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Employment and Jobs

Addressing Job Quality and Equity in a Time of Crisis: Tools and Case Studies from Local Government, Workforce Development, and Policy Advocacy

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Even before the pandemic and associated economic fallout, one in four working adults in the US earned a wage insufficient to lift a small family out of poverty. The impact of this situation on families was immediately evident as we saw unprecedented food lines emerge overnight, as we watched essential workers shoulder health risks to provide the goods and services we rely on, and as we learned of the disproportionate toll borne by communities of color in this crisis. As we look to recover from our intersecting crises, ensuring that more jobs are quality jobs will be essential to a sustainable recovery.

This conversation is about how quietly courageous leaders in city government, policy advocacy, and workforce development are innovating to improve the quality of jobs in their communities. This webinar draws from experiences of leaders who contributed to our Job Quality Tools Library, a compendium of tools and resources curated from a range of organizations to share ideas about opportunities to improve job quality. The webinar also includes tips about how to use the Library and responds to as many of your questions as time allowed.

Speakers include Grace Heffernan, Sr. Project Manager, Thomas P. Miller and Associates (Formerly Towards Employment); Mariko Lockhart, Director, Seattle Office for Civil Rights; Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Vice President of Policy and Organizational Impact, Women Employed; and moderator Jenny Weissbourd, Associate Director, Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program.



Feb 24: “Addressing #JobQuality and Equity in a Time of Crisis: Tools and Case Studies from Local Govt, #WkDev, and Policy Advocacy.” Feat @Grace_Face13 (@tpma_inc), Mariko Lockhart (@SEACivil_Rights), and @sharmili_m (@WomenEmployed).

Structural inequity places a disproportionate burden on workers of color and women, who face heightened risk in our current health and economic crises. What tools are available to support these workers?

Organizations across the country are looking for new tools and approaches to address the interconnected challenges of equity and #jobquality. Join @AspenWorkforce to learn from leaders in government, #wkdev, and advocacy. Feb 24 at 2 p.m. ET.

.@AspenWorkforce launched the Job Quality Tools Library to boost #jobquality in organizations, businesses, and labor markets. Hear firsthand from quietly courageous leaders in advocacy, #wkdev, and govt who are innovating to improve jobs.

I’m excited to take part in this discussion on “Addressing #JobQuality and Equity in a Time of Crisis: Tools and Case Studies from Local Government, #WkDev, and Policy Advocacy” by @AspenWorkforce. Wed, Feb 24, at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT). Join me!



Grace Heffernan

Grace Heffernan

Sr. Project Manager, Thomas P. Miller and Associates (Formerly Towards Employment)

As a project manager, Grace Heffernan has supported the efforts of changemakers both near and far from her home in Northeast Ohio. From the female-owned community banks of Tanzania to neighborhood-based economic development in Cleveland, she has worked to be a part of the infrastructure that supports equitable community growth and development.

Currently, Grace is a Sr. Project Manager at Thomas P. Miller and Associates (TPMA), where she is responsible for the planning, coordination, and support of teams executing a portfolio of workforce development projects. Prior to joining TPMA, she was a Sr. Project Manager at Towards Employment, where she managed a number of initiatives aimed at systems-level change, including competency-based hiring initiatives with TalentNEO and Hope Street Group, implementation of the Sustainable Workforce Model with WorkLab Innovations, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work Initiative, which aims to further align the workforce system to improve employment outcomes for young adults.

Grace is civically active in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and serves in roles across a number of organizations, including the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation, the Northeast Ohio Worker Center, and Towards Employment.


Mariko Lockhart

Mariko Lockhart

Director, Seattle Office for Civil Rights

Mariko is the director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), which coordinates the Race and Social Justice Initiative, a citywide effort to end institutional racism in city government. Additionally, SOCR advances race and social justice through its policy work with elected officials and supports four commissions, including the LGBTQ Commission, Women’s Commission, Human Rights Commission, and Commission for People with disAbilities. The office also enforces federal and local civil rights laws on illegal discrimination, along with Seattle’s All-gender Restroom Ordinance, the Ban on Providing Conversion Therapy to Minors, and the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance.

