We Are the Change We Are Waiting For
A letter from our CEO

We are roughly one month away from both the election and the deadline for the Census. There is nothing more important to our fight for equity than ensuring record-smashing voting numbers, and that we get every person in every household counted in the Census. Everything we are dealing with: workplace rights, paid leave, pay equity, wealth distribution, healthcare, child care, education, reproductive rights, justice reform, and how we recover from COVID as a nation—are all on the line with this election. But of course, you all know that. I am preaching to the choir.  

Our job is to have conversations with those that don’t understand the connection. With those that believe that their vote doesn’t matter because they have neither seen nor experienced the change they are waiting so desperately for. With those that believe their communities are underfunded and under resourced not because they didn’t have an accurate Census count, but because the system is stacked against them and that people from outside of their community don’t care. Or, only care when it spills over. Those women who have been fighting for equality, only to see that there are still huge equity gaps in every measurable performance indicator for women of color, and it feels like those gaps aren’t being addressed with the same level of urgency as issues facing their white middle class counterparts.  

Over the next 30 days, I urge you to step outside of your civically and politically engaged circles and have conversations with someone struggling with the WHY. With an empathetic ear to their concerns, help them understand why they can’t sit this one out. Acknowledge that these aren’t the final steps, but the first necessary steps to change. Help them understand that without these two important actions (voting and completing the Census), none of the change they want to see can happen. Need more information on the Census, and how you can mobilize your networks to vote? Keep reading this issue. We’ve got you covered. 
Cherita Ellens, CEO
Honoring the Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This month we lost a real-life superhero when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. You would be hard-pressed to name anyone who did more in their lifetime to advance gender equity than Justice Ginsburg. From the early barriers she broke—as one of only eight women in her Harvard law class, and as the first female tenured professor at Columbia—to her tenacious work as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU; to her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. At every turn, at every point in her career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg never missed the opportunity to fight for equity, justice, and the ideals of our democracy. 
Her impact is breathtaking. Because of her work, women can hold credit cards in our own names, can serve on juries, can get an education at a state-funded school, can hold a mortgage without a male co-signer, cannot be fired for being pregnant. Her vote preserved our right to choose, and granted us the right to same-sex marriages. Her dissent in the Lilly Ledbetter case paved the way for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, giving us more protections against pay discrimination. And that only scrapes the surface. 
Ginsburg paved the way for many of us to hold careers, live independently, and realize our dreams. We all owe it to her to continue the fight for equity and take it to the finish line. We cannot sit back. We must speak up, speak out, and work to improve the democracy she held so dear. If you need more reason to vote and complete your Census, do it in her honor. 
Every Count Matters
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her life fighting for equity and equal representation for all. But that responsibility was not hers alone. We all play a role in making our country better, and while it may not seem impactful, filling out the Census is vitally important. The effects of an undercount could be devastating—fewer resources directed into our communities, millions less in federal funding, and less representation in Congress and the state legislature.
To honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, we must ensure that as many people as possible are counted in the 2020 CensusWe have a lot of work to do to get there. Currently, the response rate to the Census in Chicago is around 60%, with some neighborhoods as low as 30%. In Black and Latinx  wards, the response rate is closer to 55%—leaving 289,000 Black and Latinx households uncounted. We must take advantage of the recent extension to the 2020 census—which now goes through October 31—and push our neighbors, friends, and family to fill out their Census. Every day matters. Let’s use this next month to honor the life and legacy of RBG by making sure that we’re all counted in the 2020 Census. Fill yours out today! 
The ongoing impacts of COVID-19, systemic racism, and other social crises that have defined 2020 have made it clear that this year’s election will be among the most important in our lifetimes. Our individual participation—and that of our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members—is key in determining the political landscape of our country and to laying the groundwork for positive change. 

We know a lot of you are feeling anxious or apathetic about this election, and worry your vote won’t have impact. VOTE ANYWAY. It’s not just the presidential election that matters. With so much at stake at every level of the ballot—including state and local races, judicial elections, and ballot initiatives which directly impact our local communities—every one of us has a hand in protecting and advancing democracy. Need a one-stop-shop to learn about all the candidates and measures on your ballot? Visit ballotready.org and enter your address to learn who will be on your ballot in every race (even judicial races), what their positions are, and what ballot measures you need to know about. You can even select your choices, and download your ballot to take with you to the polls!  
If you’ve already registered and have made your plan to vote, but you’re eager to do more, our 2020 Voter Mobilization Toolkit was made especially for you! Our toolkit includes additional steps you can take to protect our democracy, such as delivering mail in ballots on behalf of others, volunteering as a poll worker on Election Day, and more. Our voices matter and each of our vote can make a difference. We cannot afford to have anyone sit this election out. The stakes are just too high.   
Join the Fight for a Fair Tax
In the upcoming election, Illinois voters will have the opportunity to replace the state’s flat-rate income tax with a graduated-rate structure, also known as the “fair tax.” Under our current tax system, millionaires pay the same tax rate as workers earning the minimum wage. A fair tax means people with different income levels are taxed at different rates—so those that can afford more pay more. 

