From Unseen to Seen
A letter from CEO Cherita Ellens
Greetings Women Employed,

As of May 20, 2019, Chicago and Cook County now have, for the first time, women AND women of color in the five highest elected offices in the city and county: Mayor, Treasurer, City Clerk, President of the County Board, and County Clerk. WOW! As a native Chicagoan and a woman of color, I am proud, inspired, and motivated.

Ralph Ellison writes in the prologue of Invisible Man , “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” This is how I have felt for much of my life as a woman of color, and the sentiment shared by thousands of Chicago residents from the South and West sides, countless women and girls under siege in their workplaces still experiencing sexual harassment and gender inequities, and of low-wage workers daring to raise their voices to fight for fairness and dignity.

I am proud because I can finally see me in the faces of those that possess the power to improve the quality of life for those that “people refuse to see.” I am inspired by Mayor Lightfoot as she urges us to “shine on." I am motivated because I know that these women cannot and will not be successful without me, and without you. And, I am here for it all.

The atmosphere at the Inauguration was noticeably electric and different. While most of the usual attendees were present, there was a different set of faces in the room. A different feel of inclusiveness. Inclusive of both business and community, and of the unique and diverse 77 neighborhoods of Chicago. I served on the Business, Economic, and Neighborhood Development Transition Committee. Mayor Lightfoot wanted to ensure that all Chicagoans, and especially those who had not been included before, had the opportunity to shape the future of our city. Forcing the invisible to be seen and heard. For some, it felt like the first time ever.

This shift has the making of transformative change and change that can lead us to equity for all. And, as for Women Employed, we will be leading the charge, collaborating as part of the team, and supporting all efforts until all women and girls are seen, heard, and receive their due.

WE are Women Employed. And, WE are on a mission to pursue equity for all. 
Cherita Ellens, CEO
Historic City Council to Determine Key Measures for Women and Families
History is being made in Chicago today. For the first time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot —Chicago’s first black female and first openly gay mayor—will oversee the first meeting of the most diverse City Council in Chicago history, including 12 new aldermen, many of whom beat incumbents for their seats.

At the May 29th meeting, the Chicago Fair Workweek ordinance will be introduced, which Women Employed considers a priority for working people. It would guarantee protections to ensure employer scheduling practices do not prevent workers from attending to their families, education, and other obligations. Among the provisions, it would provide fair notice of scheduling, as well as compensation if hours are cut or added at the last minute, and would apply to hourly workers and to salaried workers who earn less than $50,000 a year.

Soon after, an ordinance will be introduced to raise Chicago’s minimum wage from the current $12/hour to $15/hour by 2021—4 years faster than the state’s minimum wage will reach $15/hour. It would also gradually eliminate the sub-minimum tipped wage in Chicago—something the state’s minimum wage bill will not do—to ensure that all working people in the city can earn the same minimum wage.

Help make these ordinances the law in Chicago! If you live in the city, call your alderman and tell them to support the Fair Workweek ordinance. And stay tuned for ways to take action on the minimum wage.
Career Foundations: Connecting Communities to Educational Opportunities
Elaine always regretted not getting a post-secondary education. Instead of college after graduating high school, she entered the workforce, into a job that provided little to no benefits. Throughout adulthood—a job, marriage, and motherhood—she never lost the dream of getting her degree.

A few years ago, burnt out from her job and looking for something new, she decided it was time to start over. Her son was old enough to take on some added responsibility around the house and she was ready for a change. Elaine had gone through Career Foundations, a course developed in partnership with Women Employed and the City Colleges of Chicago that helps adult learners assess their skills, identify barriers, explore career paths, and create a plan to get to college a few months earlier. From the course, she was able to identify a career sector—healthcare. While Elaine has had to learn to be a student again after so many years out of practice, however, she says it’s all been worth it.

According to Elaine, “one of the biggest academic skills that I’ve had to brush up on has been to ask questions—even the so-called ‘dumb’ questions,” Elaine says. “I’ve learned more that way than from any reading or writing that I’ve done. Getting feedback is the best learning tool there is”.

If you would like additional about Career Foundations or joining our Consortium, please contact Shirlondra Brooks at , or (312) 782-3902 ext. 252

Policy Watch: No Salary History
After years of advocacy, we are on the threshold of securing a No Salary History law for the state of Illinois. Earlier this year, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill that would strengthen the Illinois Equal Pay Act by prohibiting employers from asking job candidates about their previous salary—a practice that perpetuates the wage gap.

This month, the Senate followed suit and passed this bill with amendatory language. The bill is now back in the House for a concurrence vote, which we expect will successfully take place by the end of session on Friday. It will then be sent to Governor Pritzker to be signed. He has supported this bill all along the way, so we anticipate we will soon have a major victory for equal pay in Illinois!

We Are Still Feeling The Power of Women
"I think a lot about the future I want for myself and my family, and it’s rooted in equity. -Fatima Goss Graves  
Earlier this month almost 1,000 advocates and community leaders joined us to celebrate the Power of Women at The Working Lunch. Thanks to our supporters, we blew past our goals, raising $445,000!! Because of them, we will win even more victories for women and families.
WE were moved to act for equal pay when Cassie Dennis told us how questions about her salary history have impacted her.
And WE were inspired by Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women's Law Center, City Clerk Anna Valencia, and Chicago Tribune Columnist Heidi Stevens. WE know there is a bright future for women ahead, because WE are making that future together, every single day.

We would love for you to share your experience from The Working Lunch and encourage others to double down on rising up and join us as we continue to pursue equity for all.

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