In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, Myles and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week— including home appraisal racial bias, mild COVID linked with brain damage, two Black brothers exonerated from a murder charge, and an interactive Prince exhibit in Chicago. DeRay interviews author and activist Reshma Saujani about her new book Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It’s Different Than You Think).
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, De’Ara, Kaya and Myles talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week, the underreported news, the news that didn’t make the biggest headlines, but the news you should know, with regard to race, justice and equity. Then I sit down with the author and CEO Reshma Saujani. We chat about her book Pay Up: The Future of Women in Work (and Why It’s Different Than You Think). And listen, she taught me so much about the current state of women in the workplace. I learned about solutions. You know, I love solutions. And I learned about things happening that I just really didn’t know about. Here we go. Some things belong in the group chat. A lot of stuff happened at the Oscars. One thing in particular. And some of the hot takes that people have, put in the group chat—don’t put it on the internet, put it in the group chat. Some things belong in the group chat.
De’Ara Balenger: Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me @Dearabalenger on Instagram and Twitter.
Myles Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson. You can find me @pharaohrapture on Instagram and Twitter.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson, @Hendersonkaya on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson: It’s DeRay, @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, family, I think what we want to kick off this episode with is talking about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. We all watched the hearings this week, but I think one thing that I wanted to just preface this with is that according to the average of polls by Gallup, Fox, Monmouth, Quinnipiac and Pew, about 53% of Americans supported, support her confirmation; 26% Americans oppose. This is good for a +27 point net popularity rating, which would make Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson the most popular Supreme Court justice nominee in the history of Supreme Court judge nominees. I just wanted to, just wanted to point that out.
Kaya Henderson: Yes!
De’Ara Balenger: So no matter what the naysayers are saying, home girl is very, very popular.
Kaya Henderson: It’s not even about popular, right? It is that all of the things that we say we want, the country that we say we are—she is as American as it gets. She went to all your all schools, she done did all the things. She has excelled. She even got the white people up there testifying that she was the most popular girl in high school. Her parents are sitting behind her. She’s married to a white man—and some y’all are not happy about that, but love is love, and it’s hard to find and when you find it, you need to get it. And she’s got two beautiful daughters. I mean, she’s the whole thing. She is what America says it wants from Black people. And she is unimpeachable, unassailable, competent, thorough, all—can you tell that I’m a fan. Anyway, I mean, literally to have these Republican senators sit up there and say, Yep, she checks all the boxes, and I still can’t vote for her is, it makes me want to spit, frankly. And I’ve got a little something for the Democrats, too, who sat there and let her take that ass-whooping like nobody’s business. They didn’t come to her defense. They didn’t gavel and tell these people, stop acting crazy, stop with the political theatrics. This is ridiculous, and it would only happen to a Black women. I’m, y’all, I am enraged about this thing. You know, usually I don’t even spend my energy on this kind of stuff that I don’t have any ability to control the outcome o,. But this, I mean, for every Black woman out there who is doing all of the things, holding it down, it literally says none of that matters. And we know that in our hearts and our souls but to see it so blatantly on the TV all this week made me want to vomit.
Myles Johnson: Child, I agree with what everybody said, but that Corey Booker speech—it’s just something, I think that the just the wash between Obama and Trump, just like Cory Booker’s speech was just so contrived. I don’t know why, I just hate, I just didn’t, I just did not like it. I guess I do know I didn’t like it. It just felt like, it just felt so insincere to me. And I really hope that more Black folks who are in like politics who, are like so public facing, like we just don’t have to continue to like, perform and do these kind of bog old like—what’s her name, who directed 13 and Queen Sugar?
Kaya Henderson: Ava DuVernay.
