By the 1980s, Women Employed had momentum, and WE weren’t slowing down. WE fought for equal pay, persuaded employers to enact family-friendly policies, and protected equal opportunity rules in the face of an unfriendly federal administration. WE also began helping women stuck in low-paid jobs access education and training for higher-paying careers.
After years of working on behalf of employees of a major bank and developing a ground-breaking approach to statistical proof of discrimination, WE won a $14 million settlement for female and minority employees—the largest ever between the Department of Labor and a private employer.
In 1987, WE hosted our first luncheon with Eleanor Holmes Norton and Harold Washington—one of his very last public appearances shortly before he passed away. Since that time, The Working Lunch has become a beloved annual tradition, bringing together Chicagoland activists, community leaders, and friends to make positive change for working women.
In 1986, WE held the first of many career conferences, and over 550 women attended. At the conferences, women attended workshops on salary negotiation, job searches, and other vital skills. They built their networks and learned about opportunities by connecting with women in their field, or fields they aspired to get into. Over the years, these events helped thousands to build their professional skills.
WE issued a “Damage Report” documenting the decline in EEO enforcement by the Reagan administration and organized across the country to resist its efforts to weaken enforcement.
WE convened conferences to focus on the wage gap and published a major report calling for a national commitment to close it.
WE became 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 developed and piloted programs aimed at assisting low-income women and girls with career planning, support services, and job placement.
WE published a first-ever set of recommendations for corporate policies to promote work/family balance and a handbook for working mothers.