During the pandemic, we have seen more of what our co-workers need to balance their home responsibilities along with their work responsibilities. Families across the country are facing a childcare crisis, but parents/guardians of color, especially mothers of color, have been grappling with the lack of affordable child care and lack of support for working families. In fact, Black (71%) and Latina (41%) mothers work at higher rates than white mothers. Additionally, mothers of color are more likely to be the primary economic supporters for their families than white mothers, and disproportionately work in low-wage jobs with nonstandard hours and inconsistent schedules, which make it challenging for them to stay in the workforce.
In this episode of Break the Bias, Holly Corbett, Director of Content for Consciously Unbiased (virtually) sits down with Tet Salva, founder of MomWarrior, for a unplugged conversation about why we need to implement policies that allow more opportunity, access, and mentorship to caregivers of color. Tet uses her voice as a woman of color, an immigrant, and a mother of four to amplify other caregivers of all life stages in the workplace, and offers advice on how leaders can step in to ensure that all employees can thrive at work and at home.
Read some key takeaways below.
HOLLY: What inspired you to start MomWarrior?
TET: “I wanted to shine the light on the challenges that working women face in the workplace, because back in 2017 this wasn’t widely talked about yet. I quickly realized that I had to look at my full limited experience as a woman of color, an immigrant, and a mother of four.
Caregivers of color face challenges that look very different from everybody else. Our barrier is not the ceiling, it’s rather a cement wall. I really wanted to highlight this with more intention and focus. The other reason I started MomWarrior was because I wanted to address the struggle that mothers face having to choose between caregiving and a career. I want to make sure that women have access and the infrastructure that allows them to do both without any stigma or cement barriers. I also wanted to focus my work on caregivers who are taking care of teens and tweens, because I feel like this demographic is not often looked at, and a lot of policies out there are for early childhood care, zero to five. I started discussions around how to put more effective benefits in place that really affect the life cycle of a caregiver from birth to end of life.”
HOLLY: Can talk a little bit about why it’s important to also focus on accommodating caregiving for all of the life stages, specifically tweens and teens?
TET: “I think this is critical because when you’re looking at care from zero to five, or zero to eight, and then eight to 16, the needs are completely different. For example, the curriculum at schools needs to be more structured and more up to date with the times. We’re not teaching kids financial literacy, cultural literacy, digital literacy, or things that will really affect them as they go out into the world. There are a lot of kids who don’t have that because they don’t have access to [digital and the internet].
Our policies are also not supporting people who’ve lost parents. We don’t get any support even at work, one or three days bereavement is not enough. Support is needed to be able to give these caregivers mental health resources or better infrastructure so that we can support parents and caregivers, because it’s a lot for them to be taking on.”
HOLLY: What do you think needs to happen to go beyond “performative allyship” so that we start to implement real action?
TET: “The onus is still on the caregivers as opposed to our employers or the government. The onus is still on us to do the change and to ask for, ‘Can I get some time off?’ Our companies need to start to see their employees as opposed to employers almost offering or mandating time off. Just recently, LinkedIn gave approval of one week off just to unplug, even without email. If companies started doing that a little bit more, I think you would see a workforce that is more loyal and a workforce that will show up for you, because you’ve shown up for them.”
HOLLY: What can you tell companies or leaders regarding what women, particularly women of color, need in the workplace to be able to thrive at work and at home?
TET: “Caregivers of color don’t have access. I believe lack of access is the biggest reason why we have the wage gap. If you have access and if you’re given a foot in the door you can lean in, pull a folding chair up, and put it next to the table. But, until we have access, we can’t really do any of that. We don’t have the same networks that our colleagues and our peers have. We are not in the same room as these people who are making the decisions or who might be our advocates. I think leaders who are in those rooms and who have the ability to influence and really change things need to open the door and give us a chance and give us access.”
HOLLY: Do you think it’s a leader’s responsibility to model behavior as well as give permission when it comes to giving mothers of color access to opportunities?
TET: “I think the leadership has a lot of accountability here. First, they’re already in those spaces. If you look at the leadership dynamic, there’s not a lot of women of color in leadership positions. For those women, who’ve made it up to those ranks, make it a point to mentor other women of color. Don’t do it performatively, but really see how you can provide access for these women who want to elevate and advance their careers. But, for the people who are already in the room and who have the ability to do it, modeling the behavior is important. It’s walking the talk. For instance, it’s having your kid come into your zoom frame and being okay with it, not flinching but rather simply saying, ‘Hey, this is my child.’”
HOLLY: What are some things that companies and leaders can do to provide access to women of color so that they can impact advancement?
TET: “Mentoring is a big thing. At MomWarriors, we have been focusing on mentoring women who have been out of the workforce and are trying to get back to work. For leaders it’s about being open to mentoring women of color. I think this will open doors for them. Provide programs like rotations so they’re able to get a feel for the job and see if that’s really something that they like.
Professional development is also important. Provide professional training opportunities to these women. Sometimes the training programs that happen in companies are based on a selection process. So, open it up and get people there. Lastly, if you have employee resource groups, as a leader, put value on them by giving these ERGs a seat at the table as you work on policies and programs for your company. Give them the voice to do that, because these are people who already know who are experiencing the things. If you value them, don’t only give them a seat at the table, but also give them resources or pay their ERG means for the work that they do.”
HOLLY: There are still 1.5 million women out of the workforce. What advice, solutions, or policies can you offer to address bringing the women who have left back into the workforce?
TET: “There are companies that have programs that are hiring people who have gaps in their resumes, people who are caregivers, or people have gone out of the workforce. It’s just a matter of finding them. I do think that if you are somebody who’s been out of the workforce, seek out a mentor. Finding a really good mentor who is really willing to help is beneficial. it just takes one introduction and it takes just one person to say, ‘yes, come on in.’”
HOLLY: What are some of the biggest benefits to companies accommodating caregivers in the workplace?
TET: “There’s neuroscience research out there that shows your brain changes dramatically when you give birth to a child. You get enhanced emotional intelligence and you learn to become more empathetic. That is why they say moms can multitask. There is hardwiring in the brain that happens and allows us to listen to a crying baby and do other things at the same time. There are a lot of skills that are transferable when you become a parent.”
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