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Posts Tagged: Campaign for a Working Connecticut

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In recent years, several measures have been taken to advance gender equality in today’s workforce and political environment.  For Connecticut, the 2013 election became a historical turning point for women as many prevailed in highly contested political races within the state.   While this defining moment promises future success for female leaders, women still remain widely underrepresented in leadership roles.  Presently, women constitute only 14 percent of the state’s Congressional Delegation, 29 percent of the Connecticut General Assembly, and 25 percent of municipal governing bodies.  What’s striking about these statistics is that studies show that women tend to fare well against men in political campaigns. The existing disparity among female representation in politics can be attributed to a variety of societal factors that impact a woman’s decision to pursue a political seat.  Nonetheless, women are vital to the political arena as they provide a perspective unique to their male counterparts. 

Women face a range of barriers regarding their political involvement.  The most prevalent is the gender bias within American society, which urges women to take on more of a domestic identity than professional or community leader.  This implicit bias often shapes a woman’s political and occupational experience and work availability which ultimately impacts their success within the political arena.  These factors contribute to the common lack of political ambition among women and girls.   

Furthermore, while women fare well against men in political campaigns, women are often presented with obstacles during the campaign process.  These include bias within political party recruitment, securing fundraising sources, and fewer network connections within the “political pipeline.”  Studies show women are less likely to be considered during political party recruitment and endorsement.  Without party endorsement, candidates are frequently put at a disadvantage.  In addition, men and women candidates usually raise comparable campaign funds; however, women are more likely to have difficulty attracting funders from traditional sources.  These factors derive from the limited access women have to political networking.  With fewer women in politics than men, female candidates lack networking and mentoring opportunities.  This again disempowers women from seeking and obtaining political leadership positions.

Having more female leaders within Connecticut would not only encourage young women and girls to pursue non-traditional professions, it would also benefit the productivity and functionality of our governing bodies.   In fact, female political leaders are more likely to advocate for women’s rights and social justice issues and offer a different perspective in addressing public policy.  To learn more about how CWEALF works to promote women in policy and leadership, read our recap on the 3rd Annual Women’s Policy Day.

Nina Candels is a CWEALF social work intern from the University of Saint Joseph, who is specializing in policy and the Campaign for a Working Connecticut.

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In the state of Connecticut, barriers to employment impact many workers and jobseekers, including 95% of Connecticut’s 10,000 Jobs First Employment Services (JFES) Program participants.  A prevailing concern is affordable and accessible childcare, as it remains one of the top the barriers to employment within the state.  Childcare is necessary for working families as it provides assistance in the care of a child while the parent works.  Despite the fact that it is important for family functioning, the cost of childcare has increased significantly, making it an impossible option for lower income families. 

In Connecticut, the cost of childcare constitutes one third of the median income for single parents.  Often, this cost is even more burdensome for single mothers due to the persistence of the gender wage gap.  In effort to aid families impacted by this epidemic, the state has created government subsidized programs and tax credits for childcare facilities to help low income families in need of childcare.  Care 4 Kids, for example, provides child care benefits for nearly 24,000 children with in the state.  While these services benefit families, such as the 31 percent of single mother families living below the poverty line, they do not adequately meet the needs of Connecticut’s working families. 

State programs directed towards childcare assistance need to be refined and expanded in order to decrease the number of individuals facing childcare as an employment barrier.  Furthermore, Connecticut workers would benefit from exploring alternative methods of childcare.  According to United Way’s 2-1-1, family daycare centers and state subsidized pre-school programs are often less expensive and more accessible than traditional childcare facilities; however, they hold the lowest occupancy rates within the state.  Through the education of alternative childcare options such as family day care centers, as well as expanding government funded programs, Connecticut would become closer to eliminating employment barriers and recovering from the Great Recession.

Read more on employment barriers impacting Connecticut workers through CWEALF’s involvement with the Campaign for a Working Connecticut.  To learn more about childcare services within the state, visit United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 childcare.

Written by Nina Candels. Nina is a CWEALF social work intern from the University of Saint Joseph, who is specializing in policy and the Campaign for a Working Connecticut.

