Commemorating Suffrage Centennial
A letter from our CEO

Today we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The passing of the 19th Amendment took three generations and the work and sacrifice of women from all backgrounds and their male allies. Many of whom did not gain access to the ballots because of citizenship loopholes, poll taxes, literacy tests, and intimidation and violence. The struggle for women of color continued through the Voting Rights Act; and because of voter suppression it continues today.

While I am disheartened and often frustrated by the snail’s rate of progress for both gender and racial equity, on this day, I am thankful. I am thankful to those who understood the importance of the right to vote as a cornerstone for their voices being represented in the shaping of our democracy, and how necessary it would be for us to fully have agency over our lives, our families, and our communities. 

Three to four generations later, in the 2016 presidential election, women outnumbered men at the ballot box by 10 million, and now, this upcoming election can be the most historic for women yet. Both parties have broken records, and 287 women secured their primaries for the U.S. House. Political empowerment/representation is one of the four measures used to rank gender equity by the World Economic Forum. The United States remains in the bottom half. 

We should all commemorate this day with a renewed commitment, a renewed fervor to achieve what those upon whose shoulders we stand set out to do starting way back in 1776, when Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, as he headed to the Third Continental Congress, imploring him to “remember the ladies”, and that they would form a rebellion “if attention is not paid” to our interests, and that we “would not hold ourselves  bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” 

So today, let’s commemorate, and tomorrow work like hell to get out the vote. 

Cherita Ellens, CEO
Black Women Deserve Equal Pay
Despite being disproportionately represented in front-line jobs providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a society, we continue to fail to treat Black women as essential. Because they are at the intersection of race and gender discrimination, the wage gap for Black women is much wider than the gap for white women.
Black women are paid, on average, 38 cents on the dollar less than white men. This gap has only narrowed by 19 cents from 1967 to 2018 and represents a loss of $1,962 per month, $23,540 per year, and a staggering $941,600 over a 40-year career. Ultimately, this affords Black women less opportunity to build wealth and economic security for themselves and their families.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was on August 13. It’s the day that represents how far into 2020 the average Black woman has to work for her earnings to catch up to what a white man earned in 2019. It’s a sobering fact rooted in the United States’ history of sexism and white supremacy. It’s also a call to action.
On this Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, we pushed the conversation beyond “equal pay for equal work,” and addressed the many contributing factors to pay inequity: occupational segregation, overrepresentation in low-wage jobs, underrepresentation in high-wage jobs—all compounded by discrimination, bias, and racism. During Roundtable of Sisterhood: Beyond Equality – Pay Equity and Black Womenwe brought together leaders from some of Chicago’s most prominent organizations—including (clockwise from top left) Cherita Ellens from Women Employed, Dorri McWhorter from YWCA Metropolitan Chicago,Helene Gayle from Chicago Community Trust, and Evelyn Diaz from Heartland Alliance—to discuss what it will take to address the many systemic factors impacting the wage gap and how together we can build a truly inclusive women’s movement. 
Thank you to all of the people who joined the conversation 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 pageShare it with your networks!

Join Us for the Next Event in the Free Summer Series

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 their rights. Join us for a conversation with leading advocates on how we can empower young women at work and build a safer, more equitable Chicago for women and girls. 

Thursday, September 17th
Program: 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m.
Networking: 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Take Action Today!
Urge Illinois Legislators to Pass Paid Sick Time!
Download our toolkit, with easy actions you can take to advocate for paid sick days for working people in Illinois.
COVID-19 Your Rights on the Job
If you or a family member gets sick, if your workplace closes because of a government order, or if you lost child care because of COVID-19, you might be entitled to paid leave. Download our flyer to learn more about your workplace rights. 
Class of 2020 Summer Leaders: Virtual Warriors
As we get ready for fall, we want to reflect on one of our favorite summer highlights. This summer, Women Employed welcomed ten amazing young leaders into the first-ever all-virtual version of The Pattis Family Foundation Summer Leadership Program, a paid internship that introduces participants to the ins and outs of the non-profit world while providing the opportunity for leadership training, professional skill building, front-line research, and more. 

Our 2020 cohort gracefully conquered the challenge of completing the program remotely and found unique ways to build relationships with one another and with WE staff. All while tackling substantive projects that will drive our work forward—including conducting interviews with minimum-wage workers, performing an analysis of the giving habits of Millennial donors, researching ways to build engagement in a virtual world, and more! Thank you, Summer Leaders, for all of your hard work!

“The Summer Leadership Program has provided me with the opportunity to wholeheartedly pursue my passions in policy and social justice alongside like-minded staff and interns.” – Shania Montufar, Class of 2020
“I chose The Pattis Family Foundation to not only hone in on my skills to help make the world a better place, but to give myself the opportunity for mentorship that I never really had.” – Britt Koff, Class of 2020

This year’s class includes:

Suleika Abdourazak, Kenyon College, Class of 2021
Yichun Chen, Northwestern University, Class of 2020
Citlalli Garcia, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Class of 2022
Kaitlyn Greenholt, Roosevelt University, Class of 2021Taylor Haynes, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Class of 2020
Alexis Jenkins, University of Illinois-Springfield, Class of 2020
Brittany Koff, The College of Saint Rose
Taylor Mazique, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Class of 2021
Reyna Moreno, Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, Class of 2020
Shania Montúfar, Truman State University, Class of 2022
Career Foundations: The Good Work Continues
Adult students eager to go back to college often face difficulties navigating career options, financial responsibilities, and issues around compatible work schedules. Women Employed developed the Career Foundations course with the City Colleges of Chicago to help these students assess their skills, pinpoint their interests, explore career paths, and craft a plan to get to college. WE also work with community-based organizations across Chicago who are providing Career Foundations to their students and clients as part of our Career Foundations Consortium.
In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, many community-based organizations are rapidly changing the way they engage students and clients, rising to the challenges of the moment to serve their communities creatively. Some are reviving old-fashioned methods of correspondence—books, pens, and paper—and combining them with email and virtual learning communities. Others are directing students to online tutoring, practice programs, videos, and social media, including the use of digital tools like Zoom to recreate the school setting. And in spite of the obstacles, the COVID-19 crisis has also created an opportunity for students to make more informed career choices based on industries that have been hit the hardest by the unemployment crisis compared with those that have been sustained as essential businesses. 
Women Employed continues to provide support to members of the Career Foundations Consortium by supporting members in planning for what comes next. Together we can ensure that students experience as little disruption as possible and have access to the programs and resources they need to be successful.
Spark Change Year-Round With a Monthly Gift

Despite holding the majority of essential jobs needed to get us through the COVID-19 crisis, many women continue to face low wages, little to no benefits, barriers to affordable childcare, and more. During this critical time, we must fight for working women so they can support themselves and build strong, safe, and flourishing families and communities.
But we can’t achieve this without your support, which is why a monthly gift to Women Employed is more important than ever before.
Together, we’ll fight for paid sick time and medical leave for every working person in Illinois and across the country, advocate for affordable childcare, inform workers of their rights, and build programs that make education accessible to working adults with real pathways to better jobs and family sustaining wages.
When Reopening Schools, We Must Bring Employers to the Cafeteria Table
Conversations about reopening schools predominantly focus on parents, students, teachers, and school staff. But to be successful, we must also bring employers to the cafeteria table. Given that half of job losses have been borne by women and people of color, employers must be willing to provide flexibility to employees with school-age children. Not doing so does a devastating disservice to working parents—particularly low-paid workers, and Black and brown working mothers. In our latest Medium piece, we discuss how reopening schools without the participation and support of employers poses significant challenges for workplace equity.
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