Making the Case for Paid Family Leave in New Hampshire

by Sandy Belknap

Setting the Stage

Eighteen months ago, as NH Women’s Foundation was coming out of the gate as a newly formed non-profit following the merger of the Women’s Fund of NH and the NH Women’s Initiative, the organization embarked on a journey to focus on a theme of “Family-Friendly Workplaces” in NH. I was fortunate to be a Board Member of the organization during that time and this blog post shares some background and insight about the work that has been done by the NH Women’s Foundation that led up to the Winning Workplaces Summit in September 2016.

The topic of Family-Friendly Workplaces was chosen as a focus after months of discussion among staff, board members, founders, donors, and community partners. The discussions had an immediate goal to determine how the NH Women’s Foundation could best make a relatively quick, yet long lasting impact on a focus area to drive action supporting the organization’s mission to improve the lives of women and girls in NH through research, education, advocacy, and philanthropy.  The reality we faced when deciding on a focus area almost two years ago, and continue to see today, is that more than ever, the need for Family-Friendly Workplaces in the Granite State is critical. Even better, it directly supports the NH Women’s Foundation’s overall agenda of advocating for economic security, fostering work and life balance, championing health and wellness, and supporting women and children at risk.

Since committing to the focus of Family-Friendly Workplaces, the NH Women’s Foundation conducted its own state-wide research, released an Issue Brief on the topic, and collaborated with scores of citizens, legislators, business leaders, and non-profit organizations across New Hampshire – all in an effort to learn what is truly needed in the state from the people who are impacted by the broad spectrum of what constitutes a ‘Family-Friendly Workplace.’

While a desire for flexible work environments resonated strongly across the NH Women’s Foundation’s outreach efforts, the topic that continually rose to the top of 1:1 and roundtable discussions was the need for Paid Family and Medical Leave. This need became even more clear to the organization during its collaborative education and advocacy work across NH and nationally with paid paternal leave advocate and author, Josh Levs and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of There’s no doubt that Paid Family and Medical Leave has economic, as well as health and safety benefits not just for women and children, but for NH families and communities as a whole.

Like so many things, timing is everything.  In late 2015, the NH Women’s Foundation, along with the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH and NH Employment Security received a grant from the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to conduct research specifically on how Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance could be implemented in the Granite State.  The grant also required the creation of an event to share results.

Fast forward to September 21, 2016!

winninworkplacessummitguideThe Winning Workplaces: Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Summit took place in Manchester, NH. It was truly a collaborative effort among the NH Women’s Foundation, the Carsey School of Public Policy, NH Employment Security, the NH Legislative Taskforce on Work & Family,, and the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy.  In addition to the grant provided by the US Dept. of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, support for the summit was provided by a grant from the Norwin S. and Elizabeth Bean Foundation and media sponsorship from NH Business Review.

The summit was kicked-off by the Interim CEO of the NH Women’s Foundation, Cotton Cleveland. She quickly gave the stage to NH State Representative Mary Gile who has spent most of her 20 years at our State House advocating for Paid Family and Medical Leave for NH workers.  Representative Gile talked about her journey and personal focus on this legislation, and there was a powerful, yet hopeful tone in her voice that convinced the summit attendees that we’re closing in on finally making Paid Family and Medical Leave available in the Granite State after nearly two decades of kicking the can down the road.

The most compelling aspect of the summit was the opportunity to hear about the brand new research on the topic delivered by Dr. Kristin Smith, a family demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy and research associate professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Throughout the summit, Dr. Smith provided the details highlighted in two National Issue Briefs that Carsey created with the US Dept. of Labor grant monies awarded months earlier. For me, the big take-aways from Dr. Smith’s presentations were:

  • 82% of NH research respondents support Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance (this breaks down to 9 in 10 women and 3 in 4 men.)
  • 69% of research respondents said they would be willing to pay $5 per week into an insurance program.
  • In NH women are more likely than men to not have access to paid family and medical leave BUT they are more likely to take unpaid leave to care for their families.
  • Support for Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance in NH is bipartisan!

Dr. Smith’s full presentations and National Issue Briefs are available online and are listed in the “Additional Resources” at the end of this blog post.

Stories Everywhere!

