The Rise of Employee Activists
Ten years ago, there were virtually no employee-led parents groups inside workplaces. Today, there are hundreds of them. And many of them are having a significant impact within their organizations.
Back in February of 2017, I was at the first Parents in Tech Alliance (PTA) meeting, a secret gathering of mothers leading the parents’ groups inside the largest tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 20 women, representing companies like Salesforce, Yelp, Uber, LinkedIn, Lyft, and more, gathered in a sun-filled conference room at Twitter’s downtown headquarters.
After piling our plates with food, we sat down around a white rectangular table and went around the room to share our stories. We talked about what it was like being a working mom, and why we’d shown up to meet with other moms who were advocating for the change we knew we needed. Sarah Johal, who had founded and was leading the parents group at Lyft, said listening to the other women talk about their experiences made her see the universal nature of the challenges working moms face. She was surprised to discover that “it doesn’t matter what size a company is, or where they are in their life cycle. As working moms we were all facing similar biases and opportunities. It was very inspiring to know that I wasn’t alone in my desire to create change,” she told me.
That day, Sarah made a fruitful connection with Orli Cortel from PL+US, a paid family leave advocacy organization. Over the next several months, Sarah worked with members of the PL+US team to get the resources and benchmarking data she needed to launch a campaign to convince the leadership at Lyft to expand their paid leave policy. Lyft already had a generous policy for ‘primary’ caretakers, but a negligible one for ‘secondary’ caregivers. Sarah knew, both from personal experience and from research, that empowering dads to show up for parenthood was critical to building an equitable workplace. So Sarah worked with a community of other internal champions to win a campaign to expand their leave policy to 18 weeks for all parents, regardless of the parents’ gender or the child’s birth status (if they were adopted, etc.).