2015 Annual Report

"My dream is to own my own catering company."  "Not you. Not me. It's we." Download our annual report.  "When you advocate for women, you are advocating for the entire family. It's a snowball effect."

"This is a moral issue. People get sick or they need to take care of a family member who is sick."     "With everything that you learned that made you successful, why wouldn't you pass that on to someone else?"  "I am not just a number. I matter."


At Women Employed, we understand each working woman has distinct experiences. Each of us is pursuing her own path. Each of us has our own challenges. Yet when we ask questions and listen, we find most working women want the same things.

We want economic security. We work hard, and we deserve a living wage to show for it. We must be able to care for ourselves and our families. We should be treated with fairness and respect. We want the chance to pursue our dreams.
This is the vision we all share. The voices of working women are at the heart of our 2015 annual report. Working together, we will.

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We all deserve a workplace that is FAIR and employers who treat us with RESPECT.

Whether our job site is a factory, an airplane, a hotel, a cubicle, or the corner office, our work has value. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We want equal pay for equal work. We want our country’s rhetoric about the importance of families to be matched by workplace policies that actually help.
Women Employed is leading the way on issues like pay transparency and scheduling practices to ensure fair treatment for all women workers.
Our work to ensure equal pay for equal work took a major step forward with the Obama administration’s decision to prohibit pay secrecy by companies doing business with the federal government. A new Executive Order makes it possible for workers and job applicants to share information about pay without fear of discrimination. Women Employed worked for years with the U.S. Department of Labor to shape this policy and advocate for this important advance for equal pay.
Our work for fair pay also includes our continuing advocacy for a higher minimum wage federally and in Illinois and an end to a “subminimum” wage level for tipped employees. Having to work for tips often leads to harassment and discrimination—and undermines fairness.
Women Employed is addressing another employer practice that undermines economic stability—unstable and unpredictable schedules. In sectors like retail and food service, hourly employees have little notice of their schedules or the number of hours they’ll get, which makes it impossible to budget, obtain child care, or fulfill family responsibilities. We are shining a spotlight on this issue and its consequences for women and families, sharing their stories with the public and policymakers, devising policy options, and promoting “best practice” solutions to employers.



We all need opportunities to GROW, to ACHIEVE.

Whether working women aspire to be employed full-time or part-time, to become chefs or CEOs, we all deserve the opportunity for education as a path to achieving our dreams. For millions of women, education beyond high school has been essential to their advancement. Millions more aspire to go to college but face barriers: the cost of tuition, the demands of work and family, lack of academic preparedness.
Women Employed is working to ensure that all women have access to the education and training they need to achieve their goals.
We built partnerships with colleges, advocated for policy changes, and created curricula with the City Colleges of Chicago and trained nearly 60 of their teachers in order to make “bridge programs” widely available. Bridges combine basic academic instruction with career education, leading to jobs paying family-supporting wages. Since Women Employed began this effort, more than 3,000 Illinoisans have enrolled in bridges, and the number is rising rapidly as more schools adopt this approach.
This year, we built Career Foundations, a critically needed beginning step for low-skilled adults who haven’t chosen a career field. This is especially important for women, who often lack good career information. The Career Foundations curriculum, now available on the web, introduces students to ten employment sectors that they can prepare for at City Colleges. This 32-hour course, the first of its kind, is now being offered at six City Colleges. To reach more adults who want to begin on a career pathway, we partnered with twelve community-based organizations on an exciting effort to implement the Career Foundations curriculum and enable more of their participants to transition
to college.
To ensure that more low-income adults have the opportunity to enroll in college, Women Employed continues to lead the fight for adequate funding for MAP, the state’s financial aid program. Throughout the state’s budget stalemate, we are making sure that policymakers hear from their constituents about the vital role MAP plays for them and for the economic health of the state.


We all need jobs that enable us to CARE for OURSELVES and our FAMILIES.

White collar, blue collar, hourly, or salaried, we all get sick sometimes. So do our children and parents. Emergencies happen. All of us need employers who understand and support our desire to contribute at work and do our best to care for our families. Research shows that when we are healthy and engaged, we are also more productive employees.
Women Employed is leading the effort to ensure that every employee can earn sick time. In Chicago, we worked with advocates and aldermen to draft an ordinance to create a basic earned sick time requirement and built support for passage. At the urging of advocates, Chicago’s Mayor appointed a Working Families Task Force to address issues including sick time, irregular scheduling practices, and other family support concerns. Our Executive Director co-chaired the group during a six-month process comprised of neighborhood focus groups with employers and employees, expert testimony, research, and deliberations. When the task force issues recommendations in early 2016, Women Employed will continue to play a leadership role, both by advocating for public policy and urging businesses to adopt best practice solutions.
During the first year since the passage of Illinois’ Pregnancy Fairness Act, Women Employed worked to ensure strong implementation of the law by creating and disseminating materials to inform women about their rights and inform employers of their obligations. We’re promoting sound public policies and voluntary employer action to expand the availability of paid parental leave—which both women and men need and want. This year, we developed a sample policy that we are disseminating to encourage employers to include it in their benefit programs.
At the same time that support for family caregiving is growing, Illinois’ governor provoked a serious crisis for low-income parents with drastic cuts to child care subsidies. Women Employed joined advocates across the state to put pressure on the governor and legislators and won restoration of the critically needed funds.


Working TOGETHER, we WILL!

Together, we’ve created and will continue to build a community that expands opportunity for all.

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When people work together, things change. Speak up for policies like paid sick days, a higher minimum wage, increased access to financial aid, and fair scheduling that help women stay on sound financial footing. It only takes a minute and we make it easy. Get started »

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THANKS to our DONORS for making our work possible!

Just as many voices inform our work, many hands enable us to drive change. We salute the many foundations, corporations, and individuals who have generously contributed to Women Employed. We are deeply grateful to you for investing in economic advancement for working women.

Your support makes it possible for WE to seize the best opportunities to drive change. You can see your impact in the pages of this report. Together, we’ll continue to work towards a world in which all women can advance economically and achieve their aspirations.

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