Enrollment in Upwardly Global’s Career Skills Program for immigrant women who now call Los Angeles home, launched last year with support from Alya Michelson’s FirstGen Initiative, nearly tripled above the initial target for the program, which is aimed at moving immigrant women from unemployment or low-skilled jobs to full employment.
By Justin Chapman
In honor of International Women’s Day, Upwardly Global is hosting the first of two national webinars for the immigrant women who now call Los Angeles home.
Today’s panel will focus on women in tech, placing students from the Career Skills Program face to face with potential funders and employers. Career counselors will talk about the job search process and share tips for salary negotiation.
Alya Michelson’s FirstGen Initiative partnered with Upwardly Global last year to launch their first Los Angeles-based, all-female cohort Career Skills Program. The program works to move immigrant women from unemployment or low-skilled jobs to full employment that’s relevant to their education and professional backgrounds.
For a class that started with a goal of serving 10 women and that has swelled to 28, it was virtually standing room only.
The participants hail from 11 countries: Iran, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, El Salvador, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. They range in age from the 20s to the 60s.
“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women across the United States, but especially immigrant women and women of color,” said Andrea Moran, senior employment services advisor at UpGlo who works with cohort participants pursuing jobs in the tech sector. “We want to make sure people start off on the right foot, which includes having an equitable salary, a strong network, and mentorship.”
Four have so far been placed in jobs in the media, architecture, healthcare, and tech, as others finish certifications, training or courses.
The program includes advice from a career coach, courses to improve workplace skills, training and certification opportunities in high-demand fields, and connections to top employers, industry experts, and like-minded professionals. Upwardly Global was founded in 1999 and has since placed more than 7,500 immigrant and refugee professionals into the U.S. workforce.
Moran said many of the participants are in the process of reskilling or trying to upskill.
“I’m guiding people through identifying the best courses to take for different career paths,” she said. “For example, we have one woman from a financial analyst and tax accounting background who now is looking at using her analytical skills in healthcare. So there are a lot of different career paths people are navigating right now in the cohort.”
There are more than 12 million immigrant women in the U.S. workforce and many are not working to their full potential because of the unique challenges they face that hinder their advancement.
One of those challenges is the way job interviews are conducted in the United States.
“The interview context of the U.S. places a lot of emphasis on ‘me, me, me,’ and talking about your achievements, and sometimes people think that is being arrogant if you talk about it in the way America wants you to talk about your experience,” Moran said. “We train them in behavioral interviewing techniques, the STAR method [which helps interviewees answer questions about situations, tasks, actions, and results], and prepare them with professionals in our network for mock interview practice.”
“Employment is only one of the hurdles immigrant women face during their transition to a new home. As we embark on the incredibly difficult work of making the world more fair for all, I encourage us to empower each other and pave the way for the next generation.”
Another challenge Moran identified across the board is salary negotiation.
“A lot of people tell me they think salary negotiation is rude, or they don’t want to cause a delay,” she said. “From the beginning, we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of that, providing templates, practicing what an email might look like, guiding them through the acceptance process, and how to approach that question of, ‘What are your salary expectations?’
“When I work with my clients, we’re trying to instill that confidence. It’s been really exciting. I’m so happy to work with these determined people.”
Upwardly Global’s next career skills webinar will be held around Mother’s Day, in recognition of the demands that pull an immigrant or refugee mother in many directions.
Michelson launched FirstGen to elevate the narrative of immigrant women by elevating their personal stories and celebrating the sacrifice and courage it takes to embark on their journey to a new home.
“There is more work to be done,” Michelson said. “Employment is only one of the hurdles immigrant women face during their transition to a new home. As we embark on the incredibly difficult work of making the world more fair for all, I encourage us to empower each other and pave the way for the next generation.”