Celebrating Success, Planning for More!
A letter from CEO Cherita Ellens
Greetings Women Employed:

I am happy to finally say, welcome to summer! The beginning of summer at WE is a time for reflection, and planning. We pause to reflect on our past fiscal year to celebrate victories, understand missed and new opportunities, and plan for the new fiscal year. There were many victories this past legislative session in Springfield that we advocated for on behalf of working women and their families. We believe these victories move us forward in our pursuit of equity and inclusion for all.  (You can read more about them later in this issue.) While we were successful on many fronts, we still have work to do and have a few things on our 2019 Legislative Agenda that will require our continued advocacy, including paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling, and reducing barriers to education and training for our most vulnerable.

When I joined WE a few months ago, I embarked on a listening tour with my team, Board, funders, and other stakeholders. These conversations helped me lead the team in creating a list of priorities for our upcoming fiscal year to ensure we are effectively focusing on the areas that will improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity. Our priorities for the next 12-months are:

  • Sustainability & Capacity Building: Secure, strengthen, and maximize organizational impact.
  •  Scale & Reach: Increase and deepen mission effectiveness with an intentional focus on intersectionality, racial equity, and inclusion.
  • Research & Innovation: Inspire systemic change, and lead on issues impacting working women.
  • Staff Care & Internal Culture: Foster a diverse, inclusive, innovative, and inspirational workforce and workplace.
I will continue my listening tour this summer, broadening out my audience to include long-time WE supporters, leaders in the movement, and low-income working women to make sure we are hearing first hand the most critical issues.

Additionally, I plan to take the advice from Lt. Gov Juliana Stratton and enjoy #onehourofsummer each day. She is encouraging each of us to spend 60 minutes every day doing something for self. A quiet moment, a walk, time with loved ones…just one intentional hour each day to be in the moment and enjoy some fun in the sun. Simple. But, brilliant.
Cherita Ellens, CEO
Illinois Legislative Agenda's
Wins and Updates!
Following determined advocacy from Women Employed, our partner organizations, and our supporters, the Illinois General Assembly has passed a number of bills that will advance equity for Illinois’ women and families. We're celebrating these victories!

No Salary History (HB 834)
  • What you need to know: The measure will strengthen Illinois’ Equal Pay Act by banning employers from asking job candidates for their salary history, which contributes to the wage gap. We’ve passed this twice before but former governor Rauner vetoed it both times. This time, however, our new governor J.B. Pritzker has committed to sign this bill into law. If you are applying for a new job after this law goes into effect, the hiring team will not be allowed to inquire about your previous earnings. They won’t be allowed to ask you in person, or on an application form. They can’t ask your current or former employers, either. They can ask for your salary expectations or provide you with the salary range for the job.

  • Important Dates: This law will go into effect 60 days after Governor Pritzker signs the bill. We can expect this bill to be signed before August 6th.

Minimum Wage (SB 1)

  • Important dates: The first increase to $9.25/hr goes into effect on January 1, 2020, and then the minimum wage will gradually increase to $15/hr by 2025.

Strengthened Protections Against Workplace Harassment (SB 75)
  • What you need to know: The law helps protects all workers against sexual harassment by strengthening trainings, investigations, and enforcement. For instance, employers will be required to provide sexual harassment prevention trainings for their staff, and will no longer be allowed to require mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims.

  • Important Dates: This bill has passed but has not yet been signed by Governor Pritzker, and includes various measures with different effective dates. Follow us on social media at @WomenEmployed for updates.

Reduce Remediation for College Students (SJR 41)
  • What you need to know: This bill creates an advisory council to ensure that colleges and universities maximize the probability that students who need to catch up in math and/or English succeed; and to accelerate their progress toward completion, leading to better opportunity and higher paying jobs.

  • Important Dates: This legislation has already gone into effect and work has begun. A plan for improvements must be submitted to the legislature by July 1, 2020. A final report is due at the General Assembly on January 1, 2021.

$50 Million Increase to the Monetary Award Program (MAP)
  • What you need to know: Illinois’ FY20 budget will include an increase of funding to the MAP program by $50 million to ensure that more low-income students can afford college and to bring our state closer to securing a fully-funded MAP program by FY20. This additional funding will help almost 7,000 additional students afford tuition each year.

  • Important Dates: This funding increase was included in the governor’s budget, which has already been signed. It will go into effect on July 1, 2019.

Support Undocumented Students (HB 2691)
  • What you need to know: Makes sure undocumented students in Illinois are eligible for state financial aid, including MAP grants, so that they can access the same opportunities as other Illinois residents.

  • Important Dates: Governor Pritzker signed HB2691 into law on June 21st and it goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Update to Illinois Human Rights Act (HB 252)
  • What you need to know: Updates the Illinois Human Rights Act to protect more workers from employment discrimination. The law will now cover employers of any size for every protected class of worker (sex, race, color, religion, the country you came from, your age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability).

  • Important Dates: Governor Pritzker has not yet signed this into law, but when he does it will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

These victories are a major step forward for women and families in Illinois. But there is still work to do. See what’s still on our agenda for 2019 —and join our Action Network for timely updates on actions you can take to secure even more wins!
Saying Farewell to Melissa Josephs
For almost 30 years, Melissa Josephs has been on the frontlines of Women Employed’s policy work—drafting bills, building coalitions, talking to the press, and working with legislators, aldermen, mayors, governors, and policymakers to change the landscape for working women. As our board chair Lisa Pattis said, “This state is a far better place to get up and go to work in every day because of the work of Melissa Josephs.”
At the end of this month, on the heels of the amazing legislative victories outlined above, Melissa is stepping away from policy work to begin the well-deserved next chapter of her life. We sat down with her to reflect on her time at Women Employed. We will miss you, Melissa!

What have you most enjoyed about working at Women Employed?
The amazing, brilliant women on the Women Employed staff with whom I get to work and learn from every day. And my colleagues at partner organizations who form the coalitions that have helped us pass laws. And of course, working with the legislators who make it their job to introduce, move, and pass good bills. I’ve had the privilege to work with fantastic people in this job.

We also bid farewell this month to Tina Erickson, our Director of Development, and wish her well on her retirement. Thank you for all you have done for Women Employed, and for more than 25 years of service to the non-profit community in Chicago. And congratulations on your well-deserved retirement!
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