Our Accomplishments

Over more than 40 years, Women Employed has made history as a voice for working women. We’re changing public policies and workplace practices and enabling more women to achieve their aspirations for themselves and their families.

We pressured the federal government to enforce equal opportunity laws, which opened hundreds of occupations to women and paved the way for advancement. We fought to outlaw sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. We’ve been part of a powerful movement for change, leading to passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. We’re a leader in Illinois and nationally in expanding educational opportunities and promoting college success for women. Learn more about our 4 decades of impact.

2010s

Sick Time Chicago coalition members celebrating victory after Chicago alderman vote ‘yes’ to earned sick time.

Advocating in Springfield to prevent deep cuts to Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.

  • The Cook County Board of Commissioners passes a sick time ordinance patterned after Chicago's. Combined with the city's ordinance, nearly 1 million additional people in Chicagoland will now be able to earn paid sick time.
  • WE co-chairs the Mayor's Task Force on Working Families, which creates earned sick time recommendations for the City of Chicago, and leads the Sick Time Chicago Coalition, which fights for passage of a city ordinance. As a result, 460,000 Chicago workers win the right to earn paid sick time.
  • Along with our coalition partners, WE drafts a pregnancy fairness bill for Illinois, lobbies state leaders, mobilizes activists, and wins a major victory against workplace discrimination.
  • As the leading advocate for state-funded tuition assistance in Illinois, WE prevents deep cuts to those investments in the face of the state’s fiscal crisis.
  • WE leads a growing campaign to raise the minimum wage in Illinois and collaborates with national groups to win an increase at the federal level.
  • WE wins commitments from state leaders to implement “bridge programs” that help low-skilled adults advance to college-level courses in their chosen career fields.
  • WE works with community colleges across Illinois to improve support services that help students stay in school and graduate.

2000s

Executive Director Anne Ladky was in DC with Lilly Ledbetter for the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.

Community college student advocates for financial aid at the Illinois House as part of Student Advocates for Success.

  • WE works with organizations across the country to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, so employees can fight back if they experience pay discrimination.
  • WE launches Student Advocates for Success to help students advocate directly with policymakers to improve financial aid policies. 
  • WE creates the Summer Leadership Program, an internship to encourage and prepare college students to enter careers in social change and social service. 
  • WE leads the successful fight to pass the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which guarantees equal pay for equal work to hundreds of thousands of workers not covered under federal equal pay laws.
  • WE launches the Illinois Paid Leave Coalition and drafts legislation to guarantee that workers can earn paid sick days. 
  • WE wins over $50 million to expand Illinois’ tuition assistance program for low-income students.
  • WE creates Career Coach, a first-ever, comprehensive on-line career exploration and planning program aimed at lower-income women and men. 
  • WE educates over 50,000 women about high-wage, high-growth careers in information technology through an advertising and information campaign called Upgrade Your Future.
  • WE wins a $27 million increase in child care funding for low-income working parents for the hours they are in education or training.
  • WE publishes a comprehensive guide to “bridge programs” to assist colleges in implementing quality programs that help low-skilled adults succeed in school.
  • WE’s award-winning collaboration of women’s and civil rights groups, business leaders, and federal policymakers publishes Best Practices to Ensure Fair Compensation—a guide to setting up pay systems free from discrimination.

1990s    

WE’s groundbreaking 1994 report on sexual harassment brought light to an under-reported issue.

  • WE testifies before U.S. House and Senate committees on the impact of discrimination and the limitations of available remedies.  WE’s research, testimony, and organizing helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which strengthens penalties for intentional discrimination
  • WE establishes a ground-breaking collaboration of employers, federal officials, and women's and civil rights organizations to develop effective EEO strategies.  The collaboration received the Exemplary Public Interest Contribution award from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • WE launches Working Partnerships, a program to assist employers in preventing sexual harassment and other workplace problems. 
  • WE works with a national coalition to win passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which establishes the right of employees to take job-protected leave for illness or care of a new baby. 
  • WE launches the Technical Opportunities Program, working with community colleges to enable more women to pursue technical occupations and publishes the Women’s Guide to Technical Careers to help women explore these opportunities. 

1980s

WE supporters walk for women’s rights at a Women Employed walkathon in the mid-1980s.

  • WE publishes a first-ever set of recommendations for corporate policies to promote work/family balance and a handbook for working mothers. 
  • After years of working on behalf of employees of a major bank and developing a ground-breaking approach to statistical proof of discrimination, WE wins a $14 million settlement for female and minority employees—the largest ever between the Department of Labor and a private employer.
  • WE issues a “Damage Report” documenting the decline in EEO enforcement by the Reagan administration and organizes across the country to resist its efforts to weaken enforcement. 
  • WE convenes conferences to focus on the wage gap and publishes a major report calling for a national commitment to close it.
  • WE becomes a leader in a national effort to win passage of a federal law requiring job-protected family and medical leave.
  • To address the growth in female poverty rates, WE develops and pilots programs aimed at assisting low-income women and girls with career planning, support services, and job placement.

1970s

Women Employed founder Day Piercy (3rd from left) talks about women’s rights on the Phil Donahue Show in the late 1970s.

WE Research Director Nancy Kreiter testifies in Congress about discrimination in the banking industry in 1976.

  • WE launches major campaigns to promote fair employment practices in banking, insurance, and retail industries
  • WE testifies at its first Congressional hearing and undertakes its first national effort to win improvements in enforcement of equal opportunity laws.
  • WE quickly becomes recognized as the leading national expert on utilizing federal affirmative action requirements to address sex discrimination.
  • WE participates in drafting new federal rules defining sexual harassment as illegal sex discrimination.
  • As a national expert on the performance of federal EEO agencies, WE is frequently called on by Congress to evaluate their policies and effectiveness.
  • WE rallies national women’s and civil rights groups to reverse planned policy changes that would drastically weaken enforcement—and wins. 
  • WE develops an array of services to help women negotiate salaries, seek promotions, and plan their careers.    
  • Women Employed is founded in 1973