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Microsoft in your community

Addressing the need for accessible women’s care

Adult women’s employment rate in the United States hit 54.3 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic surge in 2020, according to the United States Department of Labor; its lowest level since 1988. Mothers with young children saw the most dramatic reduction with 1.2 million less mothers of children under the age of 13 in the workforce, about a 7 percent change from pre-pandemic numbers. The National Bureau of Economic Research authors estimate that 15 million single women across the country will be “the most severely affected.”

The Hope Women’s Center in Arizona saw the direct effects COVID had on their clients and other women in need. Interruptions in childcare, family support, and financial security are among the many issues that face women and mothers today. The Hope Women’s Center created the Hope at Work program with support from Microsoft.

Hope at Work provided 40 classes from January through September 2021 in job training, literacy, ESL, and entrepreneurial skills to women in Arizona. These classes were attended more than 300 times by over 100 unique clients.

The Hope Women’s Center nonprofit in Arizona began as a small crisis-pregnancy center in 1984, and has grown into a state-wide community resource for women and teen girls in difficult life situations, helping to provide free programming and assistance to 1,103 women in 2020, and 635 in the first half of 2021.

Hope Women’s Center focuses on a holistic and faith-based approach for women’s care that covers domestic violence cases and beyond. The center is 90 percent volunteer run and has logged 8,439 already in the first half of 2021. A point-based system allows women to earn points any time they come into the center and utilize a program, which can then be used on diapers, food, toiletries, and other material resources for themselves and their families. Programs like Hope at Work provide focused support for specific needs, like employment.

“By providing free education and support to women as they seek, secure, and sustain employment, a woman is more likely to be hired, her potential to earn profitable income increases, and her ability to support herself and/or her family makes her less vulnerable to abusive relationships, homelessness, and chronic poverty,” according to the center.

Client “H” used the point system to pull herself out of a financial emergency when diapers were running out and she was several days from a paycheck.

“I can make meals stretch, but it’s not as easy to make diapers stretch, and a baby’s got to have diapers,” H said in a client story. “I haven’t had a financial emergency since I started coming to Hope!”

Sami, another client, utilized the Hope at Work job skills classes to get her first ever job interview.

“It was hard enough finding a shelter during the pandemic,” Sami said in her client story. “Then it occurred to me that I was on my own and didn’t even have the basic skills to support myself or my kids. It was completely overwhelming.”

All Hope services are confidential and free of charge, with no restrictions or prior requirements. Now, location centers are established in Phoenix (headquarters), Apache Junction, Camp Verde, Coolidge, Maricopa, and the West Valley. Each center provides free pregnancy testing and support, mentoring, education, community referrals, support groups, resource programs, and care for women experiencing unplanned pregnancy, abuse, poverty, addiction, emotional distress, domestic conflict, trafficking, and more. Programming like Hope at Work is designed to engage, encourage, and equip women to deal with all aspects of adversity in their life.