Economic Security

We give women the chance to succeed.

Who is the “Eleanor Woman”?

She's a working mother trying to support her family on less than $40,000 year.

She wants what every mother wants: to give her children the best chance she can in life. She doesn't lack for desire, energy, or ambition. She just needs an opportunity—and a little support—to put them to work.

There are more than 200,000 Eleanor women in metropolitan Chicago.

The Eleanor Network at Chicago Foundation for Women is reducing that number.

It focuses on workforce development: training opportunities for low-income working women that lead to living-wage jobs with benefits and clear pathways for career advancement and professional development.

And it incorporates the comprehensive support services—financial education; quality, affordable child care; and safe, affordable housing—that allow women in poverty to seize economic opportunity for themselves and their family.

It's not just women in their working years who need a chance at economic security. Eleanor Network initiatives span the lifetime. Network-funded, innovative after-school programs introduce young girls to STEM—the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics on which professional and economic  success increasingly depend. And network-supported grassroots advocacy campaigns empower older women to secure lives of dignity and independence.

What is the Eleanor Network?

It's an alliance of 27 agencies that collectively address the needs of women and girls. It is also a dedicated fund, a service model, and a set of grantmaking priorities for women's economic development at Chicago Foundation for Women. Those priorities include advocacy, direct service (best practice, innovation, and training and stabilization).

The network was created in September 2012, when the former Eleanor Foundation—which was dedicated to expanding economic security for women—transferred its assets to Chicago Foundation for Women.

Invest in women. Invest in communities.

The Eleanor Network model brings together workforce development and comprehensive social supports to put a woman on a path to economic security and remove any barrier that might stand in her way.

Chicago Foundation for Women is putting this model to work in a Chicago neighborhood ripe for opportunity: Englewood.

The Englewood Women’s Initiative starts with a single, low-income working mother and a keen understanding of what support she needs to move into a living-wage job and create a better, safer life for herself and her children.

The Englewood Women’s Initiative is a place-based, community-led coalition of agencies working together to address the full spectrum of women’s needs: from access to affordable housing and credit clean-up, to domestic violence services and emotional support, while also providing job skills training and small business development.

When women rise, they bring families and whole communities with them.

Learn more about the Englewood Women's Initiative here. 

Making Chicago the city that works for everyone

Jane Addams Resource Corporation's Women in Manufacturing Program.

In Chicago, more low-income women are preparing for living wage jobs in the skilled trades - traditionally male-dominated sectors such as welding, manufacturing, and forklift operations. New training centers have sprung up in western Cook and DuPage counties. And the organization at the heart of it all has become a national model for what works in workforce development and job training.

For all these reasons and more, in September 2014 the National Skills Coalition tapped Guy Loudon, executive director of Chicago’s Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC)—a grantee of Eleanor Network at CFW—for its “Leadership Spotlight” series.

Under Loudon’s leadership, JARC has piled up a series of wins for the Chicago area’s under- and unemployed. It gives women “stackable credentials,” certifications that increase earning power now and can be combined with others later to boost wages still higher. It offers individual job placement services. And it helps women learn to successfully balance the demands of work with the demands of family.

JARC’s winning models have been highlighted in the White House’s Ready to Work Action Plan, and Loudon himself was invited to attend the President’s signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Even better than the growing recognition, however, is the growing financial support that’s coming with it. Since Loudon took the helm, JARC’s budget has grown 65 percent—and that’s good news for low-wage women in Chicago, and the nation.

Fair Represenation

Natacha Linton of Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC). CFW funds their Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program. Watch video to learn more.

Respect the bump

Pregnant workers in Illinois have a new right—the right to not be discriminated against—thanks to the work of CFW grantee the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU), along with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Women Employed. All three organizations were instrumental in the passage of Illinois House Bill 8, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to include protection against discrimination.

The ACLU of Illinois is a continuing source of help to victims of pregnancy discrimination by offering them legal representation when they believe their rights have been violated. Visit the ACLU’s website, if you or someone you know would like to submit a complaint to the ACLU if they have been discriminated against because they are pregnant.