Greater Cincinnati Foundation donates $50,000 to expand Women Helping Women

After starting just a year ago, a Women Helping Women program that address gender-based violence in the workplace has trained around 500 employees and has earned a two-year grant from Cincinnati’s leading community foundation.

Greater Cincinnati Foundation awarded the organization a two-year funding commitment of nearly $50,000 earmarked to expand the program, called WorkStrong, locally and nationally.

“For them to give us a two-year investment is incredibly empowering to us,” says Kristin Smith Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women.

Since the program’s launch in the fall of 2018, WorkStrong has trained more than 500 employees at Cincinnati companies such as 84.51° and Rhinegeist, Smith Shrimplin says.

As part of its plan to expand the program, Women Helping Women has also licensed WorkStrong to The Family Place, a Dallas-based domestic violence agency.

The program is designed to train employers in compassionate responses to employee survivors of sexual abuse and help prevent its incidence in the workplace. In doing that, it’s expected that employers will see an increase in productivity and an improvement in the bottom line.

“Gender-based violence impacts workforce effectiveness and heightens levels of absenteeism,” says Meghan Cummings, executive director of The Women’s Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation. “We anecdotally witness women who complete job training programs, enter the workforce, and are then pressured or threatened by abusive partners. That affects how they think about career next steps, and some even choose not to elevate their skills due to those pressures.”

The program was piloted by the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts office, which employs more than 200 people, many of them women.

It applies prevention strategies to minimize the incidence of workplace abuse and strategies for responding to incidents that do arise. Advocates and trainers from Women Helping Women work with employers to implement the programs.

Women Helping Women officials say sexual abuse and domestic violence have a big impact on the workforce, with at least 60 % of intimate-partner violence survivors losing their job within a year and 47 % report experiencing assaults before work.

Women Helping Women is a not-for-profit founded in 1973 to serve women and men who are survivors of dating violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking in Southwestern Ohio. The agency provides crisis intervention services including a hotline, hospital accompaniment, court advocacy, support groups, on-scene response, and face-to-face advocacy for survivors as well as conducts trainings and prevention education to the community and schools.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.