Myles Johnson: Ava DuVernay-directed moments and it just feels, it feels so performative, and I just don’t and I don’t like it. And I really felt embarrassed for her on the on the receiving end. That’s how I felt. I felt like this was somebody who just was kind of taking a moment and it felt weird. I’ve seen other people say funnier things than what I’m saying about it feeling weird. I’m glad I’m not the only one. People said it felt like Lynn Manual like, like wrote it or something. And It’s like, just stop. Stop, stop. Stop doing that. Stop, stop, stop.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say so, obviously, I know, Corey, but what I believe is a combination of something Kaya said and then thoughts that I had is that it was really wild to see the Republicans be so nasty and so consistently nasty. It wasn’t like there was like almost no reprieve. The Democrats, sort of just like, sat there and like, let it happen. And, you know, they would probably say they are nervous, that if they’re too intense then something will happen and if they go overboard, it’ll be used against them. But they literally just like watched her. And there were like, you know, some moments where the chair would be like, Hey, get to the question, da da da—but that wasn’t nearly enough to match the vitriol that they [unclear] to her. And the thing about Corey is that it felt like a palate cleanser in so many ways. It was like, finally, somebody!
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, he threw her a life line.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah! Somebody is going to say this aint right. Somebody is going to big you up, hype you up, are remind you that you got the juice, and be like, you’re going to be on the court anyway. You know, like finally. And I think that the thing about Corey that is that is so beautiful is that he is consistent. I mean, like it is, it’s that same sort of like, Corey is, I think that’s how he is in private. That’s how he is like, that is sort of who, that is like, that is who Corey is. And it was, that was the Corey that we saw in the document street fight. Like, you know, like we’ve seen the same Corey over the years. But it was, I think, important to have somebody just defend her because Ketanji was out there on an island by herself! Now, I’m excited for her to potentially be on the court soon, and to see those decisions because her and it Sotomayor, I hope that they concur on everything and just write, write a whole new world into possibility. And you know, I think that Clarence Thomas’s latest shenanigans with his wife, you know, it would be cool to get a couple more seats to listen for in court, like expand the court, do whatever we need to do in this little moment and Ketanji and Sotomayor hold us down.
De’Ara Balenger: I think I just want to elaborate a little bit too on just the Democrats of it all because I mean, this is, it’s you know, it’s . . . if we look at how they treated Lani Guinier, if we look at how even the Democrats treated Anita Hill, who—the Democrats put Anita Hill up there, you know what I’m saying? So I think that there is a culture and there is, you know, this repeated cycle of Black women being left, just left to kind of deal with the consequences of actually being a Democrat or being on the liberal side of things. So I just, I don’t want us to forget that and I want us to watch and jsut see, I mean, all intents and purposes, we could say the same thing about Kamala, too. I don’t know what, I don’t know what support of that party or this administration Kamala’s getting, either. So it’s just interesting to see and to explore and to sit with.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about a new British study that came out earlier this month on the impact of COVID on folks, and yielded some pretty surprising results. And I’m bringing this to the pod because this is not something that I have read in many places, and people need to be aware of the longer-term impacts of COVID. We think we are through the pandemic. We think it’s over. We think because they’ve lifted these vaccine mandates and whatnot and because you don’t have to wear your mask indoors anymore that we have made it through. But there are all sorts of long-term health implications that people need to be aware of, and this British study yielded some very surprising results. The headline is that, “Even mild COVID cases are linked to brain damage.” They looked at, this particular study was unique because it is one of the only studies that is able to examine the brain before COVID and after COVID, and because the majority of the participants in the study had mild COVID, whereas most of the research on long-term COVID effects are done on patients who had moderate to severe COVID. So the way this study was enabled was because the Brits, because of their nationalized health care system, they actually have data on thousands upon thousands of people. They have their health records, they have their lifestyle traces and whatnot, and they were able to pull a group of people who had mild corona and compare their brain scans post-coronavirus to what their brain scans looked like before. And what they found is that mild cases of coronavirus caused tissue damage and accelerated losses in