Foundation releases new research on “Employment Empowerment” during National Career Development Month

The DeBruce Foundation’s first-of-its-kind report has identified a path to employment empowerment, meaning higher salaries, more job security, better benefits, and more.

Kansas City, MO, Nov. 15, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The DeBruce Foundation today shared new research that defines two key factors of “employment empowerment,” meaning higher salaries, more job security, and better benefits.

The study identifies two factors over which the individual can have a meaningful degree of control: career literacy and network strength. It also reveals ways in which organizations who want to expand career pathways with individuals can do so.

In fall 2020, The DeBruce Foundation initiated a longitudinal trend survey to assess patterns of employment, income, and work conditions in America. Now, after surveying 16,000 people, the findings point to a formula: career literacy + network strength = employment empowerment

Study participants who exhibit high career literacy and strong networks have more employment empowerment than those with lower career literacy and weaker networks. Of those surveyed who rated high in employment empowerment:

  • They earn 55% more in annual average salary 
  • 26% more of them are currently employed 
  • They consider 17% more jobs outside their current career paths 

In addition, “empowered” participants reported having better benefits, more autonomy over work conditions and schedule, and an accumulation of more savings for emergency and long-term needs.

The Foundation’s research showed only 34% of people are “employment empowered.”  Of the remaining 66%: 

  • 9% of respondents were connected (network strength) but not informed (career literacy)
  • 16% were informed but not connected 
  • 41% were neither informed nor connected, which The Foundation defines as employment “challenged”

“In this dynamic economy, knowing what separates those who are ‘employment empowered’ from those who are ‘employment challenged’ calls us to reframe how we prepare people to launch careers and navigate career transitions across their lifetimes,” said Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of The DeBruce Foundation. “The good news is that career literacy can be developed through educational experiences, and network strength can be built in structured initiatives. Together, we can build employment empowerment and change the outlook of careers.” 

Career literacy, as defined by The DeBruce Foundation for this survey, includes a vision for one’s career, self-awareness of one’s skills and interests, capacity to communicate one’s professional value, robust job search skills, and capability to explore multiple career pathways.  

Individuals with a strong network have multiple connections spanning a diversity of industries, education levels, and social backgrounds. Network strength is a function of the diversity and supportiveness of an individual’s professional and personal networks.

The report highlights several organizations across the country using career literacy tools developed by the Foundation combined with the other important piece of the formula – building strong networks – such as the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Rung for Women in St. Louis, and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. 

"Most of the job seekers I work with are experiencing workforce challenges and don't know how to navigate a career change,” said Dan Denniston, Academic Career Counselor, Indiana Department of Workforce Development. “I've seen, first hand, that when we elevate their career literacy and their professional network, they achieve greater career success and satisfaction."

The DeBruce Foundation will continue this longitudinal trend survey to track employment empowerment, career literacy, and network strength in the American workforce over time. They invite civic leaders, workforce development professionals, and educators to use this research to build employment empowerment. Read the full report at

About The DeBruce Foundation:

The DeBruce Foundation is a national foundation whose mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity. The Foundation is committed to helping individuals unlock their potential and find career pathways. By developing solutions such as the Agile Work Profiler, we change how people pursue careers. By partnering strategically, we increase experiences and exposure to widen career opportunities, starting with youth and working across the lifespan. Learn more at

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Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight

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