New Directions announces change
This week, Women’s Fund Grant Partner New Directions Career Center announced upcoming changes with the community. Caroline Woliver, their Director of Outreach & Program Management, had influential remarks we wanted to share for their leadership and emphasis on gender norms:
“Tonight is a night of celebration, of evolution, and of embracing change- something we regularly expect and see in the actions of our clients. On the first day of every New Directions program, we discuss change. How it can be uncomfortable, but with change comes opportunities for growth and continued learning. The Center embraces this change and strives to grow our services to meet women’s needs in the changing job market. So, graduates and employers, you’ve spoken and we listened.
What we’ve heard is that despite educational and employment gains, women continue to earn less and have less economic stability than men, and this economic disparity worsens when women lack computer access and skills. As reliance on technology increases, women’s digital literacy and access to computers and internet is more important than ever. Yet, women, especially those heading economically insecure households often lack necessary resources to maintain regular, reliable computer access.
Low-income families often rely on locations outside the home to access digital resources and the internet. Cost is still the biggest barrier to at-home access. Research indicates that low-income individuals often rely heavily on smartphones as their main digital and internet resource. But, for those who rely on mobile phones for internet access, about 25% have had their phone service cut off because they couldn’t afford to pay their bill.
We know that internet access is essential for a successful job search, yet a significant number of low-income families lack reliable, affordable connections or experience increased problems in their online search, which means low-income job seekers are at a distinct disadvantage in the workforce.
Renovations planned for later this year will create a dedicated space for clients’ computer access, which will double computer time and activities in programming and allow for an open lab. We aim to help our clients improve their employment opportunities with a chance to increase their computer skills, as well as increased access to resources, that will allow for uninterrupted job applications, career research, video interviews, resume development, and more.
Our graduates see the Center as a safe, supportive environment to learn and grow. They feel comfortable here and want to come back even after program graduation. Being in a safe, comfortable environment where help and support is available can make a big difference when making a change; and that’s what we hope to expand by creating this computer resource center.
With increased access to computers, our clients will experience increased comfort in using them. We expect that an increase in comfort with computers will not only improve confidence and employment outcomes, but also expand ideas of career possibilities. Our lab will build off discussions held in the classroom where we encourage participants to explore work that both meets their needs and is personally fulfilling, regardless of whether it is considered traditional work for women. We discuss how gender norms and beliefs shape which activities individuals choose to pursue, and how these norms may act as barriers to women in a variety of career fields that could advance their economic security. For example, while STEM careers often offer higher earnings and better job prospects in today’s workforce, women are underrepresented in these professions. For many women, critically thinking about gender norms coupled with regular computer access and skill development opens up new possibilities for their occupational future, earning potential and overall economic security.
We could not be more excited to break ground and begin offering these needed services.”