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Elevating Women and Children: The Women's Fund

Stephanie Sears said she visited the Kentucky Career Center to find out if there was any way she could support her family and herself. She was doubtful. 

 Stephanie Sears
Stephanie Sears earned her production technician certification as a Raise the Floor student at Gateway Community and Technical College. The Women’s Fund is a partner of Raise the Floor. 

Stephanie Sears said she visited the Kentucky Career Center to find out if there was any way she could support her family and herself. 

She was doubtful. 

“My exact words were, ‘I know you can’t help me. I know I’m a lost cause, I’ll leave now,’” Stephanie said. 

Stephanie is far from alone. According to research by The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, 90 percent of all female-held jobs in the region pay insufficient wages for a single parent with three children. Two out of three children in poverty live in female-headed households. 

As a mother of three children, one with a chronic medical condition requiring nursing care, Stephanie said the career counselor gave her “a little air of hope.” She handed her a Raise the Floor brochure. 

Raise the Floor is a program that provides training and certification in manufacturing skills for women. Currently, there are more than 600 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Boone County. Raise the Floor meets the needs of employers while raising women and children out of poverty. The program is based out of Gateway Community and Technical College and is a collaboration of the school, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, 4C for Children, The Women’s Fund, and local manufacturers. 

“Women and children living in poverty in our area have reached critical levels,” said Meghan Cummings, executive director of The Women’s Fund. “We can help these families by getting the moms on stable footing. These manufacturing careers achieve just that.” 

Raise the Floor has a holistic approach and develops support systems such as transportation, child care, job placement, and career services. The 16-week certified production technician certification course has flexible hours. Scholarships for tuition are available. 

During Stephanie’s time as a student, she faced more than the usual obstacles. Her children were out of school for 26 inclement weather days; she had a minor surgery; her kitchen caught on fire.

“If it wasn’t for the support I got here, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said. “When I finished and they said I had a 4.0, I told them to check again.”

Now that Stephanie has earned her certification, she can go directly into the workforce or continue to earn an associate’s degree. The career pathways offered through the certification and degree include computer-aided drafting and design, computerized manufacturing and machining, electrical technology, industrial maintenance, manufacturing engineering technology, supply chain management, and welding technology.

Stephanie has chosen to continue on with her associate’s degree, working her way toward self-sufficiency. In its two-year history, the program has served 75 women: 32 are employed in manufacturing jobs, 18 are employed in non-manufacturing jobs, and eight are seeking additional education.  

Stephanie, who describes her former life as “a circle of defeat,” urges others to advance through Raise the Floor. 

“Dive into it,” she said. “Dedicate those weeks in your life and after that, not only will you be able to get a higher paying job, you can go on and get your degree.”

The Women’s Fund is a partner of Raise the Floor. Thanks to the generosity of donors, The Women's Fund has granted money for participant child care expenses and supported a workshop for area employers. 

Partners for a Competitive Workforce, a Raise the Floor partner, was founded by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation in 2008 and housed by GCF through 2011. It is now managed by United Way of Greater Cincinnati. It has received $902,000 in support from GCF. 

In 2014, The Women’s Fund released PULSE: 2020 Jobs and Gender Outlook (prepared by the UC Economics Center). The report shines a light on the fact that, based on current trends, job growth in our region is not likely to result in uniform prosperity for both genders.

Published in the 2015 Annual Report to the Community.



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