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HR Alert: An Overview of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

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In recognition of Women’s History Month, we thought it appropriate to highlight a department in the U.S. Department of Labor that’s scarcely discussed yet extremely important:  the Women’s Bureau.

What’s the Women’s Bureau?

More than 100 years ago, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor was established in 1920 after World War I in order to promulgate standards, improve conditions, and advance opportunities for women in the workplace. The Bureau also investigates any matter related to women in the workforce, including wage gaps, paid family leave, and gender discrimination. To date, it’s the only federal agency mandated to represent the needs of wage-earning women. In fact, every director of the Women’s Bureau since 1920 has been a woman. The current director is Wendy Chun-Hoon, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree from NY’s Vassar College.

What can it do for me?

Since it began, the Women’s Bureau has worked to improve conditions for women in the workforce and to create more opportunities for women looking to enter the workforce. Today, roughly 47% of the U.S. labor force is made up of women, and the Bureau works on behalf of every single one.

Many of the improvements and opportunities come in the form of grants. The Women’s Bureau currently manages two grant programs:  the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Program (WANTO) and the Fostering Access, Rights, and Equity Program (FARE).

The WANTO Grant Program

The WANTO Grant Program aids programs that promote women apprenticeships and nontraditional occupations in industries such as construction, advanced manufacturing, technology, and transportation. In other words, the program helps women break into male-dominated industries.

In 2023, the Women’s Bureau granted over $5 million through the program to help establish training programs, to provide unions and employers with guidance on helping women succeed, and to set up a support network for women in apprenticeship programs and nontraditional positions.

The FARE Grant Program

In addition, the FARE Grant Program was set up to help women workers learn about and access their rights and benefits as employees, especially regarding gender-based violence and harassment as well as unfairly-low wages. The grant is meant to:

  • Build awareness through worker and survivor-centered education;
  • Implement worker driven strategies to prevent gender-based violence and harassment;
  • Connect women workers to services, benefits, or legal assistance as needed; and
  • Facilitate and encourage women workers to become focal points in their own communities.

Besides these grant programs, the Women’s Bureau also provides resources to business owners on how to create a safe and equitable work environment for women. In September 2023, the Bureau released the Equity Module Toolkit, a 20-page guide on how to create an inclusive and diverse infrastructure workforce by touching on topic such as recruitment tactics, anti-harassment policies, and so much more.

Furthermore, the Bureau is actively working in 2024 to reduce the number of caregiving penalties for women and low-paid workers. This includes expanding access to paid leave, expanding access to disability care, and expanding access to accommodations required by the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA) and the PUMP Act.

So as we recognize the women who have influenced us during Women’s History Month, we also recognize those currently working towards better jobs, better conditions, and better futures for women across the country.


Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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