With some much data to absorb, it was a nice break in the program to have several NH business leaders join Michelle Veasey, Executive Director of NH Businesses for Social Responsibility (NHBSR) to share their challenges and experiences in accommodating their employees’ needs. (Side Note – Over the past eight months, the NH Women’s Foundation has co-hosted a series of discussions with NHBSR’s members about Family-Friendly Workplaces in the Granite State. The next one is in Portsmouth at Medtronic on November 15th.)

During Veasey’s panel, we heard anecdotal stories from Katie Schwerin of W.S. Badger, Mike L’Ecuyer of Bellweather Community Credit Union, Eliana McCarthy of Wirebelt Co. of America, and Jeff Baker of Image 4.  All are business leaders who value their employees and their work/life balance. Jeff Baker stood out to me with his very simple comment, “Life happens……it’s important to treat employees like adults” and be open to have discussions with them to succeed in changing definitions and thoughts when it comes to things like flexible work environments paid medical leave.

More stories during the summit were delivered by Joe Keefe, CEO of Pax World Funds of Portsmouth, who gave a rousing keynote over lunch. Joe and Pax World have a strong record of focusing on Family-Friendly policies not only in how they manage sustainable investing for their clients but also in how they take care of their employees and their families.

Pax World offers 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all of its employees and Joe enthusiastically shared that this policy provides huge benefit to the company because it results in “enormously loyal, productive, and motivated” employees.  He also shared a data point that I found to be quite interesting: Since the paid parental leave benefit has been offered, they’ve had 17 men and 5 women use the benefit, one of which is a male department leader who has used the benefit four times.  The nice thing about their paid parental leave policy is that it can be used as needed during the first year after the arrival of the child – this gives the employees flexibility with how to use their time to be able to better take care of their families.

Success Stories about Paid Family & Medical leave are compelling – but so are the stories of NH workers who lack such benefits. Perhaps heart-breaking is a better description than compelling for those who lack of benefits.  We heard such stories at the summit via a panel designed by Christina D’Allesandro of and Amanda Sears of the Campaign for a Family-Friendly Economy. Matt Mowry, editor of Business NH Magazine moderated the discussion.

Bottom line is that when NH workers have to choose between staying home to take care of their sick family members vs. going to work to ensure a paycheck to get food on the table or pay an electric bill in the middle of winter, it seems like a lose/lose situation for all involved. And indeed, many times it is.  You can read such stories in a new document from “NH Speaks Out on the Need for Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance. 

Finally, but perhaps more importantly, the summit included focus on the success of other states that have already implemented Paid Family & Medical Leave programs. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the only states that current have Paid Family & Medical Leave legislation in place.  Massachusetts and New York have legislation pending.  That puts the Granite State in a solid position to be an early adopter for such a program, but not so early that we can’t learn from the implementation of other states. You can learn more about how states across the county are ranked for paid family leave legislation in a story from Forbes earlier in 2016.

At the summit, we heard from Gayle Goldin, a Rhode Island State Senator who championed the passage of Paid Family & Medical Leave during her first year in office. Joining Senator Goldin on stage was Dr. Randy Albelda, a professor of economics at UMass Boston.  Dr. Albeda co-created a paid family and medical leave simulator that has been used in economic reports that are advocating for legislation in Massachusetts.  Hearing their experiences and insights will be of great benefit as NH lawmakers, together with business leaders and NH workers, move forward to ensure that NH is at the top of the list vs. bottom when it comes to taking care of its citizens.

In my opinion, Dr. Albelda provided the most pressing case at the summit for paid family leave in the US – simply that it “brings us into the 20th Century — yes—– the 20th Century,” she emphasized.  Coupled with that, RI State Senator Goldin provided information on a documentary film called “Zero Weeks”. It’s about how the US lags so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to Paid Family & Medical Leave.  Here’s a striking fact: “Out of 178 nations, there are only two countries that do not offer paid maternity leave benefits – the United States of America and Papa New Guinea.” This makes our country the ONLY DEVELOPED country on the globe without paid maternity leave – or paid leave for fathers, which is offered by 50 nations. You can learn more about this documentary project at In the end, while I’ve personally been onboard for the need from more focus on Paid Family Leave, especially after traveling across the Granite State with Josh Levs in September 2015, I left the summit on September 21 with a renewed sense of urgency. The time is now.  As we close in on the end of the first decade of the 21st Century it makes sense from both an economic and humanitarian perspective to make Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance in the Granite State a new and much needed reality.

sandyandjoshSandy Belknap is a marketing and communications strategist and lives in Nashua, NH. She served for six years on the Board of the NH Women’s Foundation initially starting her service with the Women’s Foundation of NH.

