For NAW and beyond, all women of color should have access to a quality, well-paying job

It’s a big week for us at Esq. Apprentice. 

Today marks the start of the Ninth Annual National Apprenticeship Week. Apprenticeship Week is a national celebration of apprenticeships across industries – and the incredible power they hold to promote equity for the marginalized, create jobs, and rebuild our economy. 

This year’s theme celebrates apprenticeship as a key strategy in improving job quality and creating access to good-paying jobs for all, and particularly those who have been historically underrepresented and underserved, from women, to people of color, individuals with a disability, youth and young adults. 

Naturally, it’s a theme we stand firmly behind; we see Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian women transform their lives and careers through the legal apprenticeship pathway every day. 

A whopping eighty-five percent of our apprentices have found work in the legal profession. They have reported a 30% increase in their wages, leading twenty-five percent to tell us they’ve experienced a decrease in the hold that finances have over their lives, month to month.

Now, we know the numbers are powerful. But the women in our program are more than just numbers. 

When Mary immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, she spoke no English or Spanish. Only her native Mayan. It didn’t take long for Mary to learn the language, and she’s now dedicated her legal career to helping our profession understand the needs and challenges of non-native English speakers.

When she was just 18 years old, Mary’s classmate, Keshia, tragically lost her mom. So she did what many young women of color have to do: she put her dreams and ambitions aside to care for her family. Over a decade later, after years of work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Keshia is now in a position to return to herself and her dreams. Today, she works towards becoming a death doula, in addition to her work towards a law license, so she can help others navigate end-of-life decisions. 

Today, there are millions of women in America whose lives and working experiences mirror those of Mary and Keshia. According to the Partnership for Women & Families, Black women are significantly more likely to be employed than other demographic of women, but still experience higher rates of unemployment, lower wages, less access to work-family supports, and less access to advancement opportunities. 

Despite the racist and gendered narratives about women of color and work that have persisted through the millennia, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian women are indeed working – often, at more than one job, and while juggling caregiving duties – but are still barred from opportunities to advance, or at the very least, make ends meet. 

But as Keshia, Mary, and countless other women remind us, having access to quality, well-paying jobs is not a privilege reserved for a few, but a fundamental right deserved by us all. We all deserve the right to meaningful–and well-paying–work. We all deserve the right to create and care for our families with dignity. And thankfully, apprenticeship remains as one of the most accessible avenues to career growth and advancement in the United States.

This week and every week, Esq. Apprentice is proud to honor and celebrate the millions of women of color across America who are utilizing registered apprenticeship to transform not just their lives, but those of their families, and communities, too. 

We hope you’ll join us. Donate to Esq. Apprentice to support women like Mary and Keshia, who have the grit, drive and skill to become licensed attorneys, and are beyond deserving of the access and opportunity to succeed. And, read more stories of the women in our program. You can explore our Journeys to Justice series over on the blog.

Be Well,

Rachel Johnson-Farias