the brain’s regions tied to sense of smell. There’s a small loss in overall brain volume. There’s cognitive functioning deficits. And the, this excess loss of overall brain volume is tantamount to at least one extra year of normal aging, so effectively it’s aging your brain more quickly than it would. They point to a greater loss of gray matter in the brain, and gray matter is the thinking stuff. It talks about higher rates of abnormalities in brain tissues. And older participants actually are experiencing declines that are even more significant than younger participants. On cognitive functioning tests, people who had mild cases of coronavirus have a slower ability to process information, and they get lower marks on tests of executive function. And this is consistent with a lot of what you hear from people who had corona, who tell you that they are tired or who tell you that they get brain fog or who tell you that they are just not firing on all cylinders. They don’t know yet if there is further deterioration over time, and they don’t know whether or not the vaccine mitigates the risks of these changes. But the good news is that it is potentially reversible. And so I brought this to the pod because there are a lot of folks walking around here who’ve had mild cases of COVID and think, All right, it’s cool, it’s no problem, but they are experiencing some of these symptoms. And I just think that we’ve got to be very careful about declaring the pandemic over because we haven’t seen the long-term effects that this virus will have on us over time. So I was sharing this with some friends and they were like, Wait, how come I haven’t heard this? And I was like, Right, that’s why I’m bringing it to the pod, and yeah, I think it’s just something people should be aware of.
DeRay Mckesson: The thing that this made me think of Kaya, is a, I didn’t know this. And as somebody who had COVID a long time ago and then got to a more recent positive result and am fine now, I like, think about this. I know I like, I didn’t make a big, big public announcement about it this time. I was tight. The first time I got COVID, people thought that I was being paid by the government to tell people to get the vaccine. And I was just so annoyed that I was like, You know what, y’all gotta leave me alone. So anyway, but I’m fine now, I’m good. But what I didn’t know is that the COVID recovery money is about to run out for people who are uninsured. And I had no clue. So the uninsured program stopped accepting and processing new claims or March 22nd, and the cost of COVID-19 vaccines won’t get covered under the program as of April 5th at midnight. And I say that because millions of people have been reimbursed for the cost of all of the COVID stuff under what’s called the ‘uninsured program’ by the federal government, and the program gets a million claims every single day. The median cost of COVID-19 testing is $127, but can be as expensive as $850, and Medicare reimbursed tests at $51 or $100. So all of a sudden people will be—you know, COVID didn’t disappear, it’s not gone—and people won’t even know that they have gotten it, or they will get tested and then be in medical debt, which is really wild. I also didn’t know that if somebody who’s uninsured gets hospitalized with COVID, they can pay anywhere from $42,000 to $70,000 if we don’t reallocate funding at the federal level for people who are uninsured. And it makes me think about how this whole cycle Kaya, back to your larger point around long COVID, it’s like you got to know that you had COVID in the first place so you can get support or help or treatment so you can even be on the lookout for these long COVID symptoms. And we are literally just like almost guaranteeing that the poorest people in the country will not have those resources and tools.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. Kaya, thank you for bringing this to the pod. So I got covered in August 2021 and then had long-haul symptoms for quite a while, still actually still dealing with a bit of it. But another symptom that folks don’t talk about is anxiety and depression after COVID. And you know, when I just talk about it with friends or family, people perk up because they’re like, Yeah, I was, I had really intense anxiety after COVID. And what I find that so interesting about it is one, we’re not talking about it .Two, we don’t, this country isn’t great at treating anxiety or depression or mental illness of any kind. And I think ultimately, though, what helped me with the anxiety was acupuncture, which I think isn’t even a, wouldn’t be necessarily a part of anybody’s, just kind of like a regular U.S. health care wouldn’t be a part of anybody’s treatment plan. So all that to say, you know, I think as much as we can talk about COVID and how it’s impacting people and just so many different ways is critically important, particularly because oftentimes you can go to your doctor and say, I’m feeling this way in your doctor’s like, Oh, but you’re fine. Right? So I think unless you actually, you know, are getting information, otherwise are really able to make your case or, you know, what COVID has been doing to people or having been, you know, or seen to do, I think ultimately it’ll be able to help you to advocate for your care.