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Since the financial downturn that prompted the Great Recession, policymakers and advocates have taken great strides to support job creation and economic development.  Although the national unemployment rate has decreased from 10 percent to 7.3 percent, further steps must be taken to improve employment within the United States. Today’s workforce is faced with several barriers in achieving this goal; the most prevalent being the growing gap in skills and education.  While national and state programs aim to improve the competitiveness of the current workforce, such initiatives are not enough.  Based on these issues, several states have taken steps to form industry partnerships which utilize sector-based strategies as a means to eliminate the existing skills mismatch. 

Sector-based strategies are a workforce development initiative that partners businesses with community organizations and training providers in order to address the needs of employers and workers.  By providing employers with the resources to effectively train under-skilled employees, businesses are able to expand work quality and efficiency while advancing the skills and opportunities of their workers.  Ultimately, sector-based strategies promote job growth and enable a faster recovery from the great recession.  

An example of a successful sector-based strategy initiative is the “Job Ready” program in Pennsylvania.  In 2005, Pennsylvania’s “Job Ready” program was enacted by former Governor Ed Rendell to gain understanding of the basic industry needs and invest in workforce development in an efficient and effective manner. State funding was allocated to nine sector initiatives focusing on industry partnerships and incumbent worker training.  In one year, “Job Ready” established approximately 70 industry partnerships, and trained more than 7,500 workers throughout 900 companies.

Today, state governments are using sector-based strategies as a key element of workforce and economic development policies.  The need for programs such as these within the state of Connecticut is essential for job growth and opportunities.  Read more about the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund’s involvement with the Campaign for a Working Connecticut and sector-based strategies.

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Nina Candels is a CWEALF social work intern from the University of Saint Joseph, who is specializing in policy and the Campaign for a Working Connecticut.

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When I started the Campaign for a Working CT in 2005, I was determined to bring together a diverse group of people to advocate for state investment in workforce development. Thirty individuals met that year to help establish Campaign goals and activities and to set our first legislative agenda calling for $9.5 million to support education and training for youth and adults.   Eight years later we are still together, still raising awareness of the importance of education and training for low skilled workers, and still fighting for resources for Connecticut’s unemployed and underemployed. 

This year the Campaign’s legislative agenda calls for support of industry sector strategies to meet business’ need for skilled workers and workers’ need for good jobs.   More than half the nation’s states are exploring or implementing sector strategies as a promising model.  Sector strategies offer a mechanism to focus scarce resources on industries that are major job providers in an area as well as to focus comprehensively on the workforce skills, from entry level to advanced, required in a regional economy. 

These collaborations bring together regional groups of employers, educational institutions and workforce agencies to identify common workforce needs for high-demand occupations within a target industry and develop and implement industry strategies to meet the common workforce shortages based on regional labor market demands.  Modeled after successful legislation in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland, the Campaign is calling on the Connecticut legislature to make a substantial investment in industry-based partnerships to bridge the gap between specific employer workforce needs and the skills of workers.  

One example of this type of partnership is the Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford, a network of public and private organizations that invests in the development of a self-sufficient workforce with skills regional employers need to successfully compete in the today’s economy.  The Collaborative, with grants from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions as well as from local funders such as the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the United Way of North Central and Northeastern CT, is investing in industry partnerships in the Greater Hartford region in healthcare, manufacturing and other sectors.  Through the industry partnerships, employers and educators are coming together to align curriculum and ensure that program graduates match the hiring requirements of current job openings.  CWEALF leads the Collaborative’s policy and advocacy efforts in coordination with the Campaign and will be showcasing this type of industry partnership in its legislator education this session. 

If you would like to follow the activities of the Campaign, join our email list by sending an email to cwealf@cwealf.org and we will keep you informed about our policy agenda, community education activities, and legislative action. 

Written by Alice Pritchard, PhD. Alice is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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Last Friday, CWEALF staff attended a rally in North Branford to support women’s equality.  Because of the National House Democrats’ recently released agenda for the upcoming year, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families,” the rally highlighted the need to ensure women’s equality by providing women with economic security.

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro and Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi spearheaded the forum.  Additionally, three women spoke about their personal experiences working in Connecticut and how their lives have been changed by women’s issues, such as the paid family leave program provided through their places of employment, and by organizations that provided them with affordable child care.  They also praised Connecticut services that provided them with necessary employment skills, like job training.

The agenda for “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” focuses on improving and increasing pay, work-family balance, and child care.  Regarding pay, women are making an average of only 77 cents for every dollar that men make.  According to reports, family and medical leave protections do not cover almost half of all full-time employees, upsetting the balance between work and family and making it difficult for women to support their families. Additionally, there is inadequate funding to support child care programs in this country.  The National House Democrats’ agenda seeks to mitigate all of these issues.

