When long-time Women Employed (WE) supporter Kate Everson completed undergrad with a degree in journalism, she had no idea that a career pivot would lead her to WE. Following a year and a half of working as an Associate Editor for a diversity and inclusion magazine, Kate felt the call from corporate America to do more diversity and inclusion work— an opportunity that would prove to shape her future.
And in 2016, while searching for ways to expand her network, Kate found herself at a Women Employed mixer and after learning more about the organization, was sold on WE’s mission. Since then, Kate has become the Co-Chair of Women Employed’s Advocacy Council, a group of volunteers that lend their passion, time, and expertise to friendraise and fundraise on behalf of WE, and was recently elected to the Board of Directors as a Board Fellow. Kate encourages people to support the organization not just because of WE’s work in pay equity, but because they “look at the most in need first.”
In this month’s “She Says,” Kate Everson discusses what she loves most about Women Employed, how WE’s work supports everyone, and where she sees the future of the organization.
Tell me about you and your background.
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and attended college at the University of Missouri’s Journalism School, which is the best in the country. It was a great experience, but following graduation, I moved back to Chicago and spent a year and a half working in journalism. And then corporate life snatched me up. They had benefits, a much nicer paycheck, and freed up a lot of my time and provided me with more resources to get involved with the issues that I’m very interested in. Such as equal pay and workers’ rights. That was part of the journey to Women Employed.
While working in journalism for a magazine about diversity and inclusion, I had no idea there was this world where people were trying to make sure that companies treated their people equitably and inclusively. I was under the belief that every company was going to do just fine by its employees. And then it became quite clear that wasn’t the case, and that’s why this kind of specialization exists.
So, between learning about it originally as a journalist, and then working closely with a team in a corporate setting that does that work, I found myself wanting to do the work itself. And so right now, I am working on my Master’s in Learning and Organizational Change, which includes a certificate that I’ve already completed in Leading Equity and Inclusion. I will also have an Organizational and Leadership Coaching certificate by the time I graduate.
So how did you meet Women Employed?
I had just moved to downtown Chicago and was eager to meet friends. My company had a volunteer opportunities database which had boxes you could check for things you were interested in, and pay equity was in their Chicago area. I don’t remember the other criteria, but the first thing that came up was Women Employed having a meeting that week and they put it on the calendar. So, I hustled across the Chicago Loop at the end of work and came to the meeting.
That was the summer of 2016 and they were having a mixer. So, I was able to meet a few of the interns and staff members outside of a formal meeting. And then I went right back a couple of months later for the first meeting of the year in September.
I realized how important the organization was going to be to me because just a couple of months later was the November 2016 election. And that shook a lot of people’s worldviews. I already knew that I was interested in the work, I already knew the work needed to be done. But that was just the extra gasoline on the fire.
What are some things that you’ve come to love about Women Employed?
I like the fact that they always look at the most in need first. I always keep a copy of Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism on my desk because it talks about how the modern feminist movement left behind women of color, non-binary people, and other groups of people who are often overlooked. And I like that Women Employed is so inclusive, and they look to help people in low-wage jobs first. So, things like sick leave and paid time off. They’re very active in that space, as opposed to just making sure that a female Associate Professor makes the same amount as a male Associate Professor.
I’ve now been with the organization through two different administrations in the White House and multiple leadership changes within Illinois politics, and they’re always looking to push forward, they never rest. Women Employed does not just sit back and wait. They’re always looking for another way to be part of the solution. And I’m really appreciative that they don’t let off the gas.
What are some reasons you would tell people to support Women Employed?
I agree with the idea that what helps the most in need helps us all. So, what helps women helps everyone. Women Employed really works on that base level of need, because that filters out through all of us. When I tell people about what Women Employed does, pay equity is the first thing that comes to mind, especially for women in corporate settings. But then educating them on how sick leave for your local coffee shop barista can impact whether you get sick because they’re unable to take off work if they’re sick. Or even when you look at education, job training, and vocational training, Women Employed does a lot to provide women access to those training programs. So, when I tell people to get involved with the organization, I focus on how the work that they do affects everyone, even if you might not necessarily see the work impacting you directly.
As Women Employed continues to “Smash the Status Quo” for working women, where do you see the future of the organization?
I’m particularly excited about the Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub. I know that I have at least three friends who are Black women that want to launch their own businesses. And so, to see Women Employed support the entrepreneurial realm is exciting because it’s a way to circumvent some of the other issues that happen at work like not being able to get the legislation passed for paid time off. But if you run your own business, you can take paid time off because you’re paying yourself.
Women Employed is not myopic in their goals. They look at every little thing they could do to help women and pretty much everyone who works. I see Women Employed becoming servants for the people. So instead of saying, “Is there an app for that?” People will ask, “Is there a Women Employed solution for that?”