Additional Resources – Winning Workplaces Summit

NH Women’s Foundation: Family-Friendly Workplaces – 2016 Issue Brief

Carsey School of Public Policy – Summit Presentations by Dr. Kristen Smith

Carsey School of Public Policy Research – National Issue Brief #103:

Over 80 Percent of New Hampshire Residents Support Paid Family Leave Insurance

Carsey School of Public Policy Research – National Issue Brief #105:

Paid Family & Medical Leave in New Hampshire – New Hampshire Speaks Out on the Need for Paid Family & Medical Leave

Concord Monitor: 82 Percent of NH Residents Support Paid Family & Medical Leave

NHPR: Democratic Lawmakers Push Paid Family Leave in NH

Union Leader: NH Supporters Again Pushing for Family Leave Bill

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My Summer Working on Philanthropy at NHWF

sydneyAs my summer internship with the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation comes to a close, I have begun reflecting on my time here as the Philanthropy Intern. My internship has been a truly incredible experience, and I would first like to thank both the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH for granting me the opportunity of being a Winant Fellow for the summer, as well as the NHWF for allowing me to intern at their amazing organization. I cannot think of a more rewarding and worthwhile way to spend this past summer!

My three months here at the NHWF have been spent in a number of different ways. Being introduced to the day-to-day work at a non-profit organization, I had the chance to attend and helped set up for several events, was able to sit in on and take minutes for meetings, and worked closely with data entry software and excel. For the majority of my internship, however, I was working on projects under the umbrella of Philanthropy.

Upon being selected as an intern at the Foundation, I was unaware of the sector of the Foundation’s focuses I would be working with, but quickly found that Philanthropy would be a perfect match. I was very excited to begin working more in depth with Philanthropy, as I had some experience with it, but was eager to learn more. As previously mentioned in my debut blog post for the Foundation, I have a strong interest in Philanthropy as I am currently, and have been since 2014, the president of the Amnesty International chapter at UNH. The experience with Philanthropy I receive as president of a university organization is simply incomparable to that of which I received this summer.

During my internship, I was able to be fully immersed in the process of recording, processing and filing gift donations for our fiscal agent, The Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle. I learned not only what a fiscal agent is, but how we act as the fiscal agent of an organization, as well as the difference between a giving circle gift and donated gift. This process went on throughout the entirety of my internship, and although it was seemingly the same thing time after time, constant questions arose as each new ‘batch’ came in. Thank you to all of the staff at the NHWF for continually receiving my questions happily and always providing a comprehensible answer! As an intern, it means a lot to know you can always ask questions, and it enabled the work I was doing to become the best it could be.

Other than working with the fiscal agent fund gifts, I also was able to complete two research projects for the Foundation. One of the projects consisted of me searching for grant processes for alternate women’s foundations/funds across the country. The intent of this research is to help the NHWF discover alternate final report processes, and possibly implement one of them. It was a very interesting project, as I learned a lot about our own process of grantee evaluation, as well as the process for many other women’s organizations.

The other research project was based on measurable outcomes for alternate women’s foundations. For this project, I researched 7 different women’s organizations throughout the U.S. and looked into how they were reporting their measurable outcomes, if at all. I created a binder which includes any and all information that would prove helpful in our quest for a new way of creating measurable outcomes for the NHWF, such as other organization’s impact reports, legislative action, grantee impacts and annual reports. I hope this research is useful in the search for a way to report measurable outcomes as an organization in the future.

The final, and largest, project I was able to work on was assembling the grant application books for the Foundation, which includes applications for nonprofits who support women and girls. The 25 grant books were assembled and distributed to each grant reviewer. I am excited to say I will also be able to attend the first grant reviewers meeting on September 9th, so I will be able to see my work in action!

Thank you again to everyone at the Carsey School of Public Policy for selecting me as a Winant Fellow, and to the NHWF for allowing me to pursue this opportunity. My internship has given me the chance to learn and grow so much these past few months, and the experience has been nothing short of extraordinary!