Prior to serving in this role, Mariko worked at the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions on a national effort to prepare young people who are out of work and out of school for employment opportunities, with a focus on those provided by a corporate coalition of more than 50 US-based companies. Her leadership roles have included director of the City of Seattle’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and president and state director of Communities in Schools of New Jersey, where she led the state affiliate of the nation’s largest organization dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them succeed in life.

Mariko identifies as Black and Japanese and uses she/her pronouns.


Photo of Sharmili Majmudar

Sharmili Majmudar

Executive Vice President of Policy and Organizational Impact, Women Employed

Sharmili Majmudar serves as the executive vice president of policy and organizational impact at Women Employed. Since 1973, Women Employed has been opening doors, breaking barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women – and the organization is widely recognized for its innovative and relentless work to improve women’s economic status and remove barriers to economic equity in Chicago, in Illinois, and at a national level. Sharmili oversees Women Employed’s policy and programs, which advance gender equity in the workplace; strengthen career pathways; increase job quality; and increase access, affordability, and equity in post-secondary education. A skilled public speaker and ardent advocate for gender equity, Majmudar engages forward-thinking employers, employee resource groups, community organizations, civic leaders, and everyday advocates to make progress on the issues facing working women.

Majmudar has been committed to advancing gender equity through an intersectional lens for over 25 years. Majmudar’s writing has appeared in several online and print publications, and she has been a frequent radio and television guest, commenting on issues of gender equity and gender-based violence. Prior to joining Women Employed in 2017, Majmudar worked in the gender-based violence movement for two decades, helping thousands of survivors of domestic and sexual violence heal and rebuild their lives, building allies and alliances to prevent violence, and working with institutions like universities, schools, government, hospitals, and businesses to develop inclusive prevention policies and response protocols.

Majmudar has received numerous recognitions, including the 2016 Community Advocate Award from the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and the 2015 Loyola University Chicago Damen Award, which recognizes “qualities of leadership in industry, leadership in community and service to others.” She was featured as one of National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum’s Everyday Sheroes and is a recipient of the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Impact Award.

Majmudar earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology from the George Washington University in Washington, DC, and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago’s Graduate School of Social Work.



Jenny Weissbourd

Jenny Weissbourd

Associate Director, Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program

Jenny is the associate director of the Workforce Strategies Initiative at the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. Her work focuses on improving economic mobility and job quality for low- and moderate-income workers. She leads applied research and capacity building projects that support the development of innovative approaches to improving jobs and economic opportunities. Jenny is the author of numerous publications and is a regular public speaker on workforce issues.

From 2011 to 2015, Jenny managed strategy and development at The Food Trust, a national leader in increasing healthy food access in underserved communities. Jenny engaged cross-sector partners and guided the development of new programs focused on improving public health and spurring inclusive economic growth, including a small business training program. Previously, she built the capacity of nonprofit and government clients as a consultant at Fairmount Ventures.

As a graduate student, Jenny worked with faculty at MIT’s Institute for Work and Employment Research to research labor policy, business operations to improve job quality, and worker voice and organizing in the 21st century economy. She also served as a Dukakis Policy Fellow for Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and an intern in Amazon’s Retail Leadership Development Program. Jenny holds an MBA from MIT and an MPA from Harvard, where she was a fellow at the Center for Public Leadership and an editor of the LGBTQ Policy Journal. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts from Brown, where she studied the history of US social movements.

Outside of work, Jenny has served on the board of Prometheus Radio Project, a media policy nonprofit, and helped to launch and lead a philanthropic giving circle.


Job Quality in Practice

This webinar is the tenth in our Job Quality in Practice webinar series. The Job Quality in Practice series is designed to support practitioners across fields – including workforce development, economic development, investing and lending, policy, worker advocacy, and business – to address job quality in their work. Webinars share updates on current conditions and priorities as well as actionable tools and approaches. We also seek to highlight leading practitioners’ work and create connections across disciplines.

We are grateful to Prudential Financial for its support of our Job Quality in Practice webinar series and our ongoing efforts to advance a job quality field of practice. Other webinars in this series include:


Learn More

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay connected to our work, including events, publications, blog posts, and more.

Event information
Wed Feb 24, 2021
2:00pm - 3:15pm EDT