By voting yes for fair tax, 97 percent of taxpayers will actually get a tax cut and only those making more than $250,000 a year will see an increase. Additionally, a fair tax would raise about $1.4 billion for the rest of the current budget year and $3.4 billion over a full 12 months. This revenue can help Illinois combat the economic hardship caused by COVID-19 by putting more money in the pockets of low-paid individuals and families while raising necessary funding for programs and services Illinois families need to weather the crisis. If we don’t pass this measure, not only will those programs be underfunded, but we may ALL see a tax raise to cover Illinois’ bills, leaving less money in our pockets. Learn more at yesforfairtax.org
Centering the Experiences of Women of Color on Equal Pay 
Every year, the National Committee on Pay Equity sets a date for "Equal Pay Day" to bring attention to the fact that women make, on average, just 82 cents for every dollar men make. This year, Equal Pay Day was March 31. But this date fails to represent the wider wage gaps women of color routinely experience as a result of gender and racial discrimination. Women Employed and our partners are working to lift up the voices and experiences of women of color in conversations about the wage gap. 
In August, we marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, representing how far into 2020 Black women had to work for their earnings to catch up to what a white man earned in 2019. We have two more equal pay days left in 2020, representing the even wider wage gaps for Native women and Latinas, and we’ll be working on those days to raise awareness and fight for change. Join us! 
Native Women’s Equal Pay Day, October 1st 
Native women make just 60 cents to a white man’s dollar. Join us and our national partners on Twitter on October 1st at 1:00 p.m. CT for a Twitterstorm, using the hashtags #NativeWomensEqualPay #EquityForNativeWomen. 
Latina Equal Pay Day, October 29th  
Latinas make just 55 cents to a white man’s dollar. Join us on October 29th at 4:00 p.m. CT on Facebook for a virtual panel hosted The Equal Pay Day Chicago coalition, of which Women Employed is a member.  
The event, entitled Half Paid Heroeswill feature our President and CEO, Cherita Ellens; Linda Xóchitl Tortolero, President & CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción; Illinois State Representative Anna Mueller; and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Stay tuned for more details! 
Racial Equity in Higher Ed
Illinois faces significant racial equity gaps in higher education. Only 2 of Illinois’ 12 public institutions have representative enrollment of Latino students; just 4 of 12 for Black students. Furthermore, there are completion gaps of up to 30 points for Black and Latino students compared to white students. Addressing racial equity in higher education is necessary to close persistent racial wealth gaps and ensure a diverse and reflective workforce. As a leading advocate for equity in and access to higher education, Women Employed has developed recommendations to help Illinois address racial equity gaps in our state’s public institutions. Download, read, and share our new policy brief
Illinois Workers Deserve Paid Sick Time
COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the lack of paid leave policies in the United States, which forces workers to make an impossible choice between their own and their family’s health, or their paycheck and their job. In an early relief package, Congress included limited emergency paid leave, providing up to 10 days of paid sick time and 12 weeks of paid family leave, but the legislation leaves out as many as 80 percent of Illinoisans and expires at the end of the year.

Four months ago, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would extend emergency paid leave through 2021 and expand coverage to more workers. The recently introduced Senate package, the HEALS Act, does not expand or extend emergency paid leave. Efforts to reconcile the packages and priorities of the two chambers have stalled, leaving the fate of paid leave up in the air.

Congressman Danny K. Davis, U.S. Representative for Illinois' 7th District, joined Women Employed for a virtual conversation about paid leave policies, including emergency paid leave to address the COVID-19 pandemic and permanent policies to ensure workplace protections for all. Women Employed will continue to work for paid leave at the federal level, and we also are leading the charge to pass paid leave for the state of Illinois.

You can help. Download our paid sick days toolkit for easy actions you can take each month to urge our state leaders to pass paid sick time in Illinois and ensure the economic and physical wellbeing of ALL Illinois workers. September is all about sharing your story. Tell us why paid sick days matter to you!
COVID-19 Your Rights on the Job:
Take Action Today!
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the structure of work for millions of people across the United States. In this time of crisis, it is particularly important for people to know their employment rights and the protections that exist in case you or a loved one gets sick with COVID-19.

Women Employed has created tools to help working people navigate these protections. Download our flyer, available in English and Spanish, to learn more about your workplace rights. 
Starting Women Out Strong

When preparing young women for the workforce, we often focus on interviewing skills, professionalism, and resume writing. But it’s equally important for young women to know their workplace rights. Particularly given that young women may be more vulnerable to harassment and other violations of those rights. The last event in our three-part virtual Roundtable of Sisterhood series—Starting Strong – Positioning Young Women for Success at Work—brought together leading advocates, including (clockwise from top left) Cherita Ellens, President & CEO, Women Employed; Alexis Jenkins, Women Employed Summer Leadership Program Alumna; Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership; Jamila Trimuel, Founder, Ladies of Virtue; and Anna Valencia, City Clerk of Chicago and Chair of the Status of Women and Girls Working Group—to discuss how we can better support young women for success at work. 
Thank you to all the people who joined the conversation on September 17th and helped make the event such a success! If you missed it, or you want to watch it again, you can view the event on our Facebook page.
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