Dr. Ludy Green has shaped her 25-year career around abolishing violence against women and children. Currently president and founder of Second Chance Employment Services, Dr. Ludy started her company to help victims of domestic violence reach financial autonomy.
Residing in Washington DC, Dr. Ludy has focused on influencing policy, and was a driving force behind reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, America’s first comprehensive federal response to domestic violence.
Dr. Ludy’s fluency in five languages has enabled her political presence, serving as a U.S. Delegate to Malaysia, Turkey, and Chile, and as a political ambassador at the Global Summit of Women in Vietnam. She has won countless awards for her work in domestic violence and human trafficking, and most recently she has written her first book, “Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom,” We asked this incredible woman to share some of her journey.
You immigrated to Washington in 1988. How was that transition as a young female?
It was a difficult time in my life. I had just lost my mother so with no support I was thrust into an unfamiliar culture. Suddenly, I had to learn new customs that seemed cold and indifferent; a new language through which I communicated mechanically, but could not feel emotionally as in communicating in my native language; and I was very vulnerable, both physically and economically. I was cautious about going out at the beginning and I chose new acquaintances very carefully. I was able to get a job as an intern on Capitol Hill after only a couple of months, later I was working in a political campaign, and a few months later I was able to secure a position at the World Bank, primarily due to my foreign languages skills.
Did you always have the goal of helping women and children, or was it an opportunity that arose without specifically planning for it?
I did not plan for it. I have always had a heart for those in need and the vulnerable. As a little girl, I remember taking my brand new coat my parents bought me and I gave it to an ill-clad little vagrant girl walking on our street in winter. I did not ask my parents for permission. I saw the need and addressed it the best way I knew how.
Who has been your greatest role model and how have they influenced your career path?
My role model was my Aunt Melba, a woman whose perseverance and commitment to her work, her belief in me and my success made me who I am today. She rose from being a cashier in a Bank to a Vice President of a Bank. She only let me see that everything is possible if you persevere, believe in yourself, and never take your sights off of your goals. My dear aunt would often say, “Ludy, you can do whatever you want in life. It is up to you! Never stop trying!”
You left human resources to enter the non-profit world. What inspired that switch to happen?
While climbing the corporate ladder, I was always giving my time volunteering in different shelters for battered women. It was in this community service that I begin to understand why women victims often return to their abusers. I would speak to the victims and enquire about their future plans, jotting down their responses in a daily journal. Those planning on returning to their abusers most often cited economic security for their children or themselves as the primary motivating factor. They would say something like, I don’t have a job, I can’t pay for food or put a roof over my children… We will be forced out of the shelter, and then where shall we go…? I determined early on long-term employment was the best solution for breaking the cycle of domestic violence. I knew that by creating an employment placement agency just for domestic violence victims, a permanent solution could be implemented for keeping them from returning to their abusers.
You started Second Chance Employment Services in 2001. What is the biggest lesson you have learned since its inception?
It is not about the number of services an organization provides, but the quality. I once went to a seminar on job placement services for at-risk populations. The speaker was highlighted as a success story for community investment. He gave a statistic of placing over 60 people a month in jobs. I asked if he tracks the outcomes of the placements? What is their average level of pay? How long do they stay in the job? He said most of the placements were in the fast food and convenient services industry and he doesn’t track outcomes past the placement event. At Second Chance, we only place victims in long-term employment that gives meaningful pay with benefits. We track their progress on the job for two years. As I said, quality is more important to quantity.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I was able to use the skills I learned in college to make social change and transform the lives of thousands of women – not only directly, but also many future generations to come.
How have your various boards seats, commissions, and advisory positions helped influence change on a global scale?
By holding those positions, I raise awareness both nationally and globally about the importance of employment for addressing the needs of victims. I have been able to directly brief, make recommendations, and compel leaders in private industry; government and umbrella community services organizations on the importance of financial security through employment for victims. It was through these efforts over a 2-year period I was able to successfully insert employment provisions into the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) in 2013. Internationally, I represented the U.S. as Cultural Ambassador of the United States in the Middle East, Asia, and other regions, briefing foreign governments and NGOs on best practices for serving victims of domestic violence. In addition, I have been invited as a guest speaker at numerous international events promoting awareness and programs supporting victims of domestic violence.
What is something you still want to accomplish?
I want to be able to pass my knowledge and experiences to young women in colleges and universities so they, too, can continue the movement of financial independence for women victims of violence.
What advice would you give to women and men following in your footsteps, looking to help inspire change in the non-profit sector?
Stay strong in your commitment and passion for your mission. Don’t let any system or anyone move you off course from achieving your goals. It is about being totally convinced that what you are doing is going to bring positive lasting solutions to the population you are serving.
Second Chance Employment Services helps women that are victims of domestic abuse achieve financial autonomy. Do you feel these women are marginalized in the general discussion of women’s professional advancement? What needs to change for these women to also benefit from these initiatives?
Yes, our clients can be marginalized if senior management learns about the personal circumstances before they have had the chance to prove the commitment and skills they bring to the organization. We have seen this on a few occasions. Victims need a strong support system on the job until they are on their feet, with assigned mentors and the human resources department staff taking the lead.
If I Google you, what interesting fact would I not find?
I am also an avid outdoor sports lover, leading trips of young female volunteers on kayaking outings, jogging, tennis, etc.
If you could instantly change one government policy to help women what would it be?
Accumulate Social Security for women who are staying at home mothers.
What was your first job?
Staff Assistant for a Contracting Officer at US Agency for International Development.
Dr. Ludy Green is also a speaker member at the National Speakers Association.