Myles Johnson: Yeah. Echoing what everybody is saying, but on top of that, again, I always think about how the poorest people are always going to be implicated in moments like this, and how just, and I think about the depression and anxiety that already happens because of poorness, is because of poverty, because of just more exposure to violences. And then the fact that we’re toppling this down, and then the fact that on top of that, we’re like—I’m using the biggest air quotes ever, I know the podcast—”we ran out of funds or something” where I’m like, we always seem to find the funds when we got to blow something up, when we got to invade something, go look for somebody—the funds are always plenty available. But when it’s a health crisis, we just fail. We just fail. And I think that, you know, I do think that you can look at studies when it comes to Baby Boomers and other generations that have maybe not taken certain things seriously or taken certain maybe even habits seriously, and how there might be a whole generation lost to, or a huge generation that’s has a poorer life because of something that they were like into—I just continue to think about, like cigarettes and like that boom and stuff like that, I’m like, Oh, what is the people who are grown now who have COVID, what what does our twilight look like? What does our 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s look like because of extreme negligence, you know? The spreading of this the pandemic was, if not totally preventable, it definitely didn’t have to be as big. So this is government negligence, and we’re going to, we are going to see what happens, you know, we don’t know. And you know, I hate to be, you know, super, you know, Grim Reaper about it, but you know, what it sounds like is that we, as we get older, might be at greater risk as dementia, brain cancer, and other things that affect the brain because of this. And you know, our minds are on the government’s hand, this blood in our minds, this is a government doing. And it’s angering. It’s just, it’s annoying. It makes me upset. And I think sometimes we have to be blunt about what the actual repercussions for this is because it’s going to change the course of so many of our lives.
De’Ara Balenger: So my news is from The Washington Post, and the headline is: Home values soared during the pandemic, except for these Black families. Oh, here we go. So Kym and Steve Taylor, who own a six-bedroom home on four acres in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, which is one of the wealthiest Black, majority Black counties in the nation, so when they, they purchased their home for $1.45 million dollars in 2015, and when they got their home appraised in 2021, it was appraised for 1.1 million—which is less than what they paid for it, y’all. So of course, they were super surprised by this and, you know, but what they began to find out once they kind of got deeper into this is that their experience was actually very, very common. Homes in Black neighborhoods are valued at 23% less on average than those in comparable white neighborhoods, despite having similar neighborhood and property characteristics and amenities. And that’s according to a Brookings report. The devaluation of Black community adds up to about 156 billion in lost equity. $156 billion dollars in lost equity for Black people! Come on, y’all. Ugh! So Kym Taylor, who we you know, you hear more from in the article, you know, talks about their choice to live in a predominantly Black neighborhood and all of the reasons for it. They wanted their, they wanted their kids to grow up around other Black kids. They wanted their their kids to feel safe. And you know, and thought about buying a similar house in Bethesda, which is a Montgomery County, Maryland, which is the predominately white neighborhood, but they don’t want to live in Bethesda. And yet their house would, if they had brought in Bethesda their house would have kept its value more than buying a home in Prince George’s County. The other thing that this article went into, which I mean, I can’t—in San Francisco, a Black couple sued their appraiser alleging bias after their home was valued at nearly 500,000 more once a white friend posed as the home owner.
