Women Employed

WE pursue equity for all.

aka WE   |   Chicago, IL   |  www.womenemployed.org


The mission of Women Employed is to improve the economic status of women and remove barriers to economic equity. Women Employed has one passion: to make life better for working women. We believe that all women deserve full and fair economic opportunities. That means better career options and higher pay, more opportunities for training and education, and strict enforcement of fair employment laws. Women Employed is a leading national advocate for women's economic advancement. We analyze workplace issues, educate policy makers, and build support to improve opportunities and incomes. Since 1973, Women Employed has fought to outlaw pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment and to strengthen federal equal opportunity policies and work/family benefits.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Ms. Cherita Ellens

Main address

1 E. Wacker Drive Suite 3100

Chicago, IL 60601 USA

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Formerly known as

Women Employed Institute



NTEE code info

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Founded in 1973, Women Employed's mission is to improve women's economic status and to remove barriers to economic equity. WE plays a unique role in the movement for economic equity, combining policy, advocacy and organizing approaches to create fair workplaces and to improve economic stability for low-wage adults. WE has played a leadership role in many of the most important economic advances women have made over the last four decades, opening career opportunities for women, winning stronger enforcement of equal opportunity laws, calling public attention to discriminatory workplace practices, and increasing women's participation in post-secondary education and training leading to good jobs. Building on this foundation, our current work focuses on increasing opportunities and security for the millions of women who remain in low-wage jobs.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Financial Aid

Financial Aid Funding is Critical. Many working adults yearn to return to school to gain skills for new careers that provide a better life for themselves and their families. In addition to tuition, adult students must pay for books, rent, bills, childcare, and transportation.

For most working adults, financial aid is the only way to return to school. Thousands of Illinois workers rely on Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. Nationally, nearly 10 million students receive needed Pell grants every year. Yet in the face of state and federal budget shortfalls, financial aid programs like MAP and Pell are chronically underfunded and constantly threatened by budget cuts.
Women Employed is the leading advocate in Illinois for financial aid to help low-income students achieve their dreams. We lead the charge to make sure funding streams like MAP and Pell are available to students who need them.

We have helped win tens of millions of dollars of vital student assistance, making college more accessible to more than 200,000 low-income Illinois students. We spur policymakers to address the crisis of college affordability. We mobilize students and others to raise their voices and share their stories, urging legislators to make financial aid a top priority.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls

Far too many jobs women hold fall below the standard that most Americans would consider decent work. They offer very low wages, few if any benefits, and little respect. Hours are irregular and schedules change constantly. Women are twice as likely as men to work in occupations with poverty-level wages. Over 40 percent of private-sector workers have no paid sick days. Sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination are common. Bad jobs keep women in a state of economic crisis and harm their children. We all pay the costs of low-wage work.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls

Women trapped in poverty-level jobs need a way out, a pathway to success. For many, the best pathway is a quality academic program that leads to a good job. Women Employed is working with community colleges, policymakers, and state leaders to make sure all working women have the opportunity to enroll in education and training programs that will help them meet their goals.

By 2020, 67 percent of jobs will require a college degree or certificate. Yet three million Illinois adults lack education beyond high school. Many low-skilled workers want to advance but are not prepared for college. Some have been out of a school environment for many years or need to bolster math and reading skills before embarking on college-level work. "Bridge programs,” which combine basic skills training with career preparation, are a key strategy to prepare adult students for college and better careers.

Women Employed’s work with community colleges and state partners established funding for these programs. We developed "how to” guides and curricula to provide solid content and promote strong connections to employers. Our Pathways to Careers Network is bringing concerned people together to make bridge programs available all across Illinois. The Network:
Provides information on program models and practical resources to increase the number of successful bridge programs. It also facilitates connections among educators, policymakers, and community organizations to share strategies and develop new approaches.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of grants received

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Working poor, Low-income people, Students, Domestic workers, Unemployed people

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Fiscal Year used

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We envision of a world in which all women can achieve their aspirations and support their families. To get there, we need to make workplaces fairer and ensure that more women can succeed in education and training for good jobs.

Improving Workplace Conditions and Job Quality: A substantial number of the jobs women hold lack benefits and have volatile schedules, leading to economic instability. Many female-dominated jobs are part-time and have irregular hours and schedules. If we want work to be a path to stability and a better future for women, we must make major changes in the conditions in the low-wage labor market. To that end, WE's current efforts include: promoting “good job" strategies to improve workplace practices directly with employers; educating employers and workers on Chicago's earned sick time ordinance, and expanding the campaign for sick time guarantees to other jurisdictions, such as Cook County; conducting a public campaign to organize and activate WE supporters to improve scheduling practices that engages activists and builds to a public convening; and pass, or at minimum advance, other city, state, and/or federal legislation or regulations aimed at improving employment standards in areas such as minimum wage, predictable scheduling, access to benefits, equal pay, etc.