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Legacy & Leadership Donor Tea














By Morgan Hebert, NH Women’s Foundation Policy and Programs Intern


Last Wednesday, we at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation hosted a ‘Thank You’ tea for many of our dedicated donors. The event was hosted at the beautiful Bridges House in downtown Concord, which serves as a public event space as well as the home of New Hampshire’s governors. The Bridges house has a long history but its name and significance stems from former owner, Styles Bridges. Bridges was a former New Hampshire governor from 1935-37 and a New Hampshire Senator from 1937 to 1961. Styles not only used the house as primary living space, but used it to bring New Hampshire to political significance by hosting presidents and campaign events during presidential primary, including Dwight Eisenhower. In 2004, former first lady of New Hampshire, Susan Lynch, launched a major renovation project that brought the house to its current state[1]. With its rich history, location in Concord, and inviting interior, it was the perfect space for this event!

Last week’s tea was a special event meant to honor and show appreciation for all of our leadership and legacy donors. Our legacy and leadership donors play an important role in the functioning of our organization and their dedication to the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation helps us to serve and improve the lives of women, girls and families across New Hampshire.

As part of the event, donors received a performance from a girls group through Arts In Reach, one of our grant beneficiaries. Arts In Reach (AIR) is a non-profit based on the New Hampshire seacoast that gives teenage girls in Rockingham and Strafford county a space to learn about visual and performing arts. In addition to being a learning space for young girls, AIR also serves as a creative outlet and a safe space to help them overcome emotional challenges common among teenage girls and develop important skills like self-confidence, goal-setting, leadership, and teamwork. AIR provides girls with the tools to express themselves and develop into confident young women, something we at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation are proud to support.

Before the performance, a mother of an AIR alumni gave a speech attesting to the powerful message and effectiveness of AIR’s programs and how it shaped the life of her daughter. Afterward, a group of 6 girls from the program performed covers of songs for the attendees, including “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield and “Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT.  All of the selections carried themes of strength, confidence, and inclusiveness, sending a message of positivity and reflecting the impact AIR has had. Following an emotional speech and performance, it was clear AIR cares about the lives of young girls and has played an active role in helping teenage girls in New Hampshire.

Perhaps the most important message left by the performance was a reminder to our many donors of the value of their contributions. It allowed everyone to see the tangible work we and our partner organizations do to improve the lives of women and girls in New Hampshire. The event and the beautiful performance put on by AIR put in mind why our donors give to us and why it’s important to continue to donate. Our leadership and legacy donors, founders, board members, and all of those who contribute to the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation represent a community that is caring, engaged and active in improving the lives of people in New Hampshire. Thank you again to all of those who were able to attend and to those who donate to our foundation. We appreciate all of your effort, and the communities your contributions benefit thank you as well!

[1] “History.” Friendsofbridgeshouse.Org. The Bridges House, n.d. Web. 31 May 2016.

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New Hampshire Women’s Foundation: Policy and Programs Intern, Morgan Hebert

morganAs the newest member of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation’s team, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Morgan Hebert and I am a senior undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Economics.  I am joining the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation as an intern through the Carsey School of Public Policy’s Social Innovation Internship. Since 2011, the Carsey School and the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise has sponsored annual internships at leading, impactful, for and non-profit organizations around New Hampshire. My time this summer will be spent between the NHWF and Veris Wealth Partners, a sustainable investment firm in Portsmouth.  I will be working as a policy and programs intern at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation and my primary role will be working on social media, assisting with event planning, organization and set up, as well as conducting research on women’s and family issues in New Hampshire. I look forward to learning more about these issues in New Hampshire and helping the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation take steps forward in improving the lives of women, girls and families.  I am honored and excited to be here!

I have a very strong interest in economic development, humanitarianism, and education.  These interests stem from a family history of educators and youth advocates as my mother has worked in public education for nearly 20 years, and both of her parents were teachers as well.  My mother is a Spanish teacher at Portsmouth High School and has been a role model and unwavering supporter of my interest in education, government and economics. While at UNH, I work as a teaching assistant at a local pre-school and am passionate about the value of early-childhood education and equal access to education.  I look forward to learning more about how the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation expands opportunities for women and girls across the state.

