All I Want Is a Job! Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System

All I Want Is a Job! Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System

All I Want Is a Job! Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System

All I Want Is a Job! Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System


In All I Want Is a Job!, Mary Gatta puts a human face on workforce development policy. An ethnographic sociologist, Gatta went undercover, posing as a client in a New Jersey One-Stop Career Center. One-Stop Centers, developed as part of the federal Workforce Investment Act, are supposed to be an unemployed worker's go-to resource on the way to re-employment. But, how well do these centers function? With swarms of new clients coming through their doors, are they fit for the task of pairing America's workforce with new jobs?

Weaving together her own account with interviews of jobless women and caseworkers, Gatta offers a revealing glimpse of the toll that unemployment takes and the realities of social policy. Women-both educated and unskilled-are particularly vulnerable in the current economy. Since they are routinely paid less than their male counterparts, economic security is even harder for them to grasp. And, women are more easily tracked into available, low-wage work in sectors such as retail or food service.

Originally designed to pair job-ready workers with available openings, the current system is ill fitted for diverse clients who are seeking gainful employment. Even if One-Stops were better suited to the needs of these workers, good jobs are scarce in the wake of the Great Recession. In spite of these pitfalls, Gatta saw hope and a sense of empowerment in clients who got intensive career counseling, new jobs, and social support.

Drawing together tales from the frontlines, she highlights the promise and weaknesses of One-Stop Career Centers, recommending key shifts in workforce policy. America deserves a system that is less discriminatory, more human, and better able to assist women and their families in particular. The employed and unemployed alike would be better served by such a system-one that would meaningfully contribute to our economic recovery and future prosperity.


This book emerged from my deep wish to better understand how women were faring as they navigated the workforce development system during the recent economic recession. Researching women’s experiences in the workforce development system is not new to me. I had studied the New Jersey workforce system in the early 2000s as part of an evaluation of an innovative state Department of Labor and Workforce Development pilot program that gave the state workforce development system the latitude to implement a technology-enabled online learning program that provided education and training to a group that often did not receive it via the workforce system—working single mothers who were employed but not economically secure. The women in this program received computers, Internet access, and courses for a year to attain the education and skills to help them advance in the workplace. This project and research was very exciting to me in that it took a group of marginalized workers and helped them gain skills, certificates, and degrees in ways that were flexible and could be delivered in their homes. They were able to schedule their classes around their work and family responsibilities in an asynchronous learning environment. And the program did not just include access to education. The women also were placed with mentors and received individualized career counseling. Many of the women in the program saw a wage increase, completed their education, and gained self-confidence. They left the program excited about their ability to support themselves and their families and better assured they were on the road to economic security.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.