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Work-Family Challenges Facing Women of Color

by Kuae Kelch Mattox National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.


Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel on work family challenges facing women of color at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C.  CAP is about to release a report on some of the broader policy issues on women of color and work family challenges. They have found, as have I, that when people talk about work family balance, black women are often not a part of the discussion, which harms the overall debate on fundamental economic stability and important issues that affect families. As we know, many women of color are disproportionately affected by public policy, or the lack of, with regard to issues such as raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, paid sick days, flexible scheduling and working from home.

For those of you who are working moms, or just back to work, an even those of you who work from home, these are very important issues that impact our lives and the lives of our families. We all know that there are heavier burdens on women of color in the workplace, and particularly among the well educated and motivated. We are faster to be stereotyped and categorized as lazy, too aggressive or emotional. Many of us have greater difficulty navigating workplace dynamics. Some of us feel a need to downplay or race/ethnicity and gender to succeed, and when it comes to the companies for which we work, we have a tendency to doubt our employer’s true commitment to diversity and we often believe their are limited opportunities for promotion.

We also know that at home, women of color are grappling with complex issues. The achievement gap in which many of our children have fallen continues to plague us, and we work tirelessly at home with our children on school work and projects to make sure that they don’t fall through the cracks. Many women of color are also more likely to take financial responsibility for people other than their own children, and particularly in under-resourced communities. We are also part of the sandwich generation, caring or our own children and often our parents.

Work and family responsibilities take an enormous toll on ourselves, our spouses and our children, causing stress that affects family relationships, healthcare, exercise and well being. These are issues that must be discussed in the open so we can find ways to alleviate these challenges and also put pressure on employers to continually work to improve and implement policies that will help us. Before participating in this panel, we asked many of you via social media what were some of your work-family challenges and what policies could help. A special thank you for your comments about some of the unique issues that women of color face. Included among your policy suggestions were vouchers or credits or rebate programs for childcare, simple retirement programs for women entrepreneurs, more flexible schedules and greater work at home opportunities.

The panel last week was moderated by Dr. Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at CAP. Many of us had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Frye when we visited The White House for our historic moms summit in 2012. She worked previously for the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Director of Policy and Special Projects for the First Lady . Joining me on the panel was Jenny Yang, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Adriana Kugler, vice provost of Georgetown University and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. It was a fascinating discussion about many of the issues we face, supported by data, with strong input and comments from members of the audience. Hope you might have some time to click on this link to the entire panel discussion, and looking forward to continuing to push for better solutions to the work-family challenges that affect us.

WATCH the panel video here

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