NEW YORK — The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of Sarita Gupta as director of its Future of Work(ers) program based in New York. In this role, she will lead the team that oversees Ford’s efforts to actively shape a future of work that puts workers and their well-being at the center. Gupta will begin her new position in October 2019, succeeding current director John Irons who joined the foundation in 2016 to lead a broad body of work on inclusive economies.
Gupta joins the foundation from Jobs With Justice and Caring Across Generations, both of which she serves as co-Executive Director. A nationally recognized expert on the economic, labor, and political issues affecting working people, Gupta brings deep expertise in advocacy, with more than 20 years of experience building partnerships across the workers’ rights and care movements.
“We are thrilled to welcome Sarita to the foundation. She has been an extraordinary partner over the years, and will be a tremendous addition to our team,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “As we engage more deeply on the future of work, Sarita’s passion and expertise will be invaluable to our efforts to ensure that as the future of work evolves, workers and their rights remain at the center.”
Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Rochester, New York, Gupta began her social justice career as a student leader at Mount Holyoke College when she was elected President of the United States Student Association, representing millions of students from Capitol Hill to the White House. For example, working closely with President Bill Clinton’s Policy Council, she campaigned and won a significant change to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare to Work bill), to include education as part of the work requirements. This change ensured that millions of students on public assistance could continue to pursue higher education as a pathway to economic opportunity and stability. After college, her passion as a grassroots activist and community organizer continued to grow as she held several leadership roles at Chicago Jobs With Justice, and then with the national Jobs With Justice organization, where she was named executive director in 2007.
Gupta led the organization’s work expanding the ability of workers to come together to improve their workplaces, communities, and lives by creating real solutions to the challenges they face. Under her leadership, the organization has been on the frontlines of successful organizing and policy campaigns to improve labor and civil rights protections for immigrants, and to boost wages, bargaining rights, and working conditions, including spearheading the first-ever ordinance that improved job schedules and hours for retail and restaurant workers in San Francisco.
"Reimagining a future where work is fair and dignified for all people is my life’s work. And I’m honored that the foundation has entrusted me to help carry forward its mission to reduce inequality in all its forms,” said Gupta. “I’m truly excited to join a talented and committed team and share the lessons I learned on the frontlines."
As co-executive director at Caring Across Generations, Gupta steered a national movement of families, caregivers, people with disabilities, and aging Americans working to transform the way the nation approaches caregiving. From balancing care for young children to care for aging family members, she led the organization’s work to develop policy solutions that create a much-needed care infrastructure, and provide high-quality, affordable options for people who need care or reliable caregivers.
Gupta succeeds John Irons, whose expertise and experience in economics and philanthropy helped to steer and shape a multi-dimensional program on inclusive economies – including impact investing, social protections, consumer financial protections, and labor rights. His thoughtful and steady leadership was critical as programming strategies were sharpened to focus on the future of work and its workers more broadly, creating the rich foundation for Gupta and the Future of Work(ers) team going forward.
“Sarita is joining the foundation at a truly extraordinary time when we are seeing new debates and approaches on how to build a future in which workers – particularly low wage, people of color, and women workers – have increased economic security,” said Maria Torres-Springer, vice president of U.S. Programs. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have such an accomplished leader join the foundation and are immensely grateful to John Irons who has been instrumental in leading and shaping our efforts to bring dignity to the future of work.”
Gupta earned a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College, with studies in Women, Health, and Society. She has served on the boards of several organizations, including Restaurant Opportunities Center United, the International Labor Rights Forum, and General Services Foundation. She currently sits on the boards of Care In Action, Labor Network for Sustainability. Institute for Policy Studies, United States Student Association Foundation, and WILL Empower (Women In Labor Leadership). A Hunt Alternatives Fund Prime Movers Fellow and a graduate of the Rockwood Leadership Training Program, Gupta has received a number of awards and accolades, including the National Women’s Law Center Annual Leadership Award, the Francis Perkins Open Door Award, Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Achievement Award, and Corporate Ethics International’s BENNY Award.