Outside of my studies at UNH and my work, I enjoy running, yoga, and any activities that allow me be outside and see the world. I am from the seacoast of New Hampshire so I enjoy spending my free-time on the beach but also hiking in the White Mountains. I enjoy travelling as well. I spent my freshman year of college living in Madrid, Spain and seeing as much of Spain and Europe as I could. I have also spent time travelling and volunteering in South America. This past January, I spent 3 weeks in Peru volunteering at an under-funded pre-school and English-as-a-Second-Language school about 45 minutes outside of Lima, as well as spending a day hiking in the Andes to Machu Picchu. During my trip to Peru I saw not only a part of the world I had never seen but elements of poverty that were previously unimaginable. Since, my passion for education and poverty reduction has grown stronger.

My first week with the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation was very exciting. I met all the members of the NHWF staff, as well as another Carsey School intern from UNH!  I was able to help set up and attend a donor tea at the Bridges House in Concord last Wednesday, as well.  The event included many important donors, board members, and founders of the Women’s Foundation. There was also a performance from Arts in Reach, a NHWF grant recipient. Arts in Reach is non-profit organization that gives teenage girls in Rockingham and Strafford counties a safe, and creative space to learn about visual and performing arts. I felt immediately welcome by the staff and community of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation and I cannot wait for the many opportunities that lie ahead!

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New Hampshire Women’s Foundation: Philanthropy Intern, Sydney Gillis

Sydney Gillismarilla 2   As a new intern for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself in my first blog post!  My name is Sydney Gillis, and I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of New Hampshire, with a major concentration in History and a minor in Russian language. I will be going into my senior year next fall at UNH, and am very excited that for the summer I will be the Philanthropy Intern for the NHWF.  As the Philanthropy Intern, my primary focus will be assisting with the grant process; including drafting grant related stories for our newsletter, helping to assemble grant booklets, as well as creating new grantee partner posts for social media. I am also very thankful for my acceptance as one of the the John G. Winant fellows through the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. The Winant Fellowship focuses on encouraging students to pursue public service experience by rewarding them a generous stipend for serving a minimum of 300 hours at a government agency or non-profit organization, which in my case is the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation.

I have a strong interest in philanthropy as I am currently, and have been since 2014, the president of the Amnesty International chapter at UNH.  I love being the president of an organization that helps to spread awareness of human rights and social justice issues on our campus. It is an incredibly rewarding experience, and has added to my interests in possibly working with non-profit organizations, or pursuing the study of law, post-graduation.  I am very excited to have my experience with non-profits be expanded even more so through my internship with the NHWF!

Beside my involvement with Amnesty International, I enjoy reading, cooking, yoga, writing, and spending time with my friends and family. I am also treasurer of the National Slavic Honors Society at UNH, Dobro Slovo. I believe being involved in campus organizations and societies is a great way to immerse yourself in the UNH community, and meet new people at the same time! I live on campus during the school year, and love having the opportunity to do all of these things in my free time. Home is just 15 minutes away from campus in Nottingham, NH, so I truly get the best of both worlds going to UNH!

My first day as an intern at the NHWF was particularly exciting, as I was able to attend the unveiling of the portrait of Marilla Ricker in the New Hampshire State House. The event was filled with members of the NH community, legal professionals, and politicians including Governor Maggie Hassan! The significance of the Marilla Ricker painting expanded well beyond the fact that she is just one of the eight portraits of women in the NH State House. Ricker herself was the first female attorney in our state, the first woman who attempted to vote in NH, as well as the first woman to run for the position of Governor.  She was truly an incredible woman. Dedicating her career to “start the ball a’rolling” in regards to women’s rights, Ricker poses as an extraordinary historical figure who will hopefully now become more well known in NH and beyond. My favorite part of the ceremony was the recitation of a quote by Ricker, “Be kind. Be good. Be just”, as these are wise words everyone should take to heart. Witnessing the unveiling of Marilla Ricker’s portrait and hearing her story was a truly incredible first day at the NHWF!

As a young woman who is a History major, I am well aware of the unequal representation of women in history, and I am thrilled to assist in the future process of ensuring that women can and will leave their mark historically, which I have already witnessed on my first day. Also, as a young woman in New Hampshire, I am very excited to be a part of an organization that focuses on the empowerment of girls and women in my state through philanthropy, advocacy, research and education. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity of becoming the Philanthropy Intern for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, and I very much look forward to the experience it brings!


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