Women United Vice Chair Kathryn Whitaker on the Role of Women in Policy

By Kathryn Whitaker


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Historians will recognize that quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead. West Wing fans will recognize it from President Bartlet in season 5, episode 15. I associate it with my work through Trident United Way.

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In 2017, the Steering Committee for Women United had some discussions about our role in the three impact areas of TUW – give, advocate and volunteer. We recognized our existing contributions in terms of giving and volunteering as well as an opportunity to do more with advocacy. Frankly, the 716 wom

en who make up Women United are quite a force! We wanted to be intentional about using that force beyond giving and volunteering – into the public policy arena.


We took an active role in United Way Public Policy Day at the statehouse in 2017. Oftentimes, citizens do not know where to start when it comes to reaching out and talking to their elected officials. Coming together with representatives of United Ways from around the state to learn the nuts and bolts of how to pull a senator out of session for a sidebar or the importance of communicating with their staff, took some of the nervousness out of the experience. Our voices were some of those that elected officials heard advocating for the earned income tax credit, which was included in the roads bill that passed toward the end of last session. 


Building on that success, Women United participated again in United Way Public Policy Day this past February. Who better than women to speak to the needs for and benefits of the Tri-County Reading by Third Project or the school readiness tax credit?! It was those topics and more that we discussed with various elected officials. I met with Representative Bill Crosby and discussed the Reading by Third school selection process as well as the success of the pilot program. Additionally, I met with Senator Larry Grooms and asked for his support of the school readiness tax credit. For me, it’s important that elected officials hear from everyday citizens about what matters to them. Beyond the paid lobbyists or the United Way staff, we volunteers can bring a disincentivized voice to the issues, increasing our collective impact. Doing so has left me feeling empowered and even more motivated to continue to participate. 


At our Annual Luncheon in 2017, in addition to recognizing some shining stars from our membership ranks, we chose financial stability as our area of focus and featured keynote speaker Michelle Mapp, CEO of South Carolina Community Loan Fund, on the topic of affordable housing. For the 2018 luncheon, we featured Mimi Griffin, renowned broadcaster and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member, on women in leadership. Women United will also have a role in the Healthy Tri-County initiative and helping advance the Tri-County Regional Health Improvement Plan. I am passionate about the outcomes Trident United Way and its partners achieve in our community and personally interested in helping use our collective voices to impact public policy here and across the state. Trident United Way allows me a place to do that, and it’s why I give, volunteer and advocate.