Last week on the Mindful Return blog, we announced our 7 specific ongoing diversity and inclusion commitments (Mindful Return’s Diversity Commitments: Reporting Out from My Work with a Diversity Consultant). One of these commitments was to use the power of storytelling, to weave the perspectives of a wide range of working parent experiences into our weekly blog posts and newsletters. We decided to launch an “Amplifying Stories” series, which you’ll see featured on the blog over the course of the coming months.
Today, I’m delighted to kick off this series with an interview with Evette Stair. Evette is a Black woman lawyer of two small children and an in-house attorney at a biotech company. She and I met at a Women in Law leadership summit in Philadelphia in 2018, and she is an alum of the Mindful Return program.
Tune in below for her important perspectives on work, race, and motherhood – especially her advice to those of us who seek to be Allies to the Black community.
Mindful Return: Evette! Welcome to the Mindful Return blog. First, we’d love to hear a bit about your working parent story. Where do you live? How old are your kids? And what type of work do you do?
Evette: I live in Westchester, NY. My kids are 2 and 4. And I’m an attorney in-house at a biotech company.
Mindful Return: What inspired you to do the type of work you’re doing?
Evette: I am a lawyer because I don’t have a secret passion project with an arts bend 🙂 J/K/ Kind of. I am a lawyer because I enjoy reading and writing and process.
Mindful Return: What was your biggest challenge heading back to work after having a baby?
Evette: My biggest challenge heading back to work was wanting to prove that I was an exceptional employee, while proving to myself that I could be an exceptional mother, despite the guilt. I felt judged by everyone and I was tired.
Mindful Return: How has being a member of Black community shaped your working parent experience?
Evette: Being the parent of Black children means living with fear. The fear comes in many forms. There’s the small annoying fears. Did that person comment on my kid’s hair because it is Black hair? To the sad fears. Is my pediatrician accurately diagnosing my kid’s skin condition, given that medical textbooks consistently fail to provide presentations on Black skin? To the paralyzing fear. Will my kid be shot by a cop or some neighbor who fears Black skin?
And as a Black working parent, you have to shoulder all that fear and come to work. And outperform your peers. And hide any emotion (can’t be successful while being perceived as an angry Black woman). All while shouldering your own burdens at work.
The slights of people using “Blaccents” to talk to you, or the jabs disguised as praise (“you’re so eloquent”), to the being underpaid for the value you add, to being expected to be a voice of diversity in all its forms, despite having to bear the brunt of the harm for the lack of diversity, to the callousness of “All lives Matter”.
As a Black working parent, you take all the fear, all the hurt, and you show up every day. You perform through it all. It is exhausting.
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish individual Allies of Black mamas would do or know?
Evette: We are all swimming in the same poisoned waters. Minorities are exposed to the same dangerous rhetoric that creates unconscious and conscious bias. Yet oftentimes, it fall on minorities to be the advocates against the harms, while being victims to the harms.
If you want to be an ally, do the work instead of simply thanking minorities for doing the heavy lifting. If you are a beneficiary of systemic racism and white privilege, you should be active in tearing those systems down.
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish employers would know about moms in the Black communities?
Evette: Action speaks louder than words. A lot of companies are quick to throw up a BLM blurb or change a logo to a rainbow for Pride. But then they fail to follow through with actions that actually show support. (For example, paid leave of reasonable length, flexible work policies, paid recognition of diversity efforts, etc.)
Mindful Return: What’s your biggest hope or dream for your own career?
Evette: My biggest hope for my career is that I am adequately recognized and compensated for the value I bring to an organization.
Mindful Return: What’s your biggest hope or dream for your little ones?
Evette: My biggest hope for my kids is a world where they are safe. I don’t want my kids to ever have to reckon with any type of pain based on immutable characteristics.
Mindful Return: Name one of each of the following that inspires you *or* that you find incredibly entertaining: (1) a podcast; (2) a book; (3) a show; and (4) an Instagram account.
Mindful Return: Tell us one story of you as a working parent that convinces us you’re human (and not a superwoman with a cape).
Evette: I “broke” my pump at work the first week I went back after my first child. I cried in the pumping room for half an hour before I realized I had kicked out the plug.
Mindful Return: And finally, what’s one question I didn’t ask here, but that you’d like to answer? (And then please answer it!)
Evette: Not a question but a comment: workplaces can do better. In everything. Employees drive company success, and it is long overdue for companies to return the favor not only to employees but to society as well.
Evette’s Bio: I’m Evette. I hyphenated my last name when I got married which means filling out forms has become my nightmare. So I now go by only my first name like a pop star. I have two high-energy sons, so my favorite hobbies are now sleeping and running after them. In my free time, I work as a lawyer.
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