When the pandemic hit, Cara Tobin had a 7-month-old and a 4-year-old at home and was working 50-plus hours a week as the chef/owner of Honey Road in Burlington.
In the initial weeks, her husband cut back his work hours so Cara could be in the restaurant. But that was a short-term solution. “Eventually we had to hire more people in the kitchen because I had no child care and couldn’t be there,” Cara said.
As the pandemic wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry across the country, Cara’s business had to take on extra expenses because she and her employees were juggling parenting without school or child care.
“We only operate four days a week because we don’t have enough coverage; we’re constantly juggling each other’s schedules and child care needs,” Cara said. “Even with assistance from PPP loans and state grants, we’ve been losing money every week and every month.”
Cara put her infant on waitlists for child care programs before the pandemic started. A year and a half later she still hasn’t found a child care spot for the now 2-year-old. “Now we have him on lists for preschool for the fall of 2022,” Cara said.
The irony of all this is that Cara opened Honey Road with a vision to create a restaurant counter-culture that supports parents, especially women, to be able to balance raising a family with a career in the restaurant industry.
“I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 17. But I never saw examples of what it would be like to be a mother in the industry,” said Cara.
When she had her first child she was managing a kitchen at a restaurant in Boston and had worked 50-plus hours a week throughout her pregnancy. After the baby was born, Cara was back to work after only four weeks and all her vacation time was used up. “It was insane. I never saw my husband; we were hand-off parenting all the time,” Cara said.
When she decided to move to Vermont and open her own restaurant, Cara said: “I told my business partner, I want people to feel like they can have a family and they can still work in the restaurant industry.”
Cara designed her business so that employees have a lot more flexibility with their schedules than most restaurants allow. She also offers paid family leave (12 weeks for full time managers).
Cara is determined to do her part to change restaurant culture from the inside and make it a career where women can thrive. But she knows the only real way for women to succeed in the male-dominated restaurant industry is for public policies and societal expectations to change.
“The restaurant industry, like so many others, is desperate for workers. Public policies giving women and families access to paid leave and affordable, quality child care are key to our economic recovery and to empowering women to enter and succeed workforces that desperately need their talent and leadership.”
It would be much easier for Taylor Mendell and her partner to keep their Starksboro farm running if they had access to child care for their 10-month-old son Theo.
“My job on the farm is not really replaceable in a lot of ways because in addition to the field work, I'm the HR manager, bookkeeper, and do all of our marketing. Running a farm and caring for an infant at the same time is a juggling act to say the least,” Taylor said.
Taylor loves providing sustainable, local food for her community. She loves engaging with community members and teaching new farmers. She feels a deep sense of responsibility to her employees and to her customers and that has only intensified during COVID.
“We’re so busy trying to keep our business running during COVID. We’ve needed to constantly adapt to keep up with heightened food safety measures,” Taylor explained.
Taylor has tried looking into child care options for Theo but hasn’t found anything that would work for her family. “Child care centers are so inundated with requests, especially for infants. I often don’t even get calls back. It’s just crickets,” Taylor said.
Even if she could find a spot, Taylor said they may not be able to afford it. “We're pretty rural, so after adding driving time to childcare rates, it’s cheaper for me not to work. Unfortunately I feel that hurts the quality of our business,” Taylor said.
Taylor said she feels for child care providers, who like farm workers, often make low wages for hard work with heightened personal risks during COVID. Both of them are also providing essential services for their communities: teaching young children and growing food.
“The truth of the matter is that without child care options I can't be there for my partner, my customers, or my employees in the way that I'd like to be. We need child care so that our business can thrive, so that we can thrive, and so that our employees can thrive. I even think we need child care for our child to thrive!” Taylor said.
Our updates include the rise in Vermont's vaccination numbers: for our adult population, 82.8% of women and 78.2% of men have received at least one dose.
This week's report included a new look at job losses in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Governor Phil Scott has appointed Delaney Courcelle of Rutland to serve on the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the state’s non-partisan commission working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls.
