When Tanya Hayles founded the popular online community Black Moms Connection (BMC), she didn’t want the group’s goal to be merely inspirational – she wanted tangible results for black mothers in the community.
“The mums in the group were asking questions like, ‘How can I start a business?’ or, ‘How can I save for my child’s education?’ I wanted a program that would fill that gap,” she says.
Launched as a Facebook group with 12 women in 2015, the nonprofit has since become a go-to destination for Black mothers seeking support, guidance and community, boasting more than 25,000 members and chapters in cities in North America and Asia.
The need for the group has been particularly acute during the pandemic, says Ms. Hayles. She notes that while all women have faced challenges, black women and mothers have been particularly affected as they tend to be over-represented as frontline workers, child care providers and care workers. health, making them more vulnerable to the virus. A recent report released by the Canadian Women’s Foundation reveals that the most perilous front-line jobs are typically held by Black, immigrant or racialized women.
“Black women haven’t had the luxury of working remotely or trying to help their kids with virtual learning,” Ms. Hayles says. “And it becomes more worrying when they have to deal with multiple charges – [such as] the racial and gender pay gap.
For Ms. Hayles, a single mother, the issue of childcare is a pressing issue at the heart of BMC’s mission.
“Parents who have to work part-time, evenings and weekends need to know that their children are in a safe space,” she says. “During my last research, I discovered that there were only two 24-hour child care centers in the GTA. One is in Brampton and the other is in Barrie, that’s it! I would like to open the third,” she said.
Resources and advice designed for black mothers
One of the main pillars of BMC’s programming is the organization’s financial literacy program, FinLit U. The free eight-week program covers topics such as budgeting, investing, wills and estates – all designed for black mothers.
Brampton consultant and educator Rahel Appiagyei-David, a regular attendee at BMC events, stresses the importance of the group’s approach to programming.
“It gives me access to a group of like-minded women, as well as financial advisors in the community who know where I’m from,” says Ms Appiagyei-David, who has also served as FinLit U program coordinator. “It has helped me manage my own business while tackling personal finance issues where I can counsel my children on investment, income and tax matters in a culturally relevant way.”
Ms. Hayles cites the Government of Canada’s budgeting tool as an example of a resource that was not designed with the needs of Black women in mind.
“The tool suggests that the average Canadian spends $30 per trip to get their hair done. And of course, all the moms [in our group] started laughing because, first of all, our hair care products alone can cost us $30, and you’ll never find a Black hair salon that can do braids, hair twists, all those things for this amount. I’ve never paid $30 to have my hair done and as long as I live, that’s not a price we’ll see,” she says.
“So it’s that nuance that a black-led financial literacy program brings to the table,” Ms. Hayles says. “And that makes all the difference.”
Ask women and work
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Question: I lead a team of very energetic and creative people. We really bonded during the pandemic through Zoom and Slack, with lots of jokes and banter between work. But I feel like in the past few months, the familiarity has gotten a little too extreme. There are too many jokes, teasing and personal comments. I need to put the brakes on this, but the truth is my team is efficient and I don’t want to undermine morale. How can I handle this without coming across as the fun-loving “mom”?
We asked Jana Raver, E. Marie Shantz Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, to present this one.:
There seems to be a fine line here between having fun at work and that stage in incivility, where too much joking and teasing can lead people to take it the wrong way. When someone has reached this limit and does something a little inappropriate, it is important to prevent this kind of incivility from setting in. Like you said, you don’t want to be the fun mom, but you can fix that by saying something like, “Hey, let’s tone it down a bit.” Or, ‘Let’s think of another way to present this.’
If these types of incidents get really serious, you may need to address them privately. But I don’t read from this question that there is any extreme incivility or abuse going on. If you do it as a formal meeting, it can sometimes become more important than it probably is, like “Oh-oh, I have a meeting with the boss”. And it could actually make the situation worse and hurt the team.
It is actually more normative to contain it publicly. This way everyone is on the same page and you all have common expectations of the limit for the team.
In addition to dealing with these types of incidents as they occur, as a team leader you also need to do some soul-searching. Ask yourself, ‘What are limits ? What is acceptable behavior and what is not? What are the values that we must defend in this team? Building a respectful workplace is basically saying, “This is who we are.
Once you answer those questions, I would speak to the team in a positive way and say, “One of the things I’ve always loved about this team is how well we get along. Good. I like that we are friendly with each other, but we also have to make professionalism a key value. We need to maintain that level of respect for everyone and not push it too far.
By emphasizing respect and kindness for one another, your team will know what the norm is and understand the values you are trying to uphold.
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