Skip to content

Staffing agency created by Northeastern law student would provide disadvantaged women crucial workforce training

Mary DeVega is still in the process of launching her startup, MPowered, but its potential was recognized with a 2024 Women Who Empower Innovator Award.

Staffing agency worker reviews a paper while helping a client.
Mary DeVega (not pictured) wants her staffing agency to empower women to get back into the workforce to not only survive, but thrive. Getty Images

For years, Mary DeVega, 34, advised relatives, friends and friends of friends on how to ask for a raise at work, solicit more resources or get promoted. 

Once, she says, a friend even told her, “You’re such an empowering friend to have.” 

“The question is always, ‘How do I advocate for myself?’ and that’s really something that I’ve learned during my pre-law journey, during my time with the Northeastern School of Law,” says DeVega, who is pursuing a degree in public law and policy after receiving her undergraduate degree from Northeastern in 2022.

Headshot of Mary DeVega, founder of Mpowered, a staffing agency for disadvantaged women.
Mary DeVega is pursuing a graduate degree in public law and policy, after receiving her undergraduate degree from Northeastern in 2022.

Volunteering at the Justice and Diversity Legal Clinic in San Francisco, DeVega says, helped her hone her advocacy instincts and realize that many women needed help learning new skills and getting a job.

Most women came to the clinic looking for answers to family law questions, she says, but many of them didn’t have the money or professional skills to re-enter the workforce after a divorce or death of a significant other.

Two years ago, she was talking to her sister on the phone, while drinking a Nespresso coffee on a sunny Wednesday morning. The conversation turned to self-advocacy in the workplace.

It was then that DeVega realized that she could use her education, experience and desire to empower women to do something meaningful.

An idea for a business was born.

She wanted to open a staffing agency for disadvantaged women that would provide them with the necessary training and professional development to land a job or further their careers.

DeVega is still in the process of launching her startup, MPowered, but its potential was recently recognized by Northeastern with first place in the 2024 Women Who Empower Innovator Awards in the graduate student category.

“I have yet to see a staffing firm that does all of that — that not only services women, but really empowers them to get back out into the workforce, not really only for them to survive, but really thrive,” DeVega says.

She is confident that the Women Who Empower community and Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem will help provide the resources needed to get her business off the ground.

DeVega also plans to use her network in the San Francisco area to help her clients secure administrative jobs in the tech industry. She not only wants to help women get jobs, but keep them, so they no longer need to rely on overwhelmed public programs.

After finalizing a professional development training curriculum DeVega plans to partner with homeless shelters and domestic violence centers to help as many women as possible to become independent.

Eventually, she wants to work with government agencies and integrate MPowered into their initiatives that fight homelessness and address social issues.

“I think that keeping a job and finding a job are two areas that we fail to put more emphasis on,” DeVega says. “Because if you don’t empower people to want to work and keep a job and maintain a job, we will forever be overloaded in our public assistance programs.”

Ultimately, she hopes she can not only help women find jobs, but explore life-changing careers.

“Empowering women and championing women in the workforce is so important to me,” she says. “I personally have gone through a similar thing where I put my own career and my own education on the back burner so that my ex-husband could go to school.”

DeVega previously worked the insurance industry and currently works in higher education. Good, stable jobs, she says, are important while going through a separation. And especially after a divorce.

“I have come to realize just how privileged and how grateful I was to have the opportunities that I had,” DeVega says. “Thankfully, I had a job, and, thankfully, I had my education.”

She says older women can sometimes find themselves at a disadvantage — especially if they’ve been out of work for a longer stretch.

“It’s really difficult to get your footing, to get back up on your feet, because we’re competing in an environment, in a society where the younger generation are incredibly educated, incredibly skilled, with so much competition,” she says.

DeVega believes MPowered is her calling. At the same time, she knows there’s so much work to be done.

Women Who Empower, DeVega says, is a champion of the underrepresented.

“It helps address gender barriers and disparities in the workforce and levels the playing field for a lot of women — to have that fair chance to succeed in their careers,” DeVega says. 

“As women, we owe it to ourselves to be the leaders that we want to be — to do whatever fulfills you,” she says. “I think we owe it to ourselves to push for that.”