Young immigrant women face challenges that are common to all immigrants more acutely and are burdened by additional responsibilities and vulnerabilities.

According to a recent report of the Migration Policy Institute (Feb. 2017), of the 7.6 million college-educated immigrants in the US, 1.9 million are not working in middle- or high-skill jobs despite having many years of education and work experience. “Brain waste”, the report notes, is particularly acute for immigrants who have earned their college education abroad, rather than in the US: 29 percent of these immigrants were either unemployed or underemployed during the 2009-2013 period.

Another recent report of the Migration Policy Institute (Dec. 2016) highlights that immigrant women are even more affected by this problem. Regardless of where they are from and their level of education, women are more likely to be out of the labor force, and this is particularly the case for immigrant women who have not been educated in the US: one in three are out of the workforce. They are underrepresented in managerial and professional occupations, have lower earnings, and suffer from a higher poverty level. Immigrant women are also much more likely to experience discrimination, violence, and abuse, both at work and in their household.

In addition, young immigrant women often remain the main caregivers for their children with little support and few resources, which further hinders the pursuit of higher education and entry or advancement in the workforce. In New York City, immigrant women form over half of the total immigrant population, and are the mothers of the majority of children born every year.

For the benefit of their families, for themselves, and for the city, it is clear that immigrant women need to be given access to economic opportunities.


However, immigrant women from a vast array of cultural backgrounds and educational levels are often lacking the soft skills needed to connect with employers and enter successfully the NYC workforce.

Much research has been done on the importance of soft skills in the workplace, such as workforce and leadership development. According to Klaus, 75 percent of long-term job success depends on people’s skills, while only 25 percent depends on technical knowledge (2010). Watts and Watts indicate that hard skills contribute to only 15 percent of one’s success, whereas 85 percent of success is due to soft skills (2008). Wilhelm states that soft skills are rated as number one in importance for entry-level success on the job, as employers are progressively looking for employees who are mature and socially well adjusted (2004).

New Women New Yorkers is the first and only nonprofit organization in New York City offering programs and activities geared to the needs of young immigrant women from all countries of origin and educational levels. To empower these young immigrant women to reach their professional potential, we focus on workforce and leadership development through soft skills training and on networking and community building.


Beyond the positive impact on individuals and families, investing in immigrant women will sustain and grow New York City’s local economies and communities, and help create a more equitable society.