The YWCA is a national organization whose mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.” It has many branches including one in Carlisle, PA. Within this branch of the YWCA, Mission Impact Director Sonya Browne created the Gather the Women program as a means to uphold the mission of the organization. Gather the Women is a program where women of different socioeconomic and social backgrounds come together on a bi-weekly basis and act as a support system for one another. The program is “[a]n economic advancement program for women with limited financial resources designed to guide them toward personal growth and economic advancement” (YWCA). This program tackles issues of economic and gender inequality by creating a space where women can hold each other accountable through goal-setting and group discussions. The Gather the Women program is important for the Carlisle community because it provides a means for women to have accessible emotional support.
Family Responsibilities Discrimination:
The process by which we worked on the resumes was that we asked the women to provide a list of previous employment or a resume. From there we began typing their employment as well as their basic information, such as their name and address. We provided resume templates from Microsoft Word for the first woman we worked with, but that was very intimidating for her to see. Because it was already intimidating to apply for a job, the next time we worked with someone, we did not use a resume template.
After we typed the employment, we asked questions about what the women did so we could cater their past duties to the job they were applying for. As we worked with the women, we made conversation with them. We were able to get to know the women beyond their resumes. It was very important for us to see the women as humans and not just a project that we were working on. It’s crucial to connect with the women and show them that we do care about them.
An interesting point that one of the women brought up was that motherhood should count as employment due to the skills and work it takes to be a single mother. The government assistance that is provided is not enough to support a single mother. It is difficult to enter the workforce as a single mother because you aren’t sure whether or not to be honest about your availability due to childcare. Even in meeting us for the resume building, one of the women had to have Sonya Browne watch her daughters, while we worked. Whether or not to disclose information about being a mother is not very clear for most women. Many women, including the one that we worked with, are not sure if it is something to talk about during an interview, but there is actually a protection from discrimination for parents with family responsibilities. Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) protects individuals from employment discrimination based on family caregiving responsibilities, but there isn’t federal law which protects parents. ” FRD does not exist in any statute (only Alaska and the District of Columbia have laws that specifically bar discrimination based on family responsibilities)” (Bergen, 2). Although there is no federal statute that protects individuals from discrimination, The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ERISA, Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other statutes provide protection for employees and hires. It’s important for single mothers to know that when they are trying to enter the workforce, they are protected from discrimination based on motherhood and are not required to give information about their family or childcare.
Entering the workforce as a single mother is difficult because women have to manage the household and provide for their children by working. Not enough credit or support is given to single mothers and it is important that access to resources, such as resume building, is available so that single mothers can support their families.
-Mergitu Yadeto ’18
The initial methodology of my service-learning project was to create a presentation that I could present to the members of Gather the Women. I had to create a presentation that would be relevant and useful to the different financial backgrounds of each member. Through my efforts to aid Gather the Women, I created a PowerPoint presentation on budget construction. My plans were diverted after further organizing with the program coordinator; she recognized that the women would be better helped through one-on-one interactions. My project partner and I waited for the women to reach out to us and ask for help on their resume and/or budget. Unfortunately, none of the women in the program needed help with their budget, but two women (I will call them TG and JF for the sake of anonymity) did reach out for help on their resume. My partner and I worked together to help each woman with her resume. The meetings were helpful for TG and JF because we created a new resume, but also had discussions on how they could market their skill sets. Both women were apprehensive about re-entering the workforce, but financially needed a new source of income. By working with TG and JF, the implications of gender inequality were brought to the forefront because we had conversations about motherhood and how a lot of their previous jobs were in the health care field.
