Women, especially women of color, form the backbone of New York City’s workforce development community. To recognize and celebrate their vital contribution to creating pathways out of generational poverty for thousands of New Yorkers, over 60 attendees joined WPTI for our first in-person event in almost three years – Women and the Workforce: Rising to Meet the Moment – on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.
As WPTI’s own research documented in 2012 and 2020, women constitute nearly 7-in-10 of all frontline practitioners across New York City’s 200+ workforce development programs. These women show up every day to do the tasks that keep programs running: welcoming job seekers, counseling and succoring those in need, running workshops, writing resumes and coaching for interviews, building relationships with employers, managing staff, setting organizational priorities, engaging with funders, advocating for more equitable policies, and far, far more.
Workforce Development’s women practitioners provide invaluable service to some of the city’s most marginalized residents who struggle against multiple barriers to the labor market. Wearing many hats and working too many hours for too low pay, many made untold sacrifices to keep their programs running throughout the pandemic.
We acknowledge, applaud and honor these dynamic women who work tirelessly each day to meet their constituents’ needs and join in the broader efforts to ensure a more equitable economic recovery.
The event also celebrated WPTI’s accomplishments over the past two years. Throughout the pandemic, we pivoted to a digital approach and implemented new programs and services to help workforce development providers respond to an unstable economy and pandemic environment. We are incredibly thankful for our sponsors, donors, and supporters whose generosity enables WPTI to help the workforce community rise to the many challenges before them.
During the event, WPTI presented the inaugural Russell Pomeranz Leadership Award in memory of WPTI’s former longtime board chair. We are proud to honor Michele Meyer-Shipp, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide, for her incredible work to support women and ensure a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce at all levels. A graduate of Rutgers University and Seaton Hall Law School, Michele has been an inspiration and mentor throughout her career to many, especially other women of color. Michele has brought her passion for talent development and diversity to Major League Baseball, KPMG, Prudential Financial, and other leading organizations. Professor Christine Pomeranz of the Fashion Institute of Technology and widow of Russell Pomeranz presented the award alongside WPTI CEO Sharon Sewell-Fairman.
Ian Straughter of Karp Strategies served as emcee for the evening. Sharon Sewell-Fairman, current WPTI board chair Colin Mincy of Human Rights Watch, and WPTI board member Jennifer Sparrow of CUNY School of Professional Studies, provided formal remarks about the critical role women play in our field and the broader economy, despite themselves being disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis. The speakers noted the critical need for workforce development services in this time of rapid economic change.
The need for recognition of frontline workforce practitioners has never been greater. Increased wages, greater flexibility, and more robust pipelines into leadership are critical to retaining valuable professionals. WPTI is proud to support that effort. Through our professional development, capacity building, systems building, and digital transformation efforts, WPTI has been at the forefront – and will continue to be there – of helping these practitioners and the organizations they represent meet the needs of unemployed, underemployed, and low-income workers.
The generosity of our supporters is crucial to this work. Many thanks again to our sponsors, donors, and supporters.
The event was generously hosted by the CUNY School of Professional Studies and sponsored by:
Consortium for Worker Education
Public Works Partners
Jordan Alliance Group
Raabia Shafi Consulting