University of Pennsylvania Reports Effects of Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards Program

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Through access to education, program measurably improves social and economic conditions of women around the world

The Fels Institute of Government, a research and consulting organization based at the University of Pennsylvania, recently studied the need for and success of the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards. The report concluded when women are educated, it yields a dramatic impact in improving their lives, as well as their families, their community and national economy.

Launched in 1972, the Women’s Opportunity Awards is the signature program of Soroptimist International of the Americas, a global women’s organization that works to improve social and economic conditions for women and girls. Each year, the program provides $1.6M in cash grants to almost 1,600 head-of-household women so they can achieve their career goals by completing their education or job training.

The study found the award helps women in four key areas:

  •     Improves their quality of life. Almost 80 percent of women report an improved standard of living and 65 percent report being able to secure higher paying employment as a result of receiving the Women’s Opportunity Awards.
  •     Builds confidence. For most women (98 percent), the impact of the recognition that comes with receiving the award boosts their self-confidence, which positively affects their lives and the lives of their families. Stated a 2008-1009 recipient from Mexico, “After receiving the Women’s Opportunity Awards I felt committed and motivated to improve academically... .When I became aware of my own ability I continued improving myself, for me and for my three children who depend on me.”
  •     Strengthens self-determination. What sets the Women’s Opportunity Awards apart is that it empowers recipients to decide for themselves the best way to use the award in their quest to attain higher education. Some of the ways women report using the cash grant include covering tuition expenses (69 percent), paying household bills (45 percent), covering transportation needs (38 percent), purchasing a computer (21 percent) and securing childcare (17 percent).
  •     Multiplies the cycle of growth. The study found that 79 percent of the Women’s Opportunity Awards recipients surveyed enter professions such as nursing and social work with the intent to help others.

“This study demonstrates Soroptimist’s value as an organization that helps women in measurable ways, and validates the power of our core program, the Women’s Opportunity Awards,” said Soroptimist Executive Director & CEO Elizabeth M. Lucas. “Education is a critical component in bettering women’s lives, their children’s lives, and the economic stability of the community. That is why Soroptimist is committed to growing the program to reach more women and help them achieve their potential.”

Soroptimist continues to conduct annual research to measure the impact the Women’s Opportunity Awards have on women around the world. Click here to read the full Fels Research & Consulting case statement.

Fels Research & Consulting partners with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and civic groups to provide research and consulting services that improve the performance of organizations that serve the public.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist ( improves the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Its major program, the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants for women seeking to improve their lives with the help of additional education and training. Since 1972, the award-winning program has disbursed more than $25 million to tens of thousands of women, helping them to achieve their educational goals. Soroptimist, a 501(c)(3) organization that relies on charitable donations to support its programs, also powers—an online community offering offline volunteer opportunities in support of women and girls.

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