Sarah Lux-Lee is the founder of Mindr, an organization that connects moms to opportunities to grow, learn, network, and more. In the latest Disruptors column, we asked Sarah to tell us how Mindr is disrupting motherhood.
Your organization, Mindr, creates baby-friendly spaces to host events that allow mothers to network, learn, and enjoy themselves. What made you realize there was a need for something like that?
I spent 2015 and 2016 back at school studying public policy, and it was a hugely enriching experience. One of the most valuable elements of grad school was the opportunity to meet, brainstorm and collaborate with like-minded people. When I had my daughter Ella shortly after graduating, it struck me that just like at school, in every playgroup and story-time I was surrounded by people with interesting stories to tell and perspectives to share, but there didn't seem to be any structured way for us to connect. In fact, for many people, new parenthood is isolating, since every conversation and interaction can become about nap schedules and nursery rhymes, and it's easy to lose the other parts of yourself that you valued beforehand.
In creating Mindr, I wanted to help people hold onto their intellectual, civic and social selves during this transformational time in their lives, without having to compromise their valuable (and, at least in the US, all-too-short) time at home with their little ones. Today, Mindr runs talks, workshops, classes and events led by global experts from the United Nations, leading Universities, innovative startups, Fortune 500 companies and elsewhere, where crying babies are welcome.
You recently gave a TEDx talk about the income gap between mothers and non-mothers. You cited some stunning statistics about how mothers are disadvantaged professionally and pointed out how workplaces are actually missing out by not leveraging the dynamic skill sets mothers have. Can you talk a little about what it would look like—in terms of both the work environment and outcomes for companies—if more workplaces utilized the resource that mothers represent?
It's been proven time and time again that diversity strengthens our workplaces, but often people miss the essence of what that means. Diversity isn't about checking boxes on a page - it's about acknowledging, celebrating and leveraging different backgrounds and ways of tackling problems. If you have 10 people in a team and they're all approaching an issue in exactly the same way, you're missing out on a whole wealth of creativity that could help you solve that problem in a better, cheaper, faster or more powerful way.
When it comes to working mothers, employers at best ignore the time a woman spends out of the workforce with young children, or at worst, penalize her for it. This is driven by the idea that taking time out for motherhood weakens us as employees, when in fact it strengthens us in so many ways. Raising kids requires us to be constantly solving problems, responding to crises, adapting to change, building resilience, and fostering relationships. These are key competencies that many employers look for - in fact, they're often written expressly into job descriptions. And yet somehow, even the innovative workplaces that we celebrate as leaders in the advancement of women are still mainly thinking about how to "compensate" for motherhood, rather than how to harness this value.
If more workplaces were to utilize this resource, chances are we'd see our workforce become more productive, thoughtful and agile, with stronger relationships and more effective teams.
Your organization emphasizes creating dynamic spaces in which children, especially babies, are welcome. How do you think non-mothers, both men and women, can benefit from being around children? What's the negative effect of so many non-kid-friendly spaces on the people who spend time in them?
The real power of creating baby-friendly spaces is less about the kids and more about opening up opportunities to the adults who are attached to those kids. Because right now, if you're a primary carer there are just so many places you can't go and things you can't do. You're not welcome at a lecture or a workshop with your little one -- it's so rare that when it does happen, it makes headlines. If you're breastfeeding, even art galleries and museums may be off-limits, much less meetings and conferences. We're losing so much intellectual capital by excluding new parents from these spaces, and this is a loss we could avoid with a couple of logistical accommodations and some shifted social assumptions.
To answer the first part of your question, I have learned so much from being around my daughter, and around other parents and their little ones. A child's blissful unawareness of all the baggage that may surround them can spark a lot of creativity and openness to possibility. Also, seeing other people parent differently to me has been an important reminder to look up and learn from those around me in a way that's critical to success -- both at home and at work.
What do you think is the future of motherhood?
In the vibrant Mindr community -- and at many of our sister communities (Nibble + Squeak, The Fifth Trimester, Mother Untitled, Beyond Mom, and Wake Up Gigs) -- I am seeing mothers take back motherhood. We're finding ways to lean into all the things that matter to us, at home, at work, in art, in business, and in life, by breaking down barriers that have forced these identities to remain separate until now.
I think motherhood in the future will be less isolating and more collaborative, less confining and marked by greater access to opportunity, and I hope that organizations like Mindr will lead the way in educating the world about the power of mothers and the importance of harnessing it.