You Probably Won’t Read This, but: ‘4 Ways to Include Moms in Tech’ [from #TechInclusion16]’

Image c/o #WoCinTechChat

Okay, so Tech Inclusion was WEEKS ago — which basically means it’s from the Jurassic Era, in tech terms.

But, after last week’s nation-wide shitshow, I decided it was time for me to step up my game and share more of my learnings with my community. After working with the Change Catalyst team at Tech Inclusion (Kriz Bell tapped me to chip in as a volunteer and help runsocial media for the conference), I was left with a lot of learnings — one of which we don’t often talk about in tech:

Working Moms. Moms in the workforce, Moms forced to leave the workforce, and Moms trying their damndest to reenter the workforce.

Below, you’ll find my learnings from #TechInclusion16 on how we can actively support moms in the workforce:

Item 1: Taking the “Pipeline Problem” One Step Further

In diversity and tech work, there’s this weird bias against talking about moms. Because, if we address the issues facing moms — there are a whole bunch of intersectional issues that we also have to tackle. So, because we’re lazy, we focus on “buliding the pipeline” and trying to get more girls interested in STEM.

Now, I’m not saying we *shouldn’t* support girls interest in STEM — but what happens, say, when they graduate from college with a STEM degree and enter the technical workforce? And they survive unconscious bias and outright misogyny for years, and then one day, decide to become a mom. Well, shit son, everything just got so much harder.

Item 2: Create Spaces for Moms

Fun fact: Many moms choose to breastfeed for YEARS. Long after a mom returns to work, they still need a space to pump. You may have seen the press article about how a majority of tech companies have space set up to bring your PET to work, but not space set up for those who need to pump breast milk. Jesus, really y’all?

Something awesome to see at #TechInclusion16 was signage for a nursing room at the conference. Tina Lee, founder and CEO of MotherCoders, teamed up with Change Catalyst (conference organizers) to have a nursing room. We published the nursing room all over social media, and it was so appreciated.

And it was simple to set up. Get a room with a lock on it, some tissues, hand sanitizers and chairs (a fridge is also helpful) and some comfy chairs. Voila! A Mothers Room is born.

ACTION TO TAKE: If you’re not a mom (or if you are one!) email your HR department right now to make sure you have a mother’s room. Also, the next time you look at attending a tech conference, check to make sure they have accomodations for nursing moms. No accommodations? No conference ticket purchase — and tweet at the conference letting them know why.

And, while you’re at it — take a look at your company’s maternity leave policy. Some companies will say they have a “maternity leave policy” when actually they expect employees to go on disability, at the fraction of the pay they would have.

It’s MUCH more expensive to rehire and train someone, than it is to pay maternity leave to an employee who will return to the company.

In an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, had this to say about the business sense of maternity leave:

“Wojcicki reported the rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50% when in 2007 it increased paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks. “Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it’s much better for Google’s bottom line — to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills, and perspective of our employees who are mothers.”

Item 3: Understand the “Motherhood Penalty”

More incindary than having pet perks and not support for moms, is the “Motherhood Penalty.” You can read more about this in this paper out of the Clayman Institute at Stanford, but, basically — dads get a bonus for being fathers, and moms get a penalty.

ACTION TO TAKE: Be aware and call out others for making deragotry comments about moms, like, “So easy my mom/grandma can do it” and, give verbal props to moms if you’re going to give them to dads.

Item 4: Offer Returnships

A “returnship” is a lot like an “internship,” except it helps people who have left the workforce reenter. Reentry can be a HUGE barrier, especially if you’ve been out of the tech industry, for even a year.

A returnship is valuable because the person comes back to work with knowledge on how to be an employee, work in teams, technical know-how, etc. And, in today’s tech hiring crunch, it should be a lot more popular than it is.

ACTION TO TAKE: As you prepare job postings for summer internships, include “returnships” — you’ll be floored by the sheer number of applicants you get. Check out Goldman Sachs and The Muse for resources and ideas on how to start a program, as well as PathForward. (And be sure to send job postings to the folks at MotherCoders!)

Item 5: Pony Up

Organizations like MotherCoders exist because of donations. Take advantage of that company match program, and donate, to help Moms reenter the workforce.

You can donate to MotherCoders here.