Unlocking career paths for women impacted by the criminal justice system

With unemployment at near-record levels in the United States, business leaders frequently cite hiring as a challenge to the success and continued growth of their businesses.

At the same time, more than 70 million people in the United States have criminal records that make it much more difficult to match their skills, experience and willingness to work with opportunities within companies at the time. talent search.

Partner of Virgin Unite, The LOHM, addresses this issue from both sides, matching skilled and motivated women with career opportunities in exceptional companies. The LOHM was started by a prolific entrepreneur, Topeka K Sam, and launched the Course 4 Equity career scholarship program in 2021.

Fellows in the program are selected for their experience and commitment to continued professional growth and all, like Topeka, are impacted by the criminal justice system. Fellows work together for 12 months, including three months of intense personal and professional development, followed by a nine-month full-time paid fellowship (or direct full-time employment at a partner company).

The first cohort of fellows completed their three-month development phase late last year – you can meet some of them on The LOHM website. While ambition and commitment are qualities that unite Pathways 4 Equity Scholars, their skills and backgrounds are incredibly diverse – including computer programming, aerospace, and graduate studies in the social sciences.

The LOHM team recruits fellows whose interests and experience match those of its partner companies. At the same time, it seeks partner companies that correspond to the professional aspirations and passions of the scholarship recipients. One of the founding business partners of LOHM is pristine orbit. The satellite company hosted Topeka and the LOHM team at its Long Beach factory late last year for a company-wide fireside chat, with their people manager, Johanna Kent, and Virgin Orbit, Monica Gangwar, who also spoke at the graduation of the first cohort of scholarships. Party.

LOHM contributors also include Third Point Capital (a leading hedge fund), Block (which owns the Square cash app), Chanel, the NFL and beyond. It is also actively recruiting new business partners and fellows as the program expands.

Rates of women being reached by the criminal justice system are skyrocketing. While efforts to reform the criminal justice system have helped lower incarceration rates for men in some states, these efforts have largely left women out.

Once a person has been convicted in the past, there are literally thousands of laws and other collateral consequences that can trap them in unemployment or low-paying jobs.

The prison population for men fell by 9% from 2008 to 2018, while the prison population for women increased by 15% The number of women incarcerated in the United States has exploded in recent decades, increasing 700% in 40 years. Women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population.

Once a person has a past conviction, there is literally thousands of laws and other collateral consequences that can lock them into unemployment or low-wage jobs. Cultural stigma adds an additional barrier, preventing people from growing beyond their challenges or getting a second chance after a mistake. As a result, an incredible amount of human talent and potential is overlooked and underutilized.


Much of the work LOHM does is aimed at preventing these convictions in the first place, by disrupting the cycles of poverty, addiction, mental health issues and trauma that the criminal justice system too often responds to instead of other forms of support. As they and others build on this work, a growing number of people – and especially women – find it difficult to unlock the professional opportunities that match their skills and interests once they have a file.

Virgin Unite is incredibly proud of its partnership with LOHM and business leaders from organizations such as Virgin Orbit who come together to tackle the barriers faced by women with passion and skill, but no pathway to realize opportunity.

If you are looking for talent to grow your business, contact the LOHM team here and apply to become a Pathways 4 Equity Business Partner.

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