Kaya Henderson: This has been, they’ve been talking about this all through, all over the last couple of years how people, how Black people actually have to un-Black their homes, right? They have to take down their pictures and the African art and whatnot and bleach their homes—for lack of a better term—and have their white friends come and stand in, and the value, the appraisal value—we did this on the pod a while ago, didn’t we DeRay? This is the whole big thing.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, good thing, we got some Black folks in government who are trying to figure out how to address these issues. So Maxine Waters, who’s on this housing financial committee, and Marcia Fudge, who is the secretary now for Housing and Urban Development, along with Susan Rice, who is the domestic policy council director, put together a task force that recommended the appraisal industry needs to diversify and more accurately reflect communities, and require anti-bias fair housing training for those who conduct appraisals for federal programs. So and what we learn about appraisal value, much to what Kaya was saying, it hurts the family’s ability to leverage home equity to pay for college, to expand businesses, pay for repairs, and use that equity as a buffer for financial hardships. For home purchases an appraisal that comes in lower than the contracted price could result in a higher down payment, cause a sale to fall through, and force a downward price negotiation, reducing the seller’s profit. And we know, and this report tells us, that I was just talking about, the appraisal industry remains one of the country’s least diverse professions. 98% of appraisers are white. And research has shown that appraisers choose comps in a narrower geographic range for properties in Black and Latino neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods. So there is some hope. Obviously, this task force that’s been put together, this report that’s come out. And also these families. So both the Taylors and another woman in Bowie, Maryland, actually, Jacqulyn Priestley, last summer started a grassroots network called Fair and Unbiased Appraisal Advocates. And their message is that Black homes matter. So clearly folks are starting to organize on their own and talk to one another and see that this obviously is something that is common practice. But I just brought it to the pod because, you know, one of the things I focus on professionally is trying to figure out how to build Black wealth. And when you have obstacles like this, it is really hard to do that work, right? And so I just wanted to bring it to the pod and for us to to talk about it and explore it because this is, this is something else.
DeRay Mckesson: So I’ll tell you that, so we have talked about this in some way before, but the part that really blew my mind, is the article that you have, De’Ara links to a study by Freddie Mac about racial and ethnic valuation gaps in home purchase appraisals. It was published in September of 2021 by the Economic. It’s an economic and housing research note. And one of the questions that they ask is, are the appraisal gaps for minority tracts—and by tracts, I think they’re talking about census tracts—driven by only a small fraction of appraisers? And the answer is, no. The answer is, an analysis of the group of appraisers with enough observations and both minority tracts and white tracks to yield valid T-statistics reveals that a large portion of appraisers are generating statistically significant gaps. So it’s not a small, it’s not like, it’s not like 10 appraisers are throwing off the average, it is a large group of appraisers who are doing this, which makes me think about how we talked about the medical profession, that it’s not just a small group of medical students who think that Black people have experienced less pain, it’s actually a much bigger group of people, right? So it’s like, how do we, how do we start to acknowledge that this is endemic in the field that like people really need to get pushed and challenged, that there needs to be real oversight in these things? Because, you know, frankly, I’m tired of reading articles about this. I heard this before, and it’s like, who is double checking all the appraisals, who is firing the appraisers, who is holding these people accountable, who is coming in and reappraising and forcing people to up the appraisal? Like that has to be the thing that changes because simply writing about it is not enough.
Kaya Henderson: For me, the thing that was, I mean, like DeRay, I feel like I’ve heard this before. Andre Perry, who wrote the Brookings report “Know Your Worth” is a good friend and so we’ve talked about this before. I think the thing that was really disheartening to me besides just, you know, what it is on its face, is this couple in Prince George’s County was trying to leverage the equity of their house—they’re business owners, right, they own a home health care service or something like that—and they were trying to leverage the equity in their house to expand their business, right? Again, this is what America tells us we supposed to do, right? Make enough money. Buy a house. Your house can enable you to do all kinds of other things. And in fact, whereas white people are able to leverage the equity in their homes, these Black folks are not able to. And that means everything from not expanding your business to not paying for your kid’s college, to not doing the upgrades on your home that you need to keep it at a high value. And that’s where the like the wealth gap just starts in terms of the appraisal, but the long-term impacts for what we are not able to do—I think the article said estimates, I don’t remember the numbers so I don’t want to quote it—but in the billions of dollars that are lost in Black communities because of this particular issue. And I don’t know what we do. Maybe the federal government incentivizes people of color to become appraisers. I don’t, I don’t even know, how do you become an appraiser? What kind of qualifications do you need? We need to have Black Appraisers For America and hip our young people to the fact that this is a job that they can do, that they can make money at, and that could in fact help even the playing field for us.
