WE and the ERA: From 1973 to Today
Women Employed joins our partners to rally for the passage of the ERA in Illinois in May 2018
This year has shown us that the gains women have won cannot be taken for granted. Since our earliest days, WE has been on the frontlines advocating for Congress to affirm equal rights for women in our nation’s Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a vital measure to removing barriers to economic equity for America’s working women, which is why Women Employed joined forces with our organizational partners when it was first introduced four decades ago to push it to the forefront of the national conversation.
This year, propelled by the momentum of women coming together to win change, WE worked with our partners and mobilized our supporters to get our home state of Illinois to finally ratify the ERA—and we were successful! That victory came in the midst of WE’s 45th anniversary celebrations, a fitting culmination to a journey that began when Congress originally passed the ERA in 1972.
Now only one more state needs to ratify to make the ERA the law of the land. The next step for WE? Working with our partners across the country to make it happen.
Rising Up the Ladder
Many adults dream of better careers, but they don’t have enough education to pursue those dreams and they don’t know where to start. That’s why Women Employed developed Career Foundations with the City Colleges of Chicago. It’s a curriculum that helps students with basic skill deficits assess their skills, identify their interests, and map out a plan to get to college so they can secure well-paying jobs in high-demand industries like information technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. Key to making Career Foundations work are on-the-ground practitioners who bring the information to the low-income learners who need it. WE partners with 12 community-based organizations who do just that.
Ranging from human service agencies to community centers, these organizations offer the course to help students visualize a future with higher education and financial security. And the results are phenomenal: WE set an ambitious goal for the number of Career Foundations students who transition into the higher education system this academic year, and with 4 months left in the year, we had already surpassed our goal by almost 13 percent! That’s a testament to the power of partnerships and how WE leverages the strength of our connections to make a real difference in people’s lives.
The Chorus that Created the Council
WE Program Coordinator Aisha Ismail (left) joins Kina Collins (center), the leader of the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, and Chloe Barnes (right), President/CEO of Elle Grace Consulting, LLC, at the 2018 Women’s March Chicago.
Women Employed tackles gender inequity by winning systemic change, and the federal government’s unwillingness to address structural issues that hold women back has galvanized us to make change closer to home. With women making up only 35 percent of the Illinois legislature, we need more room at the table for the voices of working women to be heard. When community leader Kina Collins proposed the creation of an Illinois Council on Women and Girls, with a mandate to inform and advise on laws that will impact the women and girls of the state, WE jumped into action to help make it reality.
Allied with our partners in advocacy across the state, we showed up, spoke out, and activated our supporters to tell Illinois lawmakers to establish the council. Our collective voices made the difference, and we were victorious.
The council has hit the ground running with an intersectional agenda that includes ending workplace discrimination, combatting sexual harassment, and expanding access to education among its priorities. It reflects the expertise of the wide cross-section of groups—like Women Employed—that contributed to its creation.
Pride in Partnerships
When WE helped secure a paid sick time law for the workers in Chicago, we knew it was important that it was inclusive—giving this basic right to everyone who may need it. Hundreds of thousands of adults in Chicago identify as LGBTQ, and many depend on the care they receive from loved ones who are not blood relatives but are their chosen family.
The paid sick time legislation WE helped draft specifically addresses the needs of the LGBTG community, allowing workers to take time off for their own illness or that of a family member—chosen or otherwise. After a successful public education campaign that informed over a million Chicagoans about their right to paid sick time, WE doubled down on outreach to LGBTQ workers by collaborating with Pride Action Tank, a group that advocates for and with the LGBTQ community. With fact sheets, appearances in the media, and even a presentation at Chicago’s annual LGBTQ job fair, we broadcast loud and clear that no matter who you love, your right in Chicago to take time off from work to care for them is guaranteed.