As I commit to greater diversity and inclusion within the Mindful Return working parent community, I’m taking this opportunity to share publicly our recent work and specific, actionable commitments.
Last summer, George Floyd’s murder woke me up in new ways to our country’s long history of racism. I started asking more and more questions of myself and my own role in perpetuating systems I disagreed with.
Taking the advice that White people need to do the work of educating ourselves first, I started reading more about systemic racism, diversity, and how to be actively anti-racist. I added the #amplifymelanated voices section to the Mindful Return weekly newsletter. Attempted to put my money where my mouth was by, for example, sponsoring the State of Black Mothers in America Conference.
But it wasn’t enough. And I wasn’t sure what was next.
By October 2020, I took off my well-worn “I’ll figure this out alone hat.” I decided to hire a diversity consultant. But whom to hire? I turned first for suggestions to the person who was then the head of Diversity & Inclusion efforts at the law firm where I work. She wrote back immediately, recommending Denise Robinson of The Still Center. When I learned that Denise was (1) a working mom, (2) a former practicing lawyer, (3) a yoga and meditation instructor, and (4) already a fan of Mindful Return, I knew I had found an amazing match.
Kicking Off Our Formal Diversity Work
Denise first recommended that we establish some baseline data. I had no idea, for example, of the racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation profile of the Mindful Return alumni community. How can we measure progress, Denise asked, if we don’t know what we’re starting with? She suggested we begin with a survey of the entire course alumni community. Then, we would move on to focus groups. She would lead them, to dig deeper into alumni perspectives. So that’s exactly what we did.
I admit I feared the data would be awful from a diversity perspective. Why? Because a majority of Mindful Return alumni take our courses because their employers offer the program to them as a parental leave benefit. And because a majority of those employers are in industries that haven’t exactly been known for their diversity.
My fears, however, were a bit misplaced. Yes, we have lots of room for improvement on both diversity and inclusion – particularly in broadening the professions and industries we serve.
But it is also true that we are a diverse group of parents. Even now.
Here’s what the survey told us about the Mindful Return alumni community. We are:
- 91% female
- 9% male
- 10% Asian
- 7% Black
- 1% American Indian or Alaska Native
- 6% Hispanic or Latina/Latino/Latinx
- 4% Multi-Racial or Multi-Ethnic
- 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- 82% White
- 3% Single Mom By Choice
- 1% Single Parent
- 1% Co-Parent with Former Partner/Spouse
- 94% Married / Partnered Parent
- 10% Member of LGBTQ Community
In short, we are moving in good directions. And we are inspired to keep making Mindful Return as inclusive and supportive a working parent community as possible.
Commitments to Future Diversity & Inclusion Action
I’m a big believer in making specific, actionable commitments. I’m also a believer in being held accountable for them. Here is what I’m publicly committing to the Mindful Return community, in the months ahead:
- Financial Assistance for Our Courses: To make it easier for individuals to apply for financial assistance to take the Mindful Return courses, we just launched a formal and streamlined financial assistance application. Now anyone who wants to request full or partial course assistance doesn’t need to reach out by e-mail to make a request.
- Diverse Course Faculty: Over the coming months, you will see a number of new Mindful Return courses launched for the parent community. Spoiler Alert: Mindful Return 201 is coming in a few months for *all* burned-out working parents (not just those returning from parental leave), and we’re launching Spanish language and India Chapter courses, too. Faculty for these new courses will represent diverse racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender backgrounds.
- Weekly Newsletter’s #amplifymelanatedvoices Section Stays: We heard from a number of community members how much they appreciate the #amplifymelanated voices section that we added to our weeky Saturday Secrets newsletter last summer. We will continue this practice of amplifying diverse voices to get the word out about more working parent rockstars and resources.
- Bringing More Stories to Our Weekly Blogs: I learned from Denise’s focus group feedback that storytelling is an incredibly powerful and effective tool for Mindful Return. Weaving stories from a wide range of working parent experiences into our weekly blog posts and newsletter will help us to include more perspectives on working parent life. Stay tuned for our new Amplifying Stories series, beginning next week!
