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Women’s Foundation of Arkansas


The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) is leading the way to support, care, and advocate for women and girls in Arkansas. With a mission to ensure economic security for Arkansas women and girls through collaboration and focused philanthropic investment, their 25th anniversary this year marks a pivotal time in history as a new generation of leaders faces different challenges from their founders.

CEO Anna Beth Gorman leads a team of dedicated women working to ensure equity and equality in economic arenas for women in Arkansas. The tenacity of this team is bringing to light current issues among today’s women with a focus on data-driven decisions, conveying relationships for growth, and ensuring the next generation experiences the greatest economic advantages.

This team approached Arkansas’ previous administration with a proposal to visit with stakeholders across the state to research the current state of women in Arkansas and the issues and barriers restraining them from economic advantages. Unfortunately, no new research existed for 49 years. Yes, 49 years. It was time for something more.

Throughout 2022, the team conducted face-to-face meetings and surveys. The appointed commissioners created smaller work groups to build recommendations for a plan based on the data collected. Today, those recommendations guide the continued work of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and help lawmakers, donors, philanthropists, and lobbyists as they seek to improve the future for women of all ages and races in Arkansas.

Top 100 Women

As the story goes, Olivia Farrell was having lunch with a male counterpart in the mid-1990s. The topic of boards and commissions came up and he said, “Olivia, we would appoint more women to our state boards if there were just qualified women.” The comment did not sit well in her spirit because she knew more than a handful of overly qualified women to advise and speak into our state’s most significant issues.

So, Farrell used her role with Arkansas Business Publishing Group to present the Top 100 Women of Arkansas. By sharing about these women through the state’s most prominent business publication, the message was loud and clear; plenty of qualified women in Arkansas are working to better their communities, build strong businesses and strategically change the world around them.

In honor of its 25th anniversary, the WFA, in partnership with Arkansas Business and Soiree magazine, is gathering nominations for the Top 100 women of Arkansas, focusing on presenting a new generation of women poised to lead the state in resolution for barriers they face every day.

Girls of Promise Program

Girls of Promise, presented by Axiom Corporation, is the oldest program of WFA, focusing on exposing girls to opportunities and mentors in the STEAM fields. The WFA was the first organization in Arkansas widely using the term “STEAM careers.” Their school-based program starts with sixth graders leading to an annual 8th-grade conference planned, presented, and entirely planned and hosted by volunteers. The Foundation covers the cost of the conference and will reimburse travel expenses to schools and individuals who incur costs by traveling from rural areas.

Also under the Girls of Promise program umbrella is the Tjuana Byrd Summer Internship Program. These cohorts of 20 college-aged women experience a paid summer internship with housing expenses covered for 10 weeks. It is a known fact that an internship experience is the most significant indicator of achieving a career in STEAM fields. These host corporations and mentors create a thriving opportunity environment for these women of color.

Women Empowered Initiatives

With a goal to educate, advocate and innovate around issues relating to women’s economic security, the WFA’s strategic initiatives to offer access to business capital, introduction to building wealth with legacy sustainability, and informing others through research-driven data outcomes create opportunity.

Reminiscent of the first $100,000 given by those leadership women, the WFA gives out $100,000 in micro-grants to women business owners each year. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, WFA offered 16 micro-grants in funding relief. In some cases, this money allowed businesses to expand into a storefront, hire an assistant to expand and fulfill a government contract, or a business owner who bought an edible printer to expand her bakery to make personalized logo-designed desserts for clients.


A strong initiative in the Women’s Empowered pillar is the Women’s Economic Mobility (WEM) Hub. Through the 2018 WFA commissioned report on economic indicators for Women in Arkansas, an interesting statistic came into view – the highest rate of women living below the poverty line and the highest number of women-owned businesses co-existed in Eastern Arkansas. Knowing that owning a business is the greatest indicator for building wealth, the WFA created the WEM focusing on black women-owned businesses.

These bi-annual cohorts meet online and in person to discuss issues, build support networks and learn from mentors. They are connecting program participants to resources and providing a $5,000 “no strings attached” economic grant for their business. The success stories tell a more remarkable tale of confidence, support and vibrancy for the participants.

You can support the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas

Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Photos and videos used with permission from the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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