St. Louis, Missouri has long been known to face disheartening rates of poverty. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that an estimated 24.2% of residents may be living in poverty. Mission: St. Louis, a Missouri-based organization, has reported that up to 40% of children in the city may be born into poverty. While the median income of households in the U.S. was about $74,600 in 2018, according to Pew Research Center, in St. Louis, the median household income in 2018 was $41,107.

Recognizing these trends, as well as the ways that they may disproportionately impact the livelihood and security of women in St. Louis, Leslie Gill and Ali Hogan created a new St. Louis-based nonprofit, Rung for Women, along with a $20 million campus to house the organization. Gill and Hogan expect that the resources and support services offered will assist those living on the edge of poverty in finding transformative professional opportunities. The organization’s full operations are expected to launch in or around January 2021.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rung for Women has partnered with nine nonprofit organizations and plans to recruit approximately 100 participants to kick-off operations. Participation in Rung’s program for women will be free in an effort to “remove as many barriers as possible,” and the organization will offer services including free childcare, tutoring, and meals to incentivize participants to remain in the program.

Rung plans to recruit those who have faced setbacks resulting from different crises that may be products of poverty. The program will address these crises with the ultimate goal of helping participants find their footing in the professional world. Rung will pair participants with coaches who work closely to outline goals and practice skills like resume-building, interviewing for positions, and engaging in other professional development activities.

Moreover, to assist women in advancing to professional roles, Rung and its partner organizations will work to “connect members with high-level contacts.” Rung hopes to continue building a network of affiliated employers and educators. If Rung achieves its goal of bringing in new cohorts of participants throughout the year, it will be able to enhance the workforce in St. Louis and surrounding areas.

Rung’s design is research and evidence-based after its creators worked closely with the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. As such, Gill and Hogan hope Rung’s design might serve as an inspiration to other organizations and non-profits nationwide.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019; Mission: St. Louis; Pew Research Center, 1/9/2020; St. Louis Post-Dispatch 7/31/20; Rung for Women

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