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Where Do We Go From Here? The Mom 2.0 Summit & A Critical Conversation

“Back to normal” is not an option.

When it comes to managing the pandemic, there’s little doubt that moms were and continue to be society’s MVPs. Managing childcare, remote learning, and their families’ health all while continuing to work jobs outside the home (even when they were technically in the home), there was no slack they didn’t pick up. But, as we’ve discovered, the pandemic didn’t create this workload — it only exacerbated it. As more and more Americans become vaccinated and life goes “back to normal,” mothers are urging everyone to reconsider what “normal” should be.

The issue was the subject of the opening panel at the Mom 2.0 virtual summit last month, when Romper’s editor-in-chief, Elizabeth Angell spoke with Reshma Saujani, leading activist and the founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms; Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Trinidadian-American activist, organizer, artist, and mom of two, and Romper’s Raising Anti-Racist Kids columnist; and Christine Koh, co-author of Minimalist Parenting about how to move forward and what, precisely, is at stake.

Near the top of that list: decades of progress women have made in the workforce. “The December 2020 job report saw droves of women leave the labor force, mostly women of color,” said Saujani. “When we started Covid-19, 51% of the labor force was female and now we're back at 1989 in terms of our labor market participation. That’s 30 years of progress gone in nine months.”

And even as the job market bounces back, the majority of job gains have gone to men. In fact, according to the September jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women have continued to leave the workforce even as overall unemployment decreased. While there’s no one answer as to how this happened, many of the reasons – from lower-paying jobs across the board, to burnout, to the need for steady childcare – speak to the fact that the needs of mothers are not being served either by the government or employers. Left unresolved, these issues will continue to yield negative results not just for mothers, but for the American economy.

“I realize that I wanted to center more of my life around my children.”

“We’re still asking ourselves what’s happening,” said Saujani. “The same things almost two years later have not been fixed and it is a crime, and a travesty, and a slap in the face to moms across the country.”

St. Bernard-Jacobs offered another reason some moms might be leaving the workforce: experiences in the pandemic shifting priorities, especially in regard to “work/life balance.”

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Noting that it is a privilege to be able to quit a job during the pandemic, she recalled working multiple jobs for “as long as [she] could remember.

“I have felt that pressure to prove myself as an immigrant, working around the clock,” she said. “But being home with my kids last year ... having the opportunity to be there to see [my 8-month-old] crawl, take her first steps, and feed her her first foods and so forth, that shifted things in a real fundamental way for me. I realized that I wanted to center more of my life around my children.”

“The typical nine to five standards of working no longer apply. It’s more about prioritizing and managing time to be most effective.”

“Companies are going to have to, if they haven’t started doing it already, update their practices to adapt to how work and living happen now,” Koh agreed. “People are burnt out and struggling. Even the stuff that worked a year ago isn’t working right now.”

Employers also noted the importance of updating and changing workplace culture to better include — and address the unique needs of — women and mothers.

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Mom 2.0 sponsor Clem Coleman, President & Founder of ClemSEO, notes that while these changes are necessary, they will not be easy without larger conversations about the workforce as a whole. “The digital marketing industry is very male driven,” she says. “As a female, I feel that I have had to prove myself even further to potential clients who may have put my expertise in question. Talking about pandemic challenges is all the more relevant nowadays; not only do we have to affirm ourselves in our industry because of our sex, but my team is primarily composed of mothers who require the flexibility to care for their children at times when the family may find themselves quarantined.”

Fellow event speaker Melissa Evans, founder of Momeez Choice, another Mom 2.0 sponsor, believes that flexibility and creativity in this area will not only benefit workers, but companies as well. “We’ve had to all unexpectedly pivot this past year and make decisions to continue to thrive as companies,” she tells Romper. “In doing so, the typical nine to five standards of working no longer apply. It’s more about prioritizing and managing time to be most effective.”

Mom 2.0 is the premier professional conference and gathering of influencers who create content online and on air in parenting, entertainment, food, politics, business, marketing, technology, social change, travel and design. Romper was proud to once again be the media partner of the annual Mom 2.0 Summit, which was virtual this year. In addition to the opening panel, event sponsors hosted a variety of innovative, inspiring, and informative sessions.

ClemSEO ran a popular, hands-on workshop on practical SEO tactics for content creators and business owners. Evans of Momeez Choice, makers of organic soothing remedy and supplement pops for kids, led a lecture and workshop for entrepreneurs called "The Era of Burnout: Surviving and Thriving with Entrepreneur Melissa Evans.”

In addition to hosting the online welcome party on Twitter, Hallmark also presented “Main Stage Moments” before the opening and closing keynotes. Childlife Essentials, which offers liquid nutritional supplements for infants and babies, sponsored the event’s live virtual booth space. Eric Hochberger, CEO of Mediavine, an award-winning full service advertising team helping bloggers in every lifestyle niche, led a well-received, thoughtful workshop on website monetization. Another key sponsor of the event was the movie American Underdog. Premiering December 25, it is the true story of Kurt Warner, who went from grocery store stocker to Hall of Fame quarterback against all the odds.

Next year’s event will be held in Los Angeles.