Myles Johnson: Yeah. Miss Kaya, Kaya, you totally, that was just what I was thinking. That was just what I was thinking, where like, I think there’s so much energy around making Black life better, making Black wealth better, and we kind of understand the bigger things that happen, being president, you know, being on stage somewhere. But this is a good job that we need to be in. That, again, I don’t think even people think about. But it’s these small ways that white supremacy gets to express itself. And it’s huge. It’s really, it’s huge because they, because of when I was reading the article, they’re literally using money that they want to do to start their own business in order to make up for the loss of this, for this home. And I think about how that little detail to me was like, Oh, this is how white supremacy can really suffocate Black expansion and the acquisition of Black wealth. But also on like a—not a lighter note, but like a, well, it’s a lighter note, a different note—was it was funny that Black people, there’s so many like marks of like rich aunty-ness in the Black community. So it kind of made me giggle, the fact that like people have to like, hide like their Black art, and all these things that I would see, because my aunt is like an AKA and she is the head of a hospital in Georgia. So, you know, she took me to gala and she took me to my first Alvin Ailey thing, and she has the Black art. And I’m like, Oh, this is like Black luxury, like, who would walk in here, like, and think that it’s a bit cheaper. And it’s just so funny in a sad way that somebody walked in and said, Oh no, no, no, not this, this can’t, this can’t do. And in our community, these are marks of like wealth and travel, and you made it, you know? And it’s just the reverse when a different gaze is on it. That was just humorous to me in my head.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People coming.
Myles Johnson: So I am changing the tone a little bit. I am super excited. To know me is to now the year that Prince died, I cried a million tears. You know, I felt it coming because the year before, I remember it so vividly, the year before Vanity passed away and then a year later, Prince passed away. You know, in my head, I’m like, This is a love story, they passed away at the same age. And you know, it was supposed to be different. And, you know, Prince with such a just a mark of like queerness and Blackness and just was just baked into my childhood and growing up. And I was and still am such a fan. However, once he passed away and I finished grieving, I say now I love Prince, but I do not want to see no Prince hologram! I don’t, I really hope they figure out a way to honor Prince when the time is appropriate without there being a Prince hologram. So when I saw this article in Dazed Magazine that the estate of Prince, the estate of Prince matched with this with this production company called Superfly are making an immersive Prince exhibition, I like, I made a sigh that I didn’t even know that I had. The sigh of relief. I didn’t even know, all these years, my chest was a little bit tighter, and I didn’t know it until this was done. And it’s going to be an interactive exhibition, you’re going be able to go on different sets that they create. You going to be able to play with different sounds. There are going to be recreations of album covers, iconic like Prince moments. And I just thought this was such, I talked about cryptocurrency last week. I just talked about the hologram. I just thought that as we can do things with technology, I think we need to think about what we do with technology, and what is actually honoring people’s legacy and still making sure the life in the spirit of things are honored and doesn’t go creepy. And I thought this was a really cool way to honor somebody who has had such a great legacy, not just when it comes to music, but when it comes to visuals and how we interact with things. And he did create a world, you know? He does deserve a Disney World-type of, you know, Salvador Dali exhibition type of like exploration to me. And I think that it’s, I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing. And I hope that people who are controlling, you know, the Nina Simone state, I think they’re doing atrocious things, allegedly, I guess. I do think it’s that. I think that Michael Jackson’s estate, Whitney Houston’s estate, I think they all have participated in questionable things that feel that feel like money grabs. Tupak’s estate, I think they’re all doing questionable things that feel like money grabs to me. And I thought this was such a good blueprint of what you can do to honor somebody, to still create money for the people who are making money from Prince and his family and still do something that actually, you know, the artist would actually approve of. You know, and again, I haven’t experienced it, but especially reading what I’ve read so far, I’m excited to experience it. And I think this is such a good direction for everybody who wants to do something for, for deceased artist and we want to keep their legacies alive.
