Illinois Department Of Labor, Women Employed Inform Millions Of Working Women On Equal Pay Rights

March 14th, 2023

Through the FARE Grant, Illinois Working Women Statewide Are Learning Workplace Rights & Taking Control of Their Futures  

CHICAGO – To commemorate Equal Pay Day, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) and Women Employed (WE) are detailing the progress they’ve made in administering the Fostering Access, Rights and Equity (FARE) grant program. The FARE grant is aimed at helping women workers who are paid low wages learn about and access their employment rights and benefits. Illinois was one of six states and territories to receive a grant for this work.

Awarded to the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) in Sept. 2021 by the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, the FARE grant provides funding to raise awareness of pay equity and pay transparency standards among women workers, particularly low-wage women of color.  Centering their needs and voices, the project will strengthen Illinois’ capacity to enforce pay equity and other employment protections, helping realize the intended outcomes of legislative action, inform enforcement strategies and more proactive investigations, and advance gender and racial equity statewide. IDOL selected Women Employed―an organization that has been creating fundamental, systemic change for working women for 50 years―as their lead partner for this project.

“We are realizing incredible results with the FARE grant program and are reaching workers across Illinois who have never before been engaged in their workplace rights,” said Jane Flanagan, Director of IDOL. “I’m grateful to our statewide partners, especially Women Employed, for their time and dedication to bringing equal pay rights to the masses.”

Women in the U.S. who work full-time, year-round are paid only 83 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. When you include both full- and part-time workers, the average woman makes just 77 cents to a man’s dollar. The barriers are greater for women of color, who face even wider wage gaps due to both gender and racial bias, and for women in low-paid jobs who are struggling to make ends meet.

“We are thrilled with the response we’ve received from working women across Illinois who were unaware or uncomfortable exercising their right to equal pay,” Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Vice President of Policy, Programs, and Research for Women Employed, said. “We knew there was a need, and there is more work to do, but we are confident our partnership with IDOL and other organizations will ensure women across the state are informed about their rights.”

IDOL and WE, working with other community-based FARE grant partners, have used new and different ways to reach women workers across Illinois, including:

  • Trainings and job fairs across the state;
  • Digital advertising that has reached nearly 1 million women across multiple social media platforms, including Spotify, the first time the Illinois Department of Labor has used the platform to reach people;
  • Billboard on the Kennedy Expressway reaching 12,000 travelers per day for 30 days; and
  • Multilingual outreach plan that includes tip sheets in eight languages and training and digital outreach toolkits in three languages.

“The resources from the FARE grant program are outstanding and have helped so many women who didn’t previously have this critical information,” Cheryl Mitchell, Youth Career Specialist with downstate partner Man-Tra-Con Corporation said. “Women workers feel more informed and empowered, and we look forward to continuing to spread the word.”

Staff from Man-Tra-Con, based in Marion, recently met workers at a Black Business Expo who were highly engaged in learning more about their workplace rights. The Arise Chicago team reported a similar experience.

“The FARE grant has allowed Arise to educate all workers, and particularly Latina women, on their rights and give them the confidence to report legal violations. Immigrant women in particular face overlapping forms of oppression and often work in the lowest paid jobs already,” said Margarita Klein, Director of Member Organizing with Arise Chicago, “Pay equity is a significant issue, for example, for Latina immigrants who make only 46 cents to each dollar earned by white male workers.”

Other FARE grant partners include the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and YWCA Quad Cities. More information on the FARE grant can be found here.

IDOL promotes and protects the rights, wages, welfare, working conditions, safety and health of workers, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, color or sexual orientation. More information on IDOL can be found here. In compliance with the Stevens Amendment the Illinois Department of Labor’s Partnering to Promote Pay Equity and Transparency in Illinois Initiative is fully funded by one federal grant, the FARE grant.

Women Employed (WE) is a 50-year-old non-profit organization that pursues equity for women in the workforce by effecting policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces so that all women, families, and communities can thrive. Their mission is to improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity, and they are working towards closing the wealth gap at the intersection of gender and race. More information can be found here.

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

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