It’s no secret that women have fled the workforce in droves since the pandemic began. That’s where Judy, the Director of Marketing and Engagement at Women Employed, wants to make her mark. WE fights for workplace equity through policy change, educational opportunities, and promoting inclusive workplaces. We sat down with Judy to discuss how she’s working to improve the economic status of women each day.
Fighting for equity is a big goal— what work does WE do to help us reach it?
Our goal is to remove barriers that stand in the way of women reaching economic equity. We are an advocacy organization that works on impacting the system as a whole through changing laws and policies. By changing laws, you are able to improve the status of millions of women at once instead of working with just one specific client. WE advocates to improve job quality, create fair and inclusive workplaces, and improve access to higher education because education is the best way out of poverty. Our focus is especially on low-paid women and women of color because they are the most likely to face workplace barriers and discrimination, and the least likely to have benefits and support. Specifically, we advocate for paid sick leave, paid family leave, combatting sexual harassment, and raising minimum wage because those are issues that affect women directly. These are common sense policies that we believe need to be implemented nationwide. There are still major pay, wealth, and opportunity gaps in achievement for working women, especially women of color, and we work under the mindset that equity is about placing your support where there are the widest gaps.
How has COVID affected working women?
The pandemic has shined a spotlight on a lot of the issues WE works on. People have been able to see the importance of women’s issues now which is a positive, but it’s also challenging because that means a lot of people are suffering. Women are disproportionately represented in low paying jobs and comprise the majority of essential workers. There is still a cultural expectation that women should be the primary caregiver, which means that many women have left the workforce during the pandemic to take care of their families. Out of the 865,000 people who have left the workforce due to COVID-19, 80% of them are women. When women are able to return to work, they are going to come back at a disadvantage— many of them will have to revert to entry-level jobs. This crisis will have lasting implications on the wage gap and will create unequal job opportunities that will have consequences until retirement. Women Employed has pivoted to focus on COVID relief to make sure that women have a safety net to make it through the crisis.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I absolutely love doing work that has meaning, and I’m lucky that I get to come to work everyday knowing that we are building a better world. Since the work that WE does is creating systemic change, we don’t have big victories everyday. We can work on something for years before getting a victory, which makes it that much more important. Our victories impact thousands, even millions, of lives, which is very gratifying. The people I work with are some of the smartest, most genuine people in the world who teach me something new every day. Our workplace is a family, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a difference through their careers like you do?
There are so many ways you can make an impact in your career, regardless of if you work in a nonprofit. Think about what motivates you, what energizes you, and where you want to make a difference. There are so many organizations working on any issue you can imagine, and everyone has skills that translate to working on improving the world. Think about volunteering and going to events to get a sense of the organizations and issues that matter to you. You can adovcate with your employer for workplace policies that align with the issues that you care about. Are you passionate about the environment? Talk to your employer about working with green vendors. Do you want to help women in your office? Advocate for paid leave and inclusive hiring practices. In any workplace, it’s important to amplify the ideas of those who don’t have as strong of a voice as you do to make sure they’re heard.