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Advocacy

Vermont Works for Women (VWW) has close to 35 years of experience working directly with women, girls, and gender-expansive individuals to help them overcome individual and societal barriers to economic security. VWW works with employers, state agencies, schools, career and technical education centers, and policymakers to create work and learning spaces and systems that are equitable and accessible to all.

Please contact VWW's Director of Programs and Gender Equity Services Alison Lamagna for testimony, participant stories, or shared expertise in any related matters.

 

Our Work

 

 

2022 PRIORITIES


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT 

In his 2022 State of the State address, Gov. Phil Scott highlighted the need for more trades training — specifically, to encourage more Vermont youth to pursue career and technical education and apprenticeships that provide an on-ramp to well-paying careers and fill crucial job shortages in the trades.  

Vermont Works for Women would like to emphasize that enrollment in these training opportunities is far lower among female and gender-expansive students. Vermont’s three-year career and technical education enrollment average in nontraditional programs (auto tech, construction trades, natural resources and agriculture, advanced manufacturing) is only 11.71%. 

In addition, one of the most obvious and direct paths to such careers for adults is through registered apprenticeship. Among the state’s 1,600 apprentices registered between 2009 and 2013, women were only 3% of those training to become plumbers, 2% of electrical apprentices, and 0% of computer numeric control machinists.  

Why are enrollment rates in these programs so low among female and gender-expansive individuals? 

  • Gender stereotype mentalities in historically male-dominated programs. 
  • Lack of safe, inclusive spaces for female and gender-expansive individuals. 
  • Lack of exposure and awareness about programs or lack of opportunities to explore. 
  • The impact of being an “only” female or gender-expansive student.  

 

Vermont Works for Women’s programs aim to dismantle these systemic barriers by providing training and education for educators and employers on gender norms, gender bias, and strategies for creating safe, inclusive spaces for all genders. VWW also offers programs that support current female tech students and provide safe spaces for middle school girls and gender-expansive youth to explore nontraditional tech center programs.  

Our Trailblazers program for folks ages 16+ has trained more than 60 women in construction, electrical and plumbing since 2018, supporting them to earn NCCER and OSHA-10 certifications and providing direct links to employers. 

Ways Vermont can break down barriers to equal access: 

  • Continue to encourage career and technical education centers to utilize federally mandated Perkins V funding to address gaps in equity and access. 
  • Engage with community-based organizations like VWW for expertise on strategies to best support on-ramps for individuals who have historically faced barriers to entering trades training programs. 
  • Ensure all businesses and individual facilitators involved in apprenticeships and training programs are trained in gender equity and supporting women in the workplace. 

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: FACILITY AND REENTRY SUPPORTS 

Vermont Works for Women (VWW) joins the Mercy Connection, the Lund Center, The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Women’s Justice and Freedom Initiative to share concerns about a proposal to build a new women’s prison facility in Vermont. VWW has been providing services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women for decades as part of our mission to support individuals on their path toward economic well-being.  

While we know firsthand that Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility urgently needs facilities improvements, constructing a new facility is not the only answer, and does not address gaps in community resources and support that currently exist. We stand with our partners in encouraging Vermont lawmakers to consider community-based alternatives to incarceration as a critical piece of this puzzle. These alternatives (such as restorative justice practices and increased access to treatment) would result in a lower prison population, healthier communities, and better outcomes for Vermont women. 

Justice-involved women, due to their gender and other intersecting factors, face tremendous barriers to economic independence after being released from Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. State-funded gender, race, and trauma-responsive reentry services and supports for women leaving incarceration are essential to their successful reintegration into the community. Vermont must also increase the availability of transitional housing, with wraparound supports, for women. 

Open hiring is a recruiting method that presents the opportunity of employment to anyone that can meet basic expectations, accepting candidates for their present self rather than making judgments or assumptions based on past experiences. Open hiring discontinues practices focused on screening out potentially “risky” candidates, contributing to inclusive workforce policies, and reducing hiring costs.  

Companies that adopt open hiring practices may reinvest those funds into benefits that improve retention, aid economic mobility for employees, and build employee satisfaction, morale and loyalty. Open hiring isn’t appropriate for every position within a company, and each company needs to assess which practices are aligned with its mission and vision. However, by adopting open hiring practices companies instill hope in candidates. Talent is everywhere, and opportunity is not. Open hiring practices decrease the opportunity gap that exists in our workplaces. 

WORKPLACE POLICIES THAT PROMOTE GENDER EQUITY 

Dubbed the “Great Resignation,” workers are leaving their jobs in record numbers due to a lack of employee health and safety protections, benefits, livable wage, and other supports like child care and paid leave to find work opportunities that meet their needs.  

Demand for VWW’s services has increased dramatically due to the pandemic: from July to December 2021, VWW supported 47 women with Employment and Career Services, and an additional 72 people participated in ECS workshops. In 2020, we served 100 women for the entire year, and prior to the pandemic, we served on average 60-65 women annually. 

  • In Vermont, 1/5 of working women are employed in low-wage jobs, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 
  • In Vermont, 42% of working families who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15/hr are currently enrolled in federal public safety net programs, according to a 2021 report by the UC Berkley Labor Center.  
  • 65% of Vermont workers don’t have access to Paid Family and Medical Leave, according to the Vermont FaMLI Coalition. 
  • The US Census Bureau estimates 71.5% of Vermont children under age 6 have all available parents in the labor force, meaning they're likely to need some form of child care while a parent is working. That is approximately 21,225 Vermont children under the age of 5 in need of child care. 

 

In the second quarter of 2021, Vermont women held 22,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, according to the Public Assets Institute’s State of Working Vermont 2021 report. Through the end of 2021, job openings continued to outnumber available workers, increasing the competition among employers for new hires.  

VWW supports current employment bills in the Vermont Legislature that provide what working families need and demand in order to return to the workforce. Policies that advance flexible and transparent scheduling, protection from wage discrimination, and safeguards if faced with harassment or discrimination in the workplace will promote gender equity, improve the economic well-being of more Vermont women, and attract eligible workers to fill open positions.  

REPRODUCTIVE LIBERTY AMENDMENT (PROP 5)

In states with access to reproductive rights, women's incomes are 15.9% higher than the women's national median wage, according to the Center for American Progress. 

Reproductive health care provides women access to more career opportunities and allows them to fully engage in the economy. Without it, women face immediate financial costs of care and long-term effects on their economic stability. 

The proposed amendment will be sent to voters for a final decision at the ballot box in November 2022. If approved by voters, Vermont would make history by becoming the state with the strongest protection for reproductive liberty in the United States.

With the economic well-being of Vermont women at the core of our mission, VWW stands in support of our partners working to protect reproductive liberty in Vermont. Learn more about Vermont's proposed Reproductive Liberty Amendment from the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund.

 

Resources

Employment and Career Pathways

 

Child Care

 

Re-entry Services

 

Reproductive Liberty

 

Workforce Development

 

Vermont Works for Women recognizes that, in addition to gender, many factors shape the lived experiences of individuals in Vermont, including, but not limited to, race, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, ability, age, and socioeconomic status. These factors intersect and overlap to create unique personal identities, some of which can greatly amplify the barriers and challenges that women face.

Vermont Works for Women is committed to supporting policies that both include the voices and address the diverse needs of Vermont women, particularly those from marginalized communities.

Contact Us

Alison Lamagna

Alison Lamagna

Director of Programs and Gender Equity Services

802-655-8900 x 104 alamagnaREMOVETHISBEFORESENDING@vtworksforwomen.org