Mission & History

The Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement is a 51-year-old nonprofit organization committed to the goal of economic justice and career opportunities for all New York City working families.

Through groundbreaking research, innovative technology resources, and hands-on training, we educate and advocate for socially just public policies and work to build the capacity of the human services and other sectors to help families achieve financial self-sufficiency.

The Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement (WCECA) was established in 1970 as a project of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. to meet the challenge of providing marketable skills and education to women of color who held marginal and tenuous places in the paid labor force.

For 45 years, the Women's Center upheld its commitment to improve the economic self-sufficiency of women, especially the underserved and underrepresented. To work toward the goal of economic self-sufficiency for all NYC women, the Women's Center has conducted successful Career Services programs for 40,000 low-income and unemployed New York City women.

The Women's Center was one of the first NYC nonprofits to design and deliver holistic and comprehensive job readiness programs that addressed both women's professional and personal lives. Throughout more than four decades, the Women's Center has earned national recognition for many notable and innovative achievements including the following:

  • Pioneered a Liberal Arts / Business Associate Degree program at Pace University for hundreds of entry-level clerical workers.
  • Designed a self-help financial management program, Debtors Anonymous, which guided women in the workforce toward economic stability through the elimination of debt and development of financial assets.
  • Partnered with the American Women's Economic Development Corporation (AWED) for 11 years to create New Directions, a micro-enterprise training program that prepared hundreds of low-income women for business ownership.
  • Prepared thousands of women for full-time work through the expansion and continuing adaptation of its various Career Services Programs in order to meet the changing and challenging technology demands of the workplace, and to address the needs of women transitioning from welfare to work, displaced homemakers*, and other low-wage workers.
  • In 2012, Merble Reagon, the Executive Director, received the Celebrating Women Award on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the New York Women's Foundation, in recognition of the Center's four decades of outstanding service and support on behalf of underrepresented and underserved and women and girls in New York City.

In 2000, in support of the New York City nonprofit community and the constituents it serves, the Women's Center expanded its programming and developed the Self- Sufficiency Project, which resulted in the creation of the Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York City and the New York City Self-Sufficiency Calculator. The Self- Sufficiency Project provides capacity-building tools and technical support to community-based organizations, human services agencies, advocates, philanthropic and government agencies, and other non-profits working together to address poverty issues in New York City and to improve the lives of thousands of working poor people.

The Standard calculates the cost of living and working in New York City based on the borough in which a family lives, the number of people in the family, and the ages of the children. Since its introduction, NYC policy makers, workforce development professionals, philanthropic organizations, and government and social service agencies among others, have utilized the Standard to expand the dialog and set more realistic goals for moving families out of poverty toward economic security.

Based on Standard data, the Self-Sufficiency Calculator, an online, counselor-assisted tool, screens client families and connects low-wage workers to valuable benefits, work supports, and tax credits that can lift income and reduce expenses.

The Calculator provided technical support to organizations, institutions, and other advocates working to eradicate poverty in New York City. It was accessed by more than 2,000 counselors at over 400 non-profit organizations on behalf of an estimated 130,000 low-income client families generating approximately $360 million per annum in work-support income for low-income households. WCECA will release the updated Calculator and publish the sixth edition of the Standard in the fall of 2021. Each edition of the Standard has been distributed to 10,000+ recipients.


*A displaced homemaker is a woman whose primary work has taken place in the home and is forced to seek paid employment as a result of domestic violence, divorce, separation, widowhood or abandonment.