Can you tell us a little bit about your experience that has led to your passion and work around sort of women and moms in the workplace?
So before I dive in, I want to preface all of this with the fact that I'm coming from a place of being a white straight woman. So there's a little bit of privilege behind what I'm saying. And I think that there are others who definitely have more difficult experiences than me. But I think that this is an important conversation to have for all women. I have a one and a half-year-old and a three and a half-year-old and any woman that I've talked to you that's in that time, it's a very intense time for the family experience.
So when I first started my career, I had a very clear trajectory that I was going to be a Hospital Foundation CEO. I was laser-focused on that. And then I had kids and everything blew up. All of a sudden, that goal that I had set for myself didn't really feel like something that resonated with me and the new place I was at with having children. Also, my view of the sector changed because all of a sudden, I realized that the impact that we're making, especially in our community is going to affect my children and the next generation. So all of a sudden, I'm looking at the sector a little bit differently. My goals are changing. And I also needed autonomy to balance, working and motherhood. But I knew I needed to stay within the sector because that passion really fueled me and the work I did outside the home made me a better mother inside the home.
It sounds like your experience was similar to a lot of other people that you were talking to. What kind of support or lack of support exists for parents in this stage of their lives?
So I was a little bit surprised. I knew this existed, this kind of challenge of working moms. And beyond working moms, parents, caregivers, that our sector was - is very traditional. Once I started to put myself out there and said, “this is who I am, my business is about balance and helping other organizations find balance”, so many women started reaching out to me, privately. Women are still scared to have this conversation. That they need balance in their lives to be a good mother, to be a good employee, to be a good nonprofit professional.
And even if it's explicitly said that you're supported, oftentimes, implicitly, you really don't feel that way. What have you heard from people around that experience?
Completely right. I think our sector is unique because unless you're in a really big shop, there's not often HR departments. So even if, as you said, there's a policy in place for a flexible work environment, is that actually happening and what are employees supposed to do, if that's not happening? There have been women who have told me they've been passed up for promotions because they're being told it's not the right time while they're visibly pregnant. Meeting all of their performance goals, employers are joking with their employees saying, you know, "now, don't go get pregnant on me!" But you know, when you're saying this to a young professional who is likely in a vulnerable state when they're thinking about their career planning and how their family planning is going to impact them, we have to be very careful with our words and what employers are doing to support and create a truly supportive environment.
I think most working parents but especially working moms laugh at that viral video about the BBC interview where the kid walks into the room. But that's the reality for so many of us. And if you feel like you have to hide it, you can't really be present in any of those spaces.
I think there's also a time and place for your kids to be there and not be there. And I definitely felt the pain of the reporter but that's the reality is we're all humans. We all have a million things on the go, whether it's kids or whether you're caring for an elderly parent, there's so much going on in the background that creates who you are that we need to acknowledge in the workplace to make kind of healthier, happier workers.
Yeah. This is true, like we have very flexible work arrangements for our team, regardless of if they’re parents or not. If you need a day you need a day. I don't care if you have a doctor's note, but when they show up, they're showing up with 150% of their A-game. If they need a break, please take it because the staff are our most important resource.
Absolutely. That triggers something that I had heard from somebody else. She had said, “Wouldn't the most loyal employee be a parent or caregiver who has this supportive and accommodating workplace because they need to know that they have that flexibility in that job security? So they're going to do whatever they can for their employer if their employer is giving that to them?”
Yeah, I want to create a work environment where my staff never want to leave me. But I also want to create opportunities for them to grow and leave at some point. But, in the meantime, we should have the very best working place because I have to go in every day, and I want to see people who are smiling back at me.
What is the impact employees leaving on our donors, on our mission, on the work that we're doing? If we can retain employees and keep them happy, keep them engaged. I think it's going to increase our revenues. It's going to increase the real authentic relationships we have with our donors because that employee is staying in place.
We talked about some recommendations or opportunities to create these kinds of environments. One, we talked about a flex work environment and having some opportunity to focus on getting the work done instead of bums in seats. And then we also talked about families within our work environments, and specifically with young women. What are some other opportunities? What are some other things that we can do to create an environment where it doesn't feel like we're going to be punished for having kids?
I think one of the most important things is to co-create these environments with staff. So if you're an employer and you have young staff that will be heading to kind of that family planning point in their career, have an authentic real conversation with them about what type of flexibility they need. How can we create remote work opportunities, or how can we create built-in accountability measures? We have to make sure that the work is getting done.
I also think that employers really need to be mindful of the tone they're setting in the environment and not working over hours. Because if you set that tone, it's an unspoken rule that that is being expected of your staff.
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The Small Nonprofit is produced by Eloisa Jane Mariano