Mama Bear Program co-founder Angelica Victoria on helping working moms feel seen and supported

Angelica Victoria lives in Vancouver, BC and is the co-founder and co-lead of the Mama Bear Program, an  initiative aimed to uplift, empower and celebrate the challenges and capabilities of working mothers at her workplace.

Q: In two to three sentences, can you explain what your program offers?

The program was designed for mothers in our workplace to uplift, empower and celebrate the challenges and capabilities of working mothers through career/life guidance, mentorship, and alliance from women who have been there before us.

It's a safe space where we can share our learnings, tools, resources and best practices and calibrate work and home life with each other and with those who have yet to embark on the journey that is motherhood.

How are you trying to do things differently with your initiative?

I hadn’t heard of any existing mom-specific resource groups when we launched the Mama Bear Program, so it was all new territory at the time. I was a relatively new mom, so all of it was new and different! For me, I saw an opportunity and a gap in the offerings available for team members internally.

I had participated in the women’s network (employee resource group)  but none of the programs and events resonated with this specific life phase I was in. I saw how unofficially, there was an unspoken connection when moms or fellow parents connected - it existed through informal water cooler chats and such, and, in speaking with my colleague  (and co-founder / co-lead Kate Evans,) we decided to formalize it! The premise was not just about events, it was more than that - it was about community building and creating lasting, meaningful change.

Was there something or someone who inspired you on this journey?

I have to say, the initial spark for this idea came about when I returned to work and I had  an amazing leader, Jeanie de Regt, who is all versions of wonderful and is a mom herself. I could tell that she understood and empathized with what I was going through.

The impact of our initial chat was staggering. She asked me how I was feeling and shared a bit of her own journey. I teared up that day meeting her for the first time at the office. I felt so seen!

I met my colleague Kate on that same team, who had also recently returned from her maternity leave, and the rest is history.

As the program continued to develop, I would say my mom and daughter are the two who inspired me the most. My mom was a successful career woman and I really never thought that having a career and raising a wonderful family was nothing short of doable! She showed me it was possible. And my daughter, because I look at her and think of what her future might look like - I do this for her and all future mamas to come.

Describe the moment where you realized you were doing something impactful?

We had our first session (what we call Mama mixers) - and the ambiance in the virtual room was incredible. With Covid-19 impacting us all and aggravating the challenges of being a working mom, we needed something like this more than ever. We had open, honest, vulnerable conversations - people were laughing, crying, and feeling that sense of belonging and community.

It was magical - no matter the differences, the thread that connected us was motherhood.

I remember having a phone call, at awe and discussing how at every turn we were receiving more support: from other moms, from leaders, from executives. People were starting to volunteer their time, resources and championship support from across the organization, and people wanted more - participation was overwhelming, propelling us to expand quicker than expected.

What is the scariest part of what you do as a leader?

Realizing that the Mama Bear Program was scaling quite rapidly caught me off guard. I’m a little introverted, so attention and visibility can sometimes be scary! There is an element of pressure that comes with the attention, and my intent when coming up with this idea was primarily to help other moms and pay it forward.

I didn’t expect it to catch fire and grow as fast as it did, and I have to admit - it was amazing but was a little scary since this wasn’t my primary day job, but there was such incredible support. I feel very lucky and grateful.

What impact do you hope your program will have?

I hope that future generations will not face the same struggles, I hope workplaces, governments, and societies evolve to accommodate parenthood in many more ways. I hope that by the time my daughter grows up and if she chooses to be a mom, that the experience of being a working mom will be less daunting than it is today.

Any advice you’d like to share with other leaders?

Luckily, I stumbled upon this learning - that having allies and champions to share your ideas with makes a huge difference. Leaning on brilliant minds and the talented people around you can make your initiative better!

Allison Venditti

Career Coach, HR Expert, salary negotiation whisperer, pay transparency and equity advocate. Founder of Moms at Work, Canada's largest organization committed to helping women earn more money, land better jobs and build community. Allison was named The Globe and Mail Report on Business Top 50 Changemakers 2022, is a regular speaker and media expert with over 100 interviews in 2021.

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