The U.S. economy is bouncing back from the pandemic recession, yet this recovery has largely left behind Black and African American women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, unemployment for Black women was significantly higher during the pandemic than the rate for Latinas, Asian women and white women — and still is.

“Black women, particularly African American immigrants, have always had a disproportionate share of entry-level, low-paying jobs,” says Mina Amin, Employment Services program director, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish. “This wage gap was making it difficult for these women and their families to make ends meet way before the pandemic event started.”

According to NWLC, this wage gap has been a driver of increased hardship during the pandemic, robbing many Black women and families of adequate savings to successfully weather the COVID-19 recession and its aftermath. Economic gains in recent months are not being experienced evenly across groups by race and gender, with Black women still suffering from the pandemic crisis.

YWCA’s mission is to enable Black and African American women and girls to move from survival mode to thriving, post-pandemic and into the future. “Our vision is a healthy and joy-filled community transformed by racial and gender equity, where women and girls of color have equal access to opportunity and resources to pursue their full potential, which elevates the entire community,” says Amin, who runs the job-readiness training programs. “We give our program participants not just skills, but also the confidence and resilience needed for a successful job search.”

Employment readiness: Beyond job skills

The women who come to YWCA for assistance are often frustrated with their job-search experiences, citing discrimination even in the interview process. “Many of our participants are immigrants, so language proficiency is a problem,” Amin says. “And some don’t know how they are expected to dress or act during a job interview in an unfamiliar culture.”

According to Amin, employment readiness is three-fold:

One-on-one coaching. This personalized attention may include: setting personal career goals in a current or new industry, tips to conduct online job searches for desirable employers, help with career networking, resume and cover letter editing, and mock job interviews for coaching. YWCA employs Career Navigators who speak the language of many of their immigrant participants and often come from the same background as them. Navigators also provide a supportive space to discuss challenges and how to address them, including race or gender-based discrimination, biases, and micro-aggressions.

Profession and life skills training. Amin says that strong customer service skills are a must-have for nearly any job. That’s why YWCA is offering a new customer service training program in partnership with Starbucks. Other programs offered include Microsoft Office instruction, basic digital literacy, job readiness and job skills instruction, CPR/first aid certification, early childhood education, professional financial services training, pharmacy technician training (through a partnership with CVS), financial literacy, and one-on-one financial coaching. These trainings and workshops not only help give women the confidence to succeed, they also position them to take leadership roles in the workplace, which is key to building more equitable opportunities for all.

Assistance finding additional services. This may include: higher education and vocational training programs, scholarships and other financial aid options, ABE/GED and ESL programs, apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training, on-the-job training, and youth-focused internships.

Resilience opens doors

“We always tell women, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get a job,” Amin says. “It can be a tough process, one that takes resilience.”

Flexibility, persistence and patience are all pieces of bouncing back after the multiple rejections that come with most any job search. Here are Amin’s tips for staying resilient.

  • Create a job search routine.
  • Get creative in assessing your employment skills.
  • Look at industries that are hiring, and put in the time to train for available jobs.
  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Practice your interview skills, and keep honing them.

YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and break down barriers to equity in housing, employment, health and safety. We operate a network of community-based programs, serving 7,000 people across the region, from Everett to Auburn.