Forging New Opportunities
West Virginia Women Work
The women behind West Virginia Women Work have their work cut out for them. Designed to provide women with high-quality training they can use to find work in industries and positions that often aren’t available to women, the organization advocates tirelessly not only for education for women but for employment and economic equity as well.
Founded in 2000 by noted advocate Lisa Diehl, WVWW started out by assisting women in obtaining and maintaining employment in roles that weren’t traditionally open to women. It soon developed its Step Up for Women in Construction program. A variety of programs designed to prepare women for work in nontraditional roles have been developed and implemented since then.
The pandemic forced the Step Up for Women Manufacturing classes to go on a hiatus but, according to WVWW Executive Director Carol Phillips, the organization is working ’round the clock to find ways to make big opportunities on a shoestring budget.
Phillips came to WVWW after soul-searching at the beginning of the pandemic made her consider where her passion truly lies. “For the first time since I was a girl, I allowed myself to daydream about the perfect job, and the one continuing theme was being of service and supporting women. I was looking for volunteer positions where I could explore a career change when I saw the position of executive director of WVWW. It was like a lightning strike.”
Phillips has been in awe of her work environment and team ever since. WVWW is entirely funded by grants, and much of Phillips’ time is spent writing them. “We have some amazing foundations supporting us, and some years we are awarded larger competitive federal grants but, at the end of the day, we never know if the next grant application will tide us over. This unstable funding really makes strategic planning impossible.” In the future, Phillips would love to see that change to better allow the team at WVWW to make strategic, long-term plans.
“For over 20 years, we have proven to be a successful training and job placement program for women, an excellent steward of funding, and we hope to one day be recognized for that at the state level. Dedicated state funding would not only allow us to plan better for the future, but it would show a commitment to investing in West Virginia workers and create equitable environments in which women could thrive.”
written by Tara Wine-Queen
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Learn more about our Wonder Women
Since 2014 WV Living magazine has been honoring West Virginia Wonder Women, amazing women who are raising the bar in their communities, serving as beacons of light in their industries, and forcing change for the greater good. WV Living is proud to celebrate these Appalachian mothers, millennials, and mavens proving that in a time full of uncertainty, divisiveness, and hate, love for one another is all we really need. No need for bulletproof bracelets or a golden lasso of truth—these women are creating a better West Virginia with their can-do attitudes and Mountain State spirit.
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