Congresswoman Lauren Underwood Joins Other Elected Officials and Civic Leaders at Women Employed’s Virtual Luncheon

May 25th, 2021

Women Employed Unveiled Key Strategies to Help Center Women in the Post-COVID Economic Recovery and to Grow the Economic Power of Women in Illinois.

CHICAGO – Today more than 1,000 people from Chicagoland and beyond signed up to join Women Employed (WE) for a virtual luncheon, which focused on the fundamental changes that COVID has had in our economy and what we must to do to ensure an equitable and just future for working women and families.

The Working Lunch – Virtual Edition featured a powerful line-up of speakers and honorees, including keynote speaker Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, the U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 14th district. From her successful advocacy for the suspension of loan payments to her support of pregnant workers and paid leave, Women Employed views her as a critical leader and champion in the fight for economic freedom and equity. Recently, she helped pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House, which is another major step forward for pay equity.

“The difficult events of the past year and the setbacks that women experience in the workplace truly highlight the importance of the work of organizations like Women Employed,” said Congresswoman Underwood. “We have an opportunity to make historic investments towards providing secure economic futures for women and building a more equitable and vibrant economy for the generations to come.”

Honorees included The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus represented by Chairwoman Sonya M. Harper and Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, SEIU Healthcare IL IN MO KS represented by Exec. Vice President Erica Bland-Durosinimi, and The Pattis Family Foundation represented by Lisa and Mark Pattis. Attendees also heard from special guest Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.

Women Employed’s President and CEO Cherita Ellens unveiled key pieces of Women Employed’s new strategic plan at the event, which centers Illinois’ most economically marginalized women—women who are in low or unpaid work, and women who identify as Black and/or Latina/x.

This has been an incredibly difficult year for women—and especially for Black and Brown women. As we begin to re-imagine our post-COVID economic recovery and realities, it is critical for us take bold measures to ensure working women—especially those who have been most impacted—can emerge even stronger than before. Our new strategic plan centers Illinois’ most economically marginalized women, aimed at growing the economic power of women and closing the wealth gap at the intersection of race and gender.”

Women Employed’s strategic plan will ensure the appropriate recognition and compensation of the essential paid and unpaid work done by women. That includes working to eliminate the subminimum wage; win paid leave; champion supports for caregivers; and increase pay equity. It will work to shift the distribution of resources by expanding access to work-related asset and wealth-building tools, reducing women’s student loan debt, and increasing women’s income and asset generation. It will forge new pathways to economic security, leadership, and wealth. That means improving racial equity in higher education, expanding and de-coupling work-related benefits that support women’s economic security, strengthening career pathways systems to ensure economic mobility. And it will drive organizational sustainability, capacity, and excellence by growing and properly stewarding resources, embedding a culture of equity and inclusion, investing in staff, and ensuring a race-forward approach.

The Working Lunch honorees—the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, SEIU Healthcare IL IN MO KS, and The Pattis Family Foundation—are all championing economic equity. From the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus leading the charge to address systemic racism through their Four Pillar Legislative Agenda; to SEIU Healthcare IL IN MO KS’ advocacy for workers on the frontlines during the pandemic and their in-the-streets activism; to The Pattis Family Foundation funding Women Employed’s Summer Leadership Program that provides a unique opportunity for professional skill building and leadership training—our honorees are unwavering in their commitment to ensuring fundamental and systemic change at all levels.

Clips from The Working Lunch – Virtual Edition, including remarks from Congresswoman Underwood, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, SEIU Healthcare IL IN MO KS, and The Pattis Family Foundation, are available upon request.  For access to the full program recording, contact Judy Miyashita at [email protected], or 312-782-3902, x239.


Women Employed relentlessly pursues equity for women in the workforce by effecting policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces to make the world a better place for us all. Since 1973, Women Employed has opened doors, broken down barriers, and created fundamental, systemic change for working women. For more information, visit, or follow @WomenEmployed on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Together, we will ensure more women, families, and communities can build their economic power and thrive.

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