As part of CWEALF’s mission, we strive to promote equality for all women. We believe in economic equality, and advance programs that make it easier for women to better balance family and work and feel economically secure, like the Gender Pay Gap Study Task Force, the Campaign for a Working Connecticut, and the Family Medical Leave Insurance Coalition.  Keep an eye out for our follow-up blog about the Family Medical Leave Act, and how it may work better for women in Connecticut!

 

Written by Lisa Vickers. Currently a CWEALF intern, Lisa is majoring in History and Women’s Studies at the University of Connecticut – Storrs, and aspires to enter the field of women’s law.

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Contrary to the popular misconception welfare is not something people try to get so they can just sit home and be lazy. People want to work; most human beings have an innate desire to be useful contributors. The problem lies not with the individuals, but with the system. The pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality is still deeply imbedded in our societal values and rhetoric even though the economic and interpersonal systems that made that possible have long since changed.

Part of this systemic change which was discussed at the Welfare Educational Forum that took place at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, February 13th is the concept of job mobility, and how it doesn’t exist anymore. In times gone by one could start out in a low-wage job and, through a combination of experience, seniority, and hard work, steadily climb the ladder to a position that at the very least offered you and your family some security and often afforded a modestly comfortable life. However this is no longer the case, a department president who fifty years ago began in his company of employment as a secretary or delivery person with no education or experience, will today not give that same position to an applicant with less than an associate’s degree and three years experience (not to mention the credit check, background check, and urinalysis).

Instead of simply cutting funding, under the ludicrous argument that if we give people enough help to keep them out of poverty they will never go to work again, why don’t we take steps to make sure people can work? One of the largest barriers to employment, experience by 23% of participants served by CTWorks, was lack of a high school diploma. Yet only 7.8% of these participants are enrolled in basic education services. Why you ask? Perhaps the answer lies in another fun fact from Wednesday’s forum; CT only spends 4% of its TANF block grant on training and education, as opposed to the national average of 10%. We need to take steps to reduce the welfare rolls by reducing need, not by altering eligibility requirements. Having events in which people can discuss these issues and exchange ideas on how to improve the system are vital.

Photo by UH Manoa Library, “Ad: A good, smart boy wanted for work” June 22, 2012. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

Photo by dr.coop, “Rule of Thirds - Three Degrees”  May 4, 2010. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- 2.0 Generic License.

Written by Alessandra Burgett. Alessandra is a CWEALF intern and MSW student.

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            A recent article details a report from by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that ranks the United States as fifth in the world for adults holding two- to four- year college degrees.  This rank falls to eighteenth, though, when looking only at two-year degrees.  College retention rates are also not great in the U.S.  While a promising two-thirds of high school graduates immediately enter college, only about half earn degrees.  Failure to follow through on degrees is especially significant at community colleges.  This could be partly due to the focus on four-year colleges in the U.S.  Other countries put more resources into their two-year programs.  This report does not analyze the quality of two-year degrees being earned in other countries, but it is still true that four-year schools are given more focus and funding in the United States.

            More institutional attention should be given to community colleges in the U.S., especially now that mid-skill jobs (those requiring more education than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree) are on the rise after having taken a dive during the recession. Millions of these jobs are available now and many are on the east coast, according to a study by Georgetown University.  Most required certificates for mid-skill jobs can be achieved through community colleges or trade schools. Students should be exposed to all of the possibilities of mid-skill jobs and two year degrees. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) encourages Connecticut residents to train for mid-skill jobs through the Campaign for a Working Connecticut (CWCT).


Written by Sarah Trench. Sarah is a volunteer blogger for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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A recent New York Times article, based on a report published by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, discusses the positions of high school graduates who are not full-time students. According to a national survey, only 16 percent of people who graduated since 2009 have full-time jobs and 22 percent are working part-time.  Many graduates are pessimistic about their opportunities for future employment and financial success. 73 percent believe that more education could help them, but not many are sure that they will enroll in schools anytime soon.