Ensuring More Low-Skilled Adults Receive Credentials of Economic Value: The City of Chicago has invested significantly in City Colleges' College to Careers, which provides education and vocational training in critical industry sectors. However, for adults with low basic skills, many barriers exist to taking advantage of these programs. One major impediment is that those with low basic reading, math or English skills can't qualify for the very workforce training programs that they most need. Instead, these students often go to or are put in adult education programs to improve their English or basic skills. Unfortunately, the adult education system has particular difficulty transitioning its participants to higher levels of training and education, and students too often languish in adult education classes without ever progressing toward workplace training credentials. To address this, WE has pursued strategies that help individuals move more quickly through the process of improving their basic skills and entering college-level classes that lead to credentials that will help them in the labor market. One of these strategies is bridge programming; bridges teach literacy and numeracy in the context of occupations. Over the past four years, Women Employed has worked with City Colleges of Chicago to implement bridge programs across its campuses. As City Colleges has expanded bridge programs, we have faced the challenge of ensuring that all the students in their adult education programs learn of bridge programs and career pathways and choose the right one. To address this, we created a course called Career Foundations, which enables students to learn what career-path offerings are available at City Colleges, choose the best one to pursue, and make a plan to get there.

WE are an advocacy organization. WE work with individuals, organizations, employers, educators, and policymakers to address the challenges women face in their jobs every day, and to ensure all women can attain the skills they need for the jobs they want.

WE work to change systems, because when you improve a law, work with a company to create supportive policies, or help a college develop programs to keep working students in school, you can improve the circumstances of hundreds—maybe millions—of women all at once.

Here’s how WE do it:

1) WE connect with working women to understand the everyday barriers too many of us face.

2) WE inform working people about their rights, and legislators and policymakers about the challenges real women face every day.

3) WE collaborate with individuals, community organizations, employers, colleges, government officials, and funders to develop creative and strategic solutions. We build and participate in coalitions to make them reality.

4) WE craft policies and change laws. We lend our expertise to aldermen, senators and representatives, the mayor, the governor, and city and state agencies to advance shared progress for all.

5) WE mobilize people to rally, vote, call their elected officials, organize their friends, make change in their communities, and fight for a better future.

Since 1973, WE have opened doors for working women. WE have blazed trails, rewritten laws, defied rules, broken down barriers, and created fundamental, systemic change. WE helped outlaw sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. WE worked to make family and medical leave a reality. WE paved the way for millions to get their degrees. And WE are not done yet.

Highlights of our accomplishments include:

2010s: After years of determined advocacy, we won a No Salary History bill in Illinois, which amends the Illinois Equal Pay Act to prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. This common practice contributes to gender and racial wage gaps.

2000s: WE won over $50 million to expand Illinois’ tuition assistance program for low-income students.

1990s: WE worked with a national coalition to win passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which establishes the right of employees to take job-protected leave for illness or care of a new baby.

1980s: WE published a first-ever set of recommendations for corporate policies to promote work/family balance and a handbook for working mothers.

1970s: WE participated in drafting new federal rules defining sexual harassment as illegal sex discrimination.

Our priority areas for the coming year include: 1) Making college affordable, accessible and equitable, 2) Strengthening career pathways to family-sustaining wages, 3) advancing gender equity at work, and 4) improving job quality for all workers.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    We center low-paid women, and Black and brown women in our work.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Our annual fundraiser, The Working Lunch, went virtual for the first time last year and we used a survey to follow up with participants. In planning our second virtual fundraiser this year, we are utilizing the feedback we received to decide whether to use the same platform and format. Additionally, we gathered recommendations for transitioning a curriculum we developed for various bridge programs from an in-person to digital format.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback,


Women Employed

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Women Employed

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Lynn Watkins-Asiyanbi

Deputy General Counsel & Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, JBT Corporation

Lydia Bueschel

Valentine Austriaco & Bueschel, P.C.

Lynn Watkins-Asiyanbi

JBT Corporation

Jennifer Mason

City Colleges of Chicago

Kate Attea

Aim & Arrow

Holly Bartecki

Jasculca Terman

Lisa Battisfore

Reproductive Transparency Now

Nakita Burrell

Ada S. McKinley Community Services

Johanna Danz

JPMorgan Chase

Leslie Darling

The Art Institute of Chicago

Beata Kirr

Bernstein Global Wealth Management

Marjorie Loeb

Mayer Brown LLP

Ambar Mentor-Truppa

Fenton Communications

Carrie Garcia Palmer

R1 RCM Inc.

Katina Panagopoulos


Anjali Reddy

Grainger (retired)

Elena Robinson

Wayfarer Entertainment

Diana Sharpe


Meghan Shehorn

Bain & Company

Rachelle Whitacre

Nicor Gas

Jennifer Mason

City Colleges of Chicago

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/20/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/20/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.