Women have held jobs in service-based industries like non-profits, government, health and human services and education for years. And as the percentage of women grows in the workforce, women have started to take over the majority of roles in these sectors. Maybe it's the flexibility of the jobs or the hours that appeal to some women, or maybe it is our nurturing sides that seems to lead us in the direction of work that helps others. Regardless of what it is, the fact that these jobs are not typically high paying jobs, certainly contributes to the wage disparity we see between women and men in America today.
For centuries, women have been focused more on kin-keeping and care taking and less on breadwinning which has lead us into patterns with very deep groves. As of 2013, 40 percent of women are now the main income earners in their household and it feels as if there is a disconnect between women who want to help and serve others and women who NEED to make an income that will support their families.
I own what is called a Doula Agency. We help women in labor and also when they return home from the hospital with their new baby. Doula, is a Greek word for "woman who serves" and in the birth community; doula work is seen more as a "labor of love" than a business to make money.
But doula work is extremely taxing and doulas usually end up putting their own lives on hold in order to serve other women and their new families. Doula work is also very time consuming as most doulas are on call 24/7 and depending on how many clients they take in a months period, they may find themselves on-call all the time.
Working as a doula not only takes a certain type of person; it also takes investment in trainings, marketing materials, setting up a website and other business expenses. But because this work is seen as a "labor of love," doulas tend to undervalue their services dramatically -- sometimes even offering them for FREE.
I bring up the work of the doula because this is a prime example of how women continue to undervalue their hard work and themselves, which inevitably adds to the wage gap in America.
Enter Randy Patterson and ProDoula -- a doula certification agency. Patterson -- a doula for almost two decades -- is a strong woman with long black wavy hair who commands a room with her confidence and compassion. Since 2013, ProDoula as been working tirelessly to revolutionize the doula industry and helping women turn their "labor of love" into a real live profitable business.
Photo taken by Randy Patterson of ProDoula
Patterson likes to remind us "the birth industry relies on the passion of birth workers to stimulate positive change. If doulas and other birth workers are quitting because they can't pay their bills...what will happen to the future of birth in our culture?"
But Patterson battles daily against leaders in the birth community that cower at the thought of making doula work about business and even encourages new doulas to offer their services for free. She faces a headwind of women who think they are bettering their communities by offering hard work for next to nothing when in fact; they are devaluing an entire industry.
Since Randy and her partner Debbie Aglietti started ProDoula they have helped successful doulas all across the world grow their solo practices into agencies that employ other women and men. "The thing I love best about the agency model is how it has the ability to create jobs for so many doulas!" says Patterson.
The point is, a "labor of love" doesn't have to mean a lack of profit -- just ask Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes. He made a shoe company with a buy-one-give-one mission into a business with an estimated value of $625 million dollars. TOMS is what is called a Social Enterprise -- a hybrid of a charitable organization and a profitable business. Mycoskie took the idea of doing good and made it profitable in a way that as profits grow -- more good is done. But in some industries, like doulas, there seems to be so much push back to ideas like these -- as if profit is somehow corrupting the work or just not possible.
So how do women, who want to base their work in something meaningful and nurturing, manage to change the ideas of how we value this type of work in our society? For starters, we need to stop convincing ourselves that a business based in care taking or giving can't be profitable -- because as Randy Patterson and Blake Mycoskie have shown us, this just isn't the case. In fact, it is an assumption that has hurt service-based industries, and in a lot of ways women, for far too long.
Now is the time for woman to pick up the lead and begin creating a new economic structure, one that not only fulfills the needs of our society but also lines our pockets as breadwinners and heads of households.