This article does not clarify the types of further education and college degrees that these graduates believe they need.  The distinction appears to be between those who do and do not have bachelor’s degrees. This ignores consideration of a key sector of the workforce: middle-skill jobs. Middle-skill jobs need a higher level of education than high school but do not require a four-year degree.  Requirements can include associate’s degrees, apprenticeship programs, and vocational certificates.  Middle-skill jobs could likely be the right opportunity for the many high school graduates who are not looking to enroll in four-year institutions.

According to the National Skills Coalition, about half of all employment and job openings in the country are for middle-skill jobs and this trend remains the same in Connecticut.  Many of these jobs offer economic security and an opportunity for increases in wages.  The future growth of Connecticut’s economy depends on workers being able to meet the large demand for middle-skill jobs. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) fully supports the National Skills Coalition’s strong recommendations for Connecticut to encourage and invest in its residents’ training for middle-skill jobs. To learn more about CWEALF’s Campaign for a Working Connecticut (CWCT) please visit their website.

Written by Sarah Trench. Sarah is a volunteer blogger for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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Pundits have bemoaned the recent media focus on the federal requirement that employers cover the costs of contraception (as a part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act), stating that “real” issues, such as the economy, are being ignored.  The controversy has centered on the fact that although churches and other places of worship were exempted from the requirement, religiously-affiliated employers were not.  (Obama subsequently rescinded the requirement to exempt these employers as well.)

But contraception IS an economic issue, or so argue several policy analysts in a recent article, and not just because birth control costs money.  Family planning itself can translate into greater earning power and stability for women.  This is especially relevant today, when women comprise 50% of the workforce, with 40% of that number serving as the primary bread winner for their family and an additional 20% sharing the responsibility with their spouses.

Family planning improves a woman’s financial stability in the following ways:

  • A woman has the opportunity to make choices about how and when to invest in her education and career.
  • A woman can make choices that will increase the chances for a healthier mother and baby, which in turn will help the financial stability of the family.
  • In the midst of difficult economic circumstances, such as limited or no health insurance or paid maternity leave, a woman can choose the best time to have her children.

Support a woman’s right to family planning and greater economic security by supporting the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).  We work daily to advocate for sexual education and contraception for girls and women, as well as for increased  earning power once on the job market.   Moreover, the CWEALF-led Campaign for a Working Connecticut promotes investment in Connecticut’s workforce, in an effort to help girls and women find stable jobs that will provide them with, at minimum, a livable wage. 

Photo by parafia-gron on Flickr, “Monument to Pope John Paul II,” uploaded 10/30/09, Original date, 5/13/07, Creative Commons, Attribution- 2.0 Generic License (CC BY 2.0).

Written by Judy Wyman Kelly, a master’s degree student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Judy is an intern at CWEALF this year.

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We’ve talked about how there are not women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) career fields. Today I want to talk about how there is additional (and often forgotten) education that women need: soft skills. As this article points out, soft skills are among the most lacking among new college graduates after they enter the workforce.

So what are soft skills? They include writing, public speaking and teamwork skills. These skills will not only give women a leg up on their competition while looking for a job after graduation, these skills are useful and necessary throughout one’s career.

So how can you improve these skills, as a young adult and after entering the workforce? Consider these tips:

·         As a young adult:

  • Join school organizations or sports teams– these groups reinforce teamwork, and if you are put in a leadership position, public speaking skills as well
  • Take as many English, reading and writing classes as you can
  • Take public speaking classes if they are available
  • Offer to be the team leader on group projects

·         Your school or university probably offers these kinds of classes or courses that emphasize these skills.

·         After entering the workforce:

  • Write your own blog or volunteer to ghostwrite a blog (CWEALF offers these types of volunteer opportunities, if you would like more information, please contact us!)
  • Join community sports teams or organizations, like the YWCA or HYPE
  • And here are some of the tips from the article:
  1.  Get a mentor, someone in the office or outside work who can spot your shortfalls and coach you to improve them
  2. Listen openly to feedback from your supervisor
  3. Join young professional groups like The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees), where peers get together to improve their career skills

·         You can find these kinds of courses at your local employment center.

CWEALF has a program called the Campaign for a Working CT (CWCT), which is a diverse coalition that promotes the state’s economic competitiveness through development of sustainable, effective workforce solutions to increase workers’ skills and advance families to self-sufficiency. CWEALF also provides students, teachers and influential community members the information that they need to talk about non-traditional career paths where women are likely to succeed.

Written by Dorota Glosowitz. Dorota Glosowitz is passionate about women’s rights and is currently a volunteer blog writer at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.