Courcelle is a senior majoring in Business Administration at the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business. Excelling at coursework concentrations in entrepreneurship and finance, she is the recipient of this year's Major Junius Adair Award for Excellence in Finance. This is one of the awards celebrating the Grossman School’s top undergraduate and graduate students at their annual Honors Day Celebration.
She is the current Chairwoman of the Vermont Federation of College Republicans. In this role she oversees the Federation chapters at UVM, Middlebury College, and Norwich University, providing guidance in recruiting, fundraising, event planning, and public relations efforts. Additionally, as Chairwoman, Courcelle leads monthly executive board meetings, manages finances, and coordinates an annual convention.
As the current President of the UVM College Republicans, she has grown membership to over 60 students, and along with the duties of running a successful organization, has hosted campus-wide events with noted speakers.
Courcelle is also president of a new student organization on the UVM campus, a chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women. NeW is a national conservative women’s organization with a mission to educate, equip and empower women to be principled leaders for a free society. The organization holds biweekly club meetings, which include discussions and social events, and as president, Courcelle manages operations and is the liaison and representative for the chapter at NeW’s national leadership conferences.
Courcelle she is also an intern at Baystate Financial, conducting outreach for a financial wellness seminar series for Vermont-based companies.
Outside of school and politics, Courcelle is deeply involved with the local Catholic community and also spends a great deal of her time providing child care to area families. She currently resides in South Burlington.
The Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) is an independent non-partisan state commission working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls. Sixteen volunteer commissioners and representatives from organizations concerned with women's issues guide VCW's public education, coalition building, and advocacy efforts.
Note: Photos of VCW Commissioners can be found here.
Today, June 8th, at a lunch hour digital event Change The Story VT, the partnership initiative of Vermont Works for Women, Vermont Commission on Women, and the Vermont Women's Fund, launched a toolkit filled with new, easy-to-use, free-to-you, DIY pay equity tools!
The Leaders for Equity and Equal Pay Toolkit is a free resource to empower small to mid-size employers (any organization with under 400 employees) with the tools to conduct in-house, DIY gender and racial pay equity reviews. The Toolkit includes the excel-based Equity Management Tool and the companion Pay Equity Playbook as well as an interactive Compensation Philosophy Worksheet, Pay Equity Plan Template, and Performance Rubric.
The event and the kit is inspired to empower Vermont’s small to mid-size employers (with fewer than 400 employees) with the tools to conduct ongoing gender and racial pay equity reviews. Attendees were introduced to the innovative new Equity Management Tool and companion Playbook, gleaned knowledge from a national pay equity expert, and were inspired by Vermont employers who have implemented workplace pay equity practices.
Vermont employers, compensation experts and LEEP Toolkit developers were featured a roundtable discussion featuring:
• Mara Neufeld Rivera, SHRM-SCP, Vice President/Head of People & Culture at Chroma Technology Corporation
• Lisa Yaeger, Chief Equity, People & Culture Officer at Vermont Foodbank
• Duane Peterson, Co-President and Founder of SunCommon
• Krysta Sadowski, Equity & Talent Strategy Consultant
• Frank Sadowski, Sadowski Consulting Services
• Moderated by Kerin Durfee, Commissioner with Vermont Commission on Women and the new Director of Burlington’s Human Resources Department
Participants took away a deeper knowledge of gender and racial pay equity from special guest Evelyn Murphy, Ph.D. economist, founder and president of the nationwide, grassroots activist organization The WAGE Project, Inc., and author of Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It. Dr. Murphy was the first woman to hold constitutional office in Massachusetts when she was elected Lt. Governor in the mid-80s, having served previously as the state’s Secretary of Environmental Affairs, and as Secretary of Economic Affairs. She currently serves as co-chair of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership dedicated to eliminating the gender/racial wage gap in the greater Boston area. Our thanks to all who participated.