Having a baby or adopting a child is considered one of life’s major milestones and can be filled with emotion and adjustment. As the Founder and CEO of Avenue, expecting a child and planning for maternity leave has been anxiety-inducing and also an honor to navigate and experience. It has afforded me the opportunity to rethink parental leave, the needs of team members who will be taking parental leave in the future, and how the collective team can rally and support one another as their workload is dispersed amongst the team. Beyond these things, Avenue’s commitment to our employees as a Certified B Corporation® has led the way in how I think about contributing to an inclusive economy through our parental leave policy and flexible schedule as it relates to childcare.
The B Corp community defines an inclusive economy as one that creates opportunities for people of all backgrounds and experiences to live with dignity, support themselves and their families, and make a contribution to their communities. Being a woman, a woman of color, pregnant and the CEO of a growing company comes with its challenges, but it also comes with an opportunity and responsibility to lead from the front on this topic. I believe it’s important for people from all different types of backgrounds to see that it is possible to accomplish the things they aspire to in their professional world, while also having room to succeed in their personal lives. You can be a wife, a mom, and a successful CEO.
Avenue’s Advisory Board
To build an even stronger foundation for Avenue during this time, I gathered together an Advisory Board with the guidance of friend (and ‘sister’ 😉) Su Embree to help hold me as the CEO accountable for the sustainability and growth of the company (and my own personal growth as a leader). Avenue’s Advisory Board is comprised of three CEOs and two high-level executives in Portland, all of whom committed to the board because they are passionate about Avenue, what we’re doing and in helping us succeed. I’m pleased to introduce Avenue’s Advisory Board: Ryan Buchanan (CEO of Thesis, Co-founder at Emerging Leaders PDX), Su Embree (CEO of DHM Research; Co-founder at Emerging Leaders PDX; Board of Trustee at OCF and OMSI), Karin Holsinger (Sr. Director, Business Finance, The Standard), Kerry McClenahan (President, Publitek North America) and Sheila Murty (EVP of People and Culture, Tillamook County Creamery Association). Thank you for your time, expertise, and support.
At its core, childcare is a gender, race, and economic justice issue that hurts women of color the most.
Another factor in the parental inclusion equation is the availability and accessibility of childcare options for parents. Kerala Taylor of PixelSpoke compiled some telling data on the state of childcare and inclusion in Oregon. After parental leave, the childcare question looms large for new parents. These are just a handful of statistics that lay bare the inequity that having children can have on working families when childcare is inaccessible.
Infant daycare in Oregon costs more than in-state college tuition.
Childcare for two children under age five costs more than rent in all 7 metropolitan and rural areas in Oregon.
Single parents in Oregon pay 5x more than what the U.S. government considers affordable.
Working families in the U.S. lose more than $8 billion in wages annually due to inadequate child care access.
A mother who leaves the workforce may lose as much as four times her annual earning for each year she is not working.
Source: Economic Policy Institute, The Cost of Child Care in Oregon
So how can employers help close the gap?
Avenue has taken great care to make concrete and measurable improvements to our business practices to create a more inclusive economy for our team members (including participating in B Lab’s Inclusive Economy Challenge for B Corps). We believe that making these continual improvements is the first step in creating equitable opportunity for our team members to succeed both personally and professionally. Avenue’s parental leave policy includes elements that we believe help make this possible.
12 weeks of 100% paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child (with company-paid STD insurance coverage), which can be taken up to one month before and up to one year after birth or adoption. This allows for the parent to select the timeframe(s) that works for them, ensuring the paid leave is as inclusive as possible of their individual needs and comes without fear or worry of losing any income during their time away.
Flexible WFH policy (to account for the flexibility needed to pick-up kids and/or augment childcare needs during the workweek). In fact, for the rest of 2020 in-office work due to COVID-19 will be optional. While we have yet to add childcare facilities to our office, we believe this is a fair option that promotes freedom and flexibility when paid and available childcare and school options are anything but.
Unlimited PTO policy (to allow employees to make their own decisions about their wellbeing and with the company and client work in mind). Our hope is that this allows employee and parent wellbeing to be an accessible reality without having to pay the price of losing limited free time to childcare demands.
While I must admit, it’s been initially difficult to step away for my own maternity leave when I love what I do so much (the people, clients and outcomes), I could not have done this without the support, buy-in, and passion of the Avenue team. A big shout out to Audrey Weatherhead and Reed Emerson for their commitment and care in allowing me to so seamlessly transition into my leave. Over four months of planning culminated in a smooth handoff of roles and responsibilities, while opening up new opportunities for learning and growth for the team and company. And in the meantime, I am reaping the personal benefits of investing wholeheartedly in my family. When I return to work full-time it will be with gratitude for the support framework of the company during this major life transition and renewed energy to continue to grow and evolve Avenue for our team, clients, and community.