DeRay Mckesson: Now, Myles, I actually have a question for you. I don’t really have much to contribute because I’m no Prince scholar—but shout out to Prince—is did you see that the Prince estate is actually forcing Morris Day and the Time to stop using the name, and they’re claiming it as their own property? So I wanted to just fla, I wanted to hear your thoughts on that.
Myles Johnson: I did see that. I definitely saw that. And I thought, to me—here’s the thing about it: a lot of people say because Prince and Morris Day, they were friends and whatever, Prince was, I mean, I’m warmly saying this, Prince was mean. And Prince, if you look at, there’s documentaries about Prince’s relationship with Morris Day, about his relationship with with Terry Lewis and, uh—
Kaya Henderson: Jimmy Jam.
Myles Johnson: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it’s, a Rick James. There’s a lot of documentation of how Prince felt about things legally and how and what Prince felt like people can and cannot do. So I do understand the, that from the surface, it’s like, They were friends, they were using it or whatever. I’m not actually super sure that this would be out of integrity with how Prince navigated things that he felt that he created. And then specifically, if the state was not acquiring money from those performances. It’s not, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but I don’t like the projection of, Prince would never have done this, or This is wrong or da da da? I’m like, Prince is kind of, was kind of a stickler when it came to, you know, he got on that stage and cried for Purple Rain but when he was walking around, he was like, Don’t use my shit. But it’s mine, Prince! But I thought of it. Give it back. It wouldn’t be yours if you weren’t in Purple Rain. That was Prince’s sensibility. So yeah, that’s my thoughts about it. Kind of convoluted, but it’s like, uh.
De’Ara Balenger: I will just say, as someone born in Minneapolis whose mother dated Prince—in fact my mama dumped Prince for my daddy.
Kaya Henderson: I knew I loved your mother for more than one reason.
De’Ara Balenger: And she said, I said, Mom, why did you ruin my life? Why did you leave Prince? And she said, Girl, he would play the piano for me and I looked down and his hands were so small. May he rest in peace. So just—
Myles Johnson: Before you even, Miss De’Ara—
DeRay Mckesson: Black people undefeated, undefeated.
Myles Johnson: —before you even finish, because when you were even describing it, I already saw these little heels just dangling. I was like, Don’t tell me his feet didn’t meet the floor! Oh! I just saw a little bedazzled heels just . . .
De’Ara Balenger: She said she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t do it no more. So, you know, and it’s interesting because the Minneapolis tea is that, you know, his siblings who became his heirs, who he really didn’t fool with it, and then like his ex-attorney, who now, Londell, who is an entertainment attorney for a lot of people, like that’s one of the people representing his estate?! So it’s kind of like a little troublesome, a little like what’s going on here? So, you know, Myles, to your point, like, yeah, Prince was petty, but I also just feel like these folks aren’t necessarily the closest people to him to actually be the ones that continue that pettiness. That’s kind of just like, you know, because you could say the same for Sheila E. You know what I’m saying? Like he also launched her career. Does he own, he probably does own the name Sheila E. You know what I’m saying? So part of this is like . . .
Myles Johnson: Well, that’s the thing about having a stage name, when your stage name isn’t your government name, you still got to trademark that name.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. That’s right. So I don’t know. I think all of this, all that to say, I think this experience is going to be wonderful. I actually went to the Tupac experience a month or so ago and loved that. I’m going again while I’m here in L.A.
Myles Johnson: That’s not the hologram? That’s something else?
De’Ara Balenger: There’s no hologram. It’s like, because it’s like an exhibit. It’s like it shows you like, you know where they came from. And there’s, a big part of the Tupac experience is actually an exploration of Black Panther Party because his mom was a Black Panther. So I think, all that to say, I feel like Prince did so much in terms of, you know, contributed to music and to American culture. And so I hope that so much of that is displayed. The only thing I don’t understand is why this is opening in Chicago. No disrespect to Chicago, but . . .