Though I learned a lot from both women, by working with TG, I was able to understand the realities of gender inequality. When TG became a mother she took time away from the workforce in order to take care of her children. TG sought out our help because she wanted to be prepared for an upcoming job interview. As my project partner and I helped her write her construct her resume we discussed her future exploits and she shared her concerns with us. She was nervous because she had not worked in a while; she wished that motherhood were a job that could be put on her resume. This sentiment is an issue that women of all races face. Scholars and policy makers are trying to address the lack of recognition that stay-at-home mothers receive. “Most people visualize ‘unpaid care work’ as work done, primarily by women, to care for family members: cooking, cleaning, and shopping … These activities deserve special attention because they should, in principle, be included in measures of [GDP], but are poorly measured by most surveys” (Folbre, 186). “Unpaid care work” is work primarily done by women so TG has brought up an issue of gender inequality. Staying home and taking care of children is work that mothers are expected to do, so mothers seldom get recognition or benefits for this work. By incorporating “unpaid work” into the workforce, policy makers are paving the way for policies to be set where mothers can get better benefits for themselves and their family.
The YWCA and programs like Gather the Women act as evidence of the existence of gender inequality in the United States. From an economics perspective there is a need for the program because statistically women are at a disadvantage compared to men. For example, the gender pay gap in the US for women is seventy-eight cents to a man’s dollar. Since we worked with two Black women, naturally I focused on the disadvantages that Black women have, such as earning sixty-four cents to the white man’s dollar. “Furthermore, oppression in one sphere is related to the likelihood of oppression in another. If you are black and female, for example, you are much more likely to be poor or working class than you would be as a white male. Census figures show that the incidence of poverty varies greatly by race and gender” (Mantsios, 203). Black women are discriminated against at a higher rate because they have to deal with oppression associated with their womanhood and race. Their identities also influence their class, where they are most likely to be a part of the working class. While working with TG and JF, my project partner and I discussed their work experience in detail because we knew that they were at a disadvantage because they were Black women. It was important for us to make sure they had unique attributes on their resumes.
Our service work was established to combat gender inequality by helping women empower themselves. The women within the program are given the opportunity to develop the tools on how to create a resume and a budget. Through the process they will hopefully gain confidence to update their documents and finances on their own. They will learn how to promote the strengths of their past experiences. The two women that we had the honor of working with were truly an inspiration and motivation enough to end gender inequality so everyone can have a better quality of life.
-Bria Antoine ’16
Gather the Women is an environment where women learn useful skills for their own advancement. Through our experience working with the Gather the Women Program, we recognize that there is a need for this group within the community. Gather the Women creates a community of support that women can utilize since there generally is not a space for them within society. We focused on resume writing and budget construction to teach skills that are useful for women who do not have access to these resources. Resume writing and budget construction offer women the opportunity to become better equipped to enter the workforce and also construct a system where they are in control of their finances. In order to continue our project of skill building, Gather the Women should continue to affiliate with Dickinson College. Possible partnerships between Gather the Women, Dickinson College’s Center for Service, Career Center and Black Student Union can be formed so that students that are interested in this program can “tutor” the members of Gather the Women. Students can continue to meet with women to assist them with resume building. Gather the Women can take the budgeting presentation that was prepared and use that as a resource for women that would like to work on budgeting in the future. Also, templates could be made and provided to the women so that they could have a reference in the future. We believe that Gather the Women will be successful provided that everyone in the community is invested in its success.
Folbre, Nancy. “Measuring Care: Gender, Empowerment, and The Care Economy.” Feminist Economics. Volume 2. Households, Paid and Unpaid Work, and the Care Economy. 555-571. n.p.: International Library of Critical Writings in Economics, vol. 248. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, Mass.: Elgar, 2011.
Mantsios, Gregory. “Class in America.” N.p.: n.p., 2012. 189-207. Print.
Bergen, C. (2008). “The Times They Are a-Changin”: Family Responsibilities Discrimination and the EEOC. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 20(3), 177-194.
Miller, A. L. (2014). The Separate Spheres Ideology: An Improved Empirical and Litigation Approach to Family Responsibilities Discrimination. Minnesota Law Review, 99(1), 343-379.