Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

Sharing Victories

MAKERS Moment

Sharing Victories

More From Karen

Watch in Cinema View

In this video

Nussbaum talks about the importance of sharing credit and responsibility in the workplace.

Karen's Biography

Childhood dream: To become a social worker.
First Job: Babysitter
Favorite advice: “Keep an open mind but don’t let your brains fall out.”
Cause of Choice: Working America

Karen Nussbaum is an activist, labor leader, and founder of 9to5, a pioneering labor organization for female clerical workers. She has also served as Director of the Women’s Bureau of the Labor Department during the Clinton Administration, and as the head of the Working Women’s Department of the AFL-CIO from 1996-2001.
 
Nussbaum was born in Chicago in 1950, where her mother worked as a publicist and her father as an exterminator. She dropped out of the University of Chicago after a year and a half in order to move to Boston and devote herself to the anti-Vietnam movement. During this time she began supporting herself as a clerical worker at Harvard University, an experience that opened her eyes to the inequities and privations faced by middle and lower income working women throughout the United States.
 
By 1973, she and several colleagues had formed 9to5, an organization that sought to address these issues and forged a union for female office workers in 1975. In contrast to many labor organization, 9to5 focused on the plight of what Nussbaum calls “mainstream working women,” many of whom were performing the same work as men but for lower pay. Within just a few years the organization had gained national attention and, in 1981, it joined with the SEIU to form a partnership known as District 925.
 
Nussbaum served as director of District 925 from 1981 to 1993 when she stepped down to join the Clinton Administration. She held the position of director of the Department of Labor Women’s Issues—the highest ranking position devoted to women’s issues in the government—for three years before joining the AFL-CIO. She currently heads Working America, the community affairs affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Related Videos

Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel
Actor and Musician

Zooey Deschanel is an actress and musician currently starring on FOX's hit comedy series "New Girl." Playing the title role Jess Day, Deschanel proves that a woman ca...

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith
Groundbreaking Publisher of Women of Color

Barbara Smith and her twin sister Beverly are the products of a powerful upbringing. As young girls growing up in Cleveland, they were surrounded by an extended family made up enti...

Maria Klawe
Maria Klawe
President, Harvey Mudd College

Maria Klawe the fifth president of Harvey Mudd College. A renowned mathematician, computer scientist and scholar, Klawe is the first woman to lead the College since its 1955 found...

Linda Alvarado
Linda Alvarado
CEO, Alvarado Construction, Inc.

Armed with her mother’s philosophy of empieza pequeño, pero piensa muy grande (“start small, but think big”), Linda Alvarado began her career as a laborer ...