Moms at Work founder Allison Venditti does not mince words when she talks about how working mothers have been overlooked and undervalued in the Canadian work force.
”You have every right to be angry,” she says, speaking to moms who struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those who left the work force in numbers not seen for 30 years.
Now, Ms. Venditti and her community of 10,000 moms have come together to form a professional association to advocate for mothers’ rights at work. Moms at Work represents working mothers from every industry, she says, including human resources, food service, fitness, communications, farming, STEM, the performing arts and more.
”Our goal is to help women bring other women up, and to help people advocate for change for themselves and for the future,” says Ms. Venditti, a Toronto mom with three kids herself.
From Facebook to video-conferencing with the PM
Moms at Work wasn’t supposed to be this kind of an organization, she says. It began as a small Facebook discussion group made up of human resources professionals, then membership numbers tripled in the last 24 months.
Even before becoming a professional association, the group was engaging in advocacy work. In May, Ms. Venditti and a group of working mothers met virtually with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss the Canada Child Benefit and how they were affected by the pandemic.
During the meeting, emotions ran high, Ms. Venditti says. Some mothers had given birth in uncertain times and started successful businesses. Others juggled careers and multiple school-aged children. Others still explained the toll the pandemic took on their mental health.
Since that meeting, there has been positive change, she says. For example, Employment Insurance applicants normally need to have worked around 600 hours over 52 weeks to qualify for benefits. But as of September 2021, the federal government temporarily dropped the number of hours to 420 – particularly important for people taking maternity and parental leave who may not have been able to work because of the pandemic.
”This is the first time in a really long time that we [have made] change reallyquickly,” says Ms. Venditti.
Towards pay transparency and a better return to work
One of the group’s current projects is the Moms at Work job board, which will be one of the first in Canada to require pay transparency. “That is fundamental to who we are as an organization, and one of the fastest ways to close the wage gap,” she says.
In January 2022, the organization will open registration for a program called Ready to Return, created in partnership with the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Hudson Sinclair law firm, both located in Toronto. Ms. Venditti says the program’s goal is to change how organizations manage the maternity leave process.
”Companies need to understand that not all pregnancies go the way we plan them,” she says.
Going forward, Ms. Venditti says Moms at Work will continue to advocate for self-employed mothers, for those in precarious work, for more comprehensive maternity leave and benefits, for perinatal health, for diversity and inclusion, for pay equity and more.
To become a member, participants must pay an annual fee, which includes a sliding scale for the unemployed and those on maternity leave. The platform has a discussion board that looks like Facebook and operates like Slack. “Built by women,” says Ms. Venditti.
”If the pandemic has shown us one thing, it is that we are better together.”
Ask Women and Work
Have a question about your work life? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.
Question: Is it common practise when managers move into new roles that they take part in the interview process to replace them? Our company has had a lot of changes and we’ve brought in some great new leaders, but some of the ones who are moving on are still involved in the hiring process and are affecting the ability to have true change. How can this be addressed, as the old regime seems to still want to control what isn’t theirs any more?
We asked Cissy Pau, principal consultant at Clear HR Consulting in Vancouver, to answer this one:
It’s not unusual for the person who is leaving to have some input into the hiring process, as long as they are leaving on good terms. They certainly could be involved in screening, interviewing and the transition. After all, they do understand the role. They may not be the greatest fit culturally, but maybe they’re technically really strong. If they’ve been in the role long enough and know all the ins and outs and the difficulties and the challenges, why wouldn’t you want them involved? If they left with no involvement in hiring and no transition, you might actually be putting the organization at a disadvantage.
Having said that, the ultimate decision to hire someone should not be with the departing employee. It would be unusual for someone who is leaving to decide who will replace them. That decision should be with the person who will be managing the new employee. It’s up to that decision-maker to consider all the feedback and their own perspective to make the best choice.
If you are part of the management team and have concerns about who is being hired, you could talk to the ultimate decision-maker and say, ‘We’ve brought in some great new leaders in the last little while. Should we be looking at how we hire and on-board new managers as a collective? How can we make sure we find the best people possible, with the right fit for our culture, our vision and our approach?’
You could suggest that the hiring process involve a panel interview with some of the managers who will be working with the new person and say, ‘I have some feedback and I would be happy to contribute.’ That way, you are approaching it in a positive, constructive way rather than a negative one.
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