Advocacy for equity

Student internship focused on pregnancy discrimination.

Social work student Katarine Malone made some surprising discoveries last summer during an internship. Some of the learning was personal. “I didn’t think I’d like research,” she says. “But once I was researching something I cared about, it was a lot more fun.”

Malone interned at Gender Justice, an organization based in St. Paul that influences policy, educates and fights for the rights of all people, regardless of gender.

After Malone was hired on as an advocacy intern, she was assigned to work on a pregnancy discrimination project. “I got to interview people from different professions and see what their experiences with pregnancy discrimination were like,” she says.

Gender Justice helped to get the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) passed in Minnesota in 2014. The act protects against pregnancy discrimination. It also extends to breastfeeding, paid time off and many others facets of life during pregnancy and postpartum.

“I ended up finding that there were a lot of violations with the law,” Malone says, noting that “people are violating the law because they don’t know what’s in it. It’s a lack of knowledge, not malice.”

Finding the Right Fit

Malone secured the internship through a course taught by Sara Lien, UMD’s Master of Social Work program field director.

Lien acted as a counselor for Malone, helping her to discover which areas of social work she wanted to pursue. “I wanted to explore how social work and legislation can work together,” Malone says. “What kind of work is out there on that macro level?”

With Lien’s help, Malone applied to Gender Justice and secured her internship. While working there, Malone found herself embroiled in complex legislation and policies.

According to Malone, though, it was just the right fit. “It really confirmed for me that that’s the kind of work I want to do,” she says. “I gained more confidence in myself and my work, and I find that completely invaluable.”

About the UMD Master of Social Work program

This story was written by UMD student Erika Doetkott, who is majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Erika assists Lissa Maki with communications for the College of Education and Human Service Professions.