May 28, 2020

A letter from our CEO

Recent events compel me to write a different letter than I would have even last week. As a Black feminist, I hold myself accountable to fight for not only my agency, my parity, but agency and justice for my entire community. I cannot separate my blackness from my femininity, nor do I want to. bell hooks wrote, “Despite the brutal reality of racial apartheid, of domination, one’s homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist. Black women resisted by making homes where all Black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world.”
I honor this legacy and this gift to transcend tiredness and provide the care, nurturing, spiritual feeding, and resistance that my daughters, sisters, sons, brothers, and husbands need every day.
Today, African Americans no longer must regulate our homeplace to the brick and mortar where we lie our head. Our homeplace is America, in any state, city, suburb, or neighborhood we choose to dwell. And, I will use my voice and influence as a Black feminist to freely confront the issue of humanization.
The dehumanization of African Americans in this country is nothing new. The brutality of police who treat our bodies and rights as sport. The citizen policing that refuses us the freedom to enjoy spaces they feel we still don’t belong. The barbaric hunts under the guise of street justice. None of it is new. Our resistance is also not new. What must become new to change this narrative is for our allies to become co-conspirators.
Darnisa Amante-Jackson says to be a co-conspirator, “You understand the historical and systemic implications of race and oppression. You are able to own your privilege and leverage it to say the things that I can’t, disrupt in the spaces where I still have no “validity” to enter, and agitate the hell out of conversations with white community where I still am deemed “radical.” You are okay sitting in discomfort. Co-conspirators know that the absence of something is still a something. Doing nothing makes you complicit. Co-Conspirators are not complicit; they move with intention. Disruptive intention! They are partnering to end systems of oppression, not to pause them or interrupt like “allies.””
We don’t need allyship now. We need disruptive intent!
This week, we say the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper, George Floyd, Sha’Teina Grady El. Fortunately, not all of them lost their lives, but even the ones that are still alive to tell their stories suffered a form of death on the inside.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin
Your co-conspirator for equity and justice,
Cherita Ellens

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Illinois Legislative Update

After more than a two-month hiatus, Illinois legislators returned to Springfield last week for a four-day session to vote on a budget and debate emergency COVID-19 legislation.
While we were disappointed that paid sick time did not pass this session, we were heartened that the General Assembly passed legislation that protected workers who contract COVID-19 on the job and those who are unemployed during this challenging time. These measures will be vital to helping Illinois working families weather this storm.
We also were pleased that the state budget included flat funding for MAP and higher education, ensuring that both students and higher education institutions have some financial stability in these difficult times.
The General Assembly also passed a bill that recognizes that the right to vote and the right to be safe and healthy are not mutually exclusive. The law enhances vote-by-mail and curbside voting, makes Election Day 2020 a holiday for state workers, and more. It’s a great step toward ensuring a safe and fair election in November.
We’ll continue the fight for paid sick time in Illinois. You can take action by signing our petition! Stay tuned for other ways you can help!

Fighting for Relief for Vulnerable Women & Families

As the COVID-19 crisis stretches into its fourth month, data continue to show that women—and disproportionately women of color—are shouldering more than their fair share of the burden. One in three jobs held by women has been deemed essential, and many of those are in top professions for women of color—like nursing assistants and child care workers. Women also represent more than sixty percent of those who have lost their jobs, and black women are more than twice as likely as white men to say they’ve been laid off, furloughed, or had their hours reduced.
As Congress continues to debate COVID-19 relief packages, we have been steadfast in our efforts to ensure that those bills provide support not just for corporations, but for the vulnerable populations who need them most.
As a member of the national We Demand More Coalition, we are calling on Congress to prioritize, support, and protect women and families in the next COVID relief package, provide state governments with resources they need to have a strong response, stop attacks on reproductive rights, and protect our right to vote. Sign the petition, and stay tuned to WE’s social media channels for an exciting We Demand More announcement on Monday!
In addition, Women Employed is asking our leaders to address the crisis in child care by supporting the child care system including workers, and ensuring working people have access to affordable childcare. We are also recommending bold and decisive action to support adult students, fund workforce development, and more so that we can come out of this crisis stronger. Read the recommendations we’ve sent to Congress, and take action.

First-Ever Virtual Luncheon Shines a Light on How COVID Will Change the Way We Work

On May 14, more than 600 people from Chicagoland and beyond gathered virtually for The Working Lunch, our signature event that welcomed leaders from across sectors to discuss how COVID is impacting the economy and working women. Our first-ever virtual luncheon convened experts from education, labor, policy research, corporate, and philanthropy for two panel discussions on the fundamental changes that COVID will make in our economy and how we work, the challenges that this crisis has revealed, and also about the opportunities we have to create a better and more supportive system moving forward.
“As millions of women head to the frontlines during this crisis as essential workers, the need for better protections for working women has never been more urgent,” said Cherita Ellens, CEO of Women Employed. “That’s why this year’s The Working Lunch went virtual. To bring together area experts and leaders to ensure that when we emerge from this crisis, we don’t go back to the status quo, but come out better, stronger, more equitable and just.”
Thanks to all of you who supported the event and helped to make it a huge success. Thanks to all of you, we raised nearly $400,000!! Your generosity will allow us to continue our work to shape a future together that advances equity for all.

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