- Bringing Diverse Perspectives to Our Monthly Webinars: Mindful Return’s monthly webinar programming is another platform through which we commit to sharing more diverse views. A few weeks ago, we hosted a webinar entitled “Working Parenthood: An HR or Diversity Issue?”. It was an incredibly rich conversation, and you can listen to a replay here. We also received specific requests for more information around immigrant experiences and infertility. Both of these topics will be featured in our upcoming fall webinar book talk series with some amazing authors!
- September Book Talk: The Nanny Connie Way. On Thursday, September 30, from 12-1pm Eastern, join me in conversation with Connie Simpson, “nanny to the stars,” to discuss Nanny Connie’s book, The Nanny Connie Way. Register here!
- October Book Talk: The Infertility Epidemic. On Thursday, October 21, from 12-1pm Eastern, join me in conversation with Alex Johnson, to discuss Alex’s book, Inconceivable: My Life-Altering Eye-Opening Journey from Infertility to Motherhood. Register here!
- November: Parenting with an Accent. On Thursday, November 18, from 12-1pm Eastern, join me in conversation with Masha Rumer, to discuss Masha’s book, Parenting with an Accent: How Immigrants Honor Their Heritage, Navigate Setbacks, and Chart New Paths for Their Children. Register here!
- Completing Mia Henry’s Justice at Work Online Course: At the recommendation of a Mindful Return alum, I signed up for and started to complete the lessons in an online, self-paced course called Justice at Work: Understanding Power, Oppression, Resistance and Solidarity, created by Mia Henry of Freedom Lifted. I commit to completing the course materials and to spreading the word about this fantastic resource.
- Auditing the Mindful Return Website for Inclusive Language: My team and I will work on this project over time (given there is 7+ years of content on our website, it may take a bit). But we have already amended our “About” page and the introductory lessons to our courses to call out Mindful Return as an intentionally inclusive community. Feel free to reach out if you see places our language could be updated to further this mission.
Other Learnings from Our Focus Groups
Finally, I learned that focus groups are fabulous vehicles for general feedback – even beyond the originally designated topic of conversation!
From Denise’s feedback, I was heartened to hear that Mindful Return alumni find the Mindful Return community to be welcoming and authentic. Also, that its members appreciate my own transparency and personal stories in the trenches of working motherhood. Hearing that the content I share resonates and is helpful is truly what keeps me going. It’s what keeps me writing week after week after week. So thank you, alums, for sharing that feedback.
There were also a few other suggestions (not necessarily related to diversity and inclusion) that came out of the focus group conversation. I also commit to working on these in the months ahead:
- Creation of an Employer Toolkit: Alums would like a “how to convince your employer to offer as a benefit or reimburse for Mindful Return” toolkit that they can share with their employers to use in presenting the business case for covering the cost of our courses. What a fantastic idea! This is absolutely something we will be creating.
- Bring Retreats Back!: I heard loud and clear that alums would like us to bring back retreats, whether virtual, in-person, or both. I very much enjoyed leading both in-person retreats pre-COVID and a remote one in the thick of last year’s pandemic summer. And yes, I will bring them back in some way, shape, or form, in the coming year.
- More Resources in the Mindful Return Course: Alums suggested adding links to more mental health and legal resources within the Mindful Return course content. We will be incorporating these resources into the course. Great suggestions!
My Gratitude, to You, Fellow Parents
Thank you, Mindful Return community, for engaging so wholeheartedly in this survey and focus group work. You are already time-strapped working parents. And I know you have so little margin in your day. I also know you participated in this work with passion and gusto, because you care.
YOU are what keeps me going every day. YOU are what brings me to my laptop to keep writing. And YOU are what motivates me to want to make this the most inclusive and supportive community a working parent can be a part of.
With deep gratitude,
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave