps cities spot holes in services. City officials are planning initiatives that grew out of work on women.nyc. But creating such a guide is also time-consuming for city employees and keeping it updated is a challenge as programs evolve, information changes, and organizations come and go.
And cities need the resources to take on such a project. New York’s budget to launch women.nyc was $450,000 from the city’s Economic Development Corp. Nearly $100,000 of that the city is paying to the small all-women marketing company Worn to advertise the campaign.
In the Philadelphia region, the Women’s Resource Center in Wayne is one of many organizations nationwide that cater specifically to women. The nonprofit offers counseling, career and legal help and girls’ leadership programs, and also runs a helpline to direct women to outside services. It serves women in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.
“To me, anything that gets information into the hands of women who need it, it’s a good thing,” said Cheryl Brubaker, executive director.
Since 2011, the nonprofit Women’s City Club of New York has offered a wide-ranging guide of low-cost and free resources that are not gender-specific. The group is struggling with whether to continue targeting low-income communities with their guide or to serve all women or both women and men, said Carole Wacey, president and chief executive officer.
But no city government has yet attempted a project on the scale of women.nyc.
For New York officials, it is about more than information-sharing. The city is looking to market itself as a destination for women — a place where they know they can succeed.
Hill of the Philadelphia Commission for Women would also love for her city to become such a place. But it faces a distinction, she said, that “looms large” over all efforts to help women: Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country.
Of Philadelphia households in poverty, 61 percent were headed by women in 2016, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“When we lift the women of this city out of poverty,” Hill said, “we lift the city out of poverty.”
The resource-guide projects in New York and Philadelphia speak to the importance of female leaders, said Van Pelt of the National Organization for Women.
“When we put women in charge, they look out for women,” she said.
Most of the resources on the women.nyc site are not gender-specific. The New York deputy mayor said the project puts a “gender lens” on city resources. Wacey, the head of the Women’s City Club of New York, said making sure the right information gets to the right people is “always challenging when you have such a broad mandate.”
“Every issue potentially is a women’s issue,” she said. “The breadth is so wide.”
Since women.nyc launched in mid-May, more than 100,000 people have visited. The most popular search is for jobs.
In the coming months, the agency running the women.nyc campaign plans to partner with other organizations to add non-city resources, said Nicole Corbett, Worn’s founder and chief executive officer. Mirroring women.nyc’s mission, Worn aims to empower women and mainly works with female entrepreneurs.
“The city is putting a lot of real money and resources behind helping women and that’s what makes [women.nyc] so exciting,” Corbett said.
To measure the success of women.nyc and related programs, the city plans to track numbers of public corporations and large nonprofits that have women in executive positions; women-owned businesses; and women-led companies that win public contracts. City officials also are striving to eliminate the city’s wage gap within the next decade.