A blueprint for success:Young Women’s Initiative launches plan to ensure bright future for Minnesota women


It wasn’t until college that Brook LaFloe learned there were terms for what she experienced growing up – terms such as domestic violence and alcoholism. 

Now that she’s gone through a healing process, the St. Paul resident is ready to be a voice for her community, especially for women.

“I’m Native American, and I feel like we’re a very small population, first of all, but we also don’t have a lot of leadership in government and big corporate jobs,” LaFloe said. “We’re kind of silenced, in a sense.”

Brook LaFloe, a cabinet member of the Young Women’s Initiative, participates in a meeting of the Young Women’s Leadership Day on Sept. 9, 2017, at the Minnesota State Capitol. The Young Women’s Initiative has created a statewide plan to eliminate barriers for young women in Minnesota. 

LaFloe, now an educator, is committed to ensuring opportunity, safety and leadership for all young women. She’s working toward that as a continuing cabinet member of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a public-private partnership between the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the state.

With women’s movements such as “#MeToo” and “#Timesup” spreading awareness of women’s rights across the globe, and with a gubernatorial election right around the corner, now’s the time to take action, LaFloe said. A new plan through the Young Women’s Initiative could help achieve that. 

The Blueprint for Action, funded through Women’s Foundation, is a 200-page report that reflects research, deep conversations and lived experiences. A roadmap for a seven-year period, the plan offers a list of 20 recommendations to help eliminate barriers for young women in Minnesota. It was developed with the help of community partners, and the work already has begun with co-chairs of cabinet members working with a council of 70 leaders across Minnesota. 

Members of the 2017-18 Young Women’s Cabinet pose for a photo with Gov. Mark Dayton (front, center). 

“This is it,” LaFloe said. “This is kind of our time to advance our work and get it going, see where we can take it.”

One of the recommendations is to increase awareness of violence against young women. One solution is to increase advocate outreach and victim services within communities and cultures, including immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming people, women in greater Minnesota, and young women with disabilities, according to the report. Other proposed programs include finding solutions for lack of healthcare access, community-centered childcare, and more. 

In order to make these recommendations happen, the committee will review applications from organizations across Minnesota and reward grant money to fund programs. These programs will help combat issues affecting young women and align with the Blueprint for Action. 

"It’s not going to happen overnight,” said Mary Beth Hanson, vice president of external relations at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. “If you’ve read the 20 recommendations, they’re 20 and they’re big. So it takes dedicated work and focus, and to break it down because we can’t [achieve them] all at once, but we want to make sure the recommendations are valued and moved forward.”

The Young Women’s Initiative played a crucial role in the research process and in creating the Blueprint for Action. The organization is the first statewide women’s foundation in the U.S., according to its website. It’s also the only grantmaking organization in the state to focus exclusively on equity for women and young girls.  

Deena Zubulake, director of housing and youth programs at the YWCA, said young girls can expect impactful changes from the Blueprint for Action. 

“I think one thing that girls can expect across our state is to be confident that this is not being led by one entity,” she said, “but that this is truly a cross-sector and community-building initiative.”

When the Blueprint for Action was released in November, LaFloe remembers the moment as rewarding.

“This was one of our end pieces and we actually did it,” she said. “It was a very patient process to get there.”

Katelyn Vue lives in East St. Paul and is a member of the Young Women’s Initiative. 

SIX FOCUS AREAS                               

The Young Women’s Initiative created these six focus areas as the framework for the Blueprint for Action. 

  1. Financial stability & prosperity: Young women have financial stability and pathways to prosperity.
  2. Safety & violence prevention: Young women feel safe and free from all forms of violence at home, school, work and in the community.
  3. Education & lifelong learning: Young women have access to formal education and the life-skills training needed to make sound decisions and engage in planning for the future.
  4. Cultural & self-identity:Young women have a supportive community with positive role models and a strong cultural and self-identity.
  5. Health & wellness: Young women are physically and emotionally healthy.
  6. Family & caregiving:Young women are free to pursue their dreams in ways that honor their personal, family and caregiving responsibilities.

Learn more about the Blueprint for Action at wfmn.org.