Urban League will launch new program for women impacted economically by Covid-19

With fewer women in the workforce because of Covid-19, the Urban League of Central Carolina will launch a new initiative next year aimed at helping local women recover from the pandemic’s economic impact.

Fahnie Shaw, the Urban League’s chief operating officer, said the Working Women, Thriving Families and Better Communities (WTB) initiative is a strategic response to the economic impact that Covid-19 has had on working women in Mecklenburg County.

“Women have really taken the brunt of the pandemic,” Shaw said during a presentation to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum. “Our goal is for at least 100 women to go through this exclusive training to get jobs.” 

The WTB initiative, she said, will provide:

  • livability stipends for eligible participants
  • wrap-around services including child care and transportation
  • national certification programs, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Office Certification, and Safe Serve Certification.

Shaw said the program will recruit women who need social and economic support to find jobs that pay a livable wage. Once enrolled in the program, the women will be assessed to determine what services they need.

Shaw said WTB will offer networking groups that provide mentorship and professional development. It also will work with local companies to place the women in jobs.

A disproportionate impact

According to federal Labor Department data, women have left the workforce in disproportionate numbers since the pandemic arrived. That’s because job sectors historically dominated by women — retail, hospitality, education and health services — were hardest hit by layoffs and shutdown, and they were least likely to offer at-home work.

As of July 2021, the employment rate for adult women was 54.3 %, its lowest level since September 1988. The steepest decline, according to federal data, has been among Black women, who saw a 7.2% decline in workforce participation, compared with a 4.8% decline for white women.

Teddy McDaniel, president and CEO of Urban League of Central Carolinas, said the WTB initiative is about empowerment. 

“I’ve often said to people that the Urban League is not a workforce development agency, but an economic empowerment agency,” he said. “I do this to improve Black wealth, so when problems come along, as they always do, you have an answer to it.” 

McDaniel said the WTB initiative builds on existing Urban League programs that provide career and job training. One such program, Career Bridge, offering training in medical billing, HVAC, and technology certification.

McDaniel told of a woman in the IT program who went from making $45,000 to $85,000 to $140,000.

“That’s what I call empowering communities and changing a life,” he said.  

In addition to the WTB program, the Urban League will open a Digital Innovation Center in east Charlotte in January. McDaniel called it “a great strategic move” to expand the organization’s focus area.

“We are not abandoning the west side at all,” he said. “We are excited about this expansion. This is something we want the community to get behind.”

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