Kaya Henderson: They are starting it in Chicago, and then they are going to move it all around the world. So it is not—which I think is kind of cool because you don’t have to go to Minneapolis to get this. It is going to come to a city near you, which I think is sort of interesting.
De’Ara Balenger: But we need help in Minneapolis people. The Black people need help.
Myles Johnson: You don’t think you’ve got enough Prince stuff? Y’all got to have everything purple?
Kaya Henderson: What this made me think about is the whole immersive experience thing that is the new hotness. I think it’s interesting that technology is enabling us to do cool things like create effectively a museum curated experiences that allow you to dig deeply into somebody’s life or into your favorite TV show in super cool ways. There are a lot of museums and artists who are being featured through immersive exhibits. There’s a Klimt immersive experience, there’s a Van Gogh immersive experience which is happening here in D.C., and I’m actually supposed to go next weekend.
Myles Johnson: That’s so cool.
Kaya Henderson: But there are TV show immersive experiences. And I just think that in a time where, you know, especially for young people, the ability to delve deeply into something that feels different than a museum kind of experience or a studio tour kind of thing, I think that this has incredible potential to engage people in whole new ways. They are going to be people who were not alive when Prince was alive that are going to have the opportunity to experience him, and they don’t have to go to Minneapolis because of this immersive experience. And so I’m shouting out the technology for allowing us to do things that we could not do previously to remember people that, you know, need to be remembered. Y’all, I won’t tell you, I know some of you all weren’t born when I, went I went to my first Prince concert. I went to the Purple Rain tour. It was a whole situation. I was in eighth grade. I probably shouldn’t have gone.
Myles Johnson: What were you doing!?
Kaya Henderson: I did the whole thing and you know, people will be able to experience—I mean, I went with friends, and my friend’s older sisters took us.
Myles Johnson: Not eight grade, listening to Darling Nikki?!
Kaya Henderson: Sure way. Hey, now, hey. I might not have understood everything that was going on, but I knew that I knew it was something that I wasn’t supposed to be listening to so that made it all the more titillating. Yes. So big up to immersive experiences. Shout out to Prince for teaching a whole lot of us what our parents weren’t teaching us. And, yeah.
Myles Johnson: Yeah. And just the last thing, I just hope that this whole—excluding slavery, we do not need an immersive experience on anything to do with chattel slavery. Because I know how some of y’all white folks in Negroes together, y’all just go straight there. Ya’ll go straight to the boat. So we don’t need no immersive nothing on that. But I hope there’s other historical, cultural, iconic things that people decide to make a immersive of, not just around one person. Except slavery and Jim Crow, we do not need to be immersed in that anymore, Octavia Butler, uh, yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: Just throw her name in, [laughs] Myles. So my story is about a wrongful conviction and I brought it because really I wanted to talk about the power of prosecutors and how they can get away with almost anything. But in Michigan, the Conviction Integrity Unit has decided to free these two brothers, who were accused of rape and murder, after being in jail for 25 years. They are now 44 and 48, respectively. It is George and Melvin DeJesus. And they were accused of raping and murdering a woman named Margaret Midkiff, who was found in Pontiac, Michigan, with the pillowcase over her head and wires binding her neck, wrists, and ankles. And here’s the thing is that they have said that they have always been innocent, but they were convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 1997 because this testimony of a man named Brandon Gohagan, who claimed that the brothers had forced him to rape Mrs. Midkiff and then killed her by stomping on her. Now why is this a wrongful conviction? It’s a wrongful conviction because Mr. Gohagan blamed the brothers in exchange for a deal with the prosecutors that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid a mandatory life sentence for himself. And I bring this here, both because this is like truly the wildest possible scenario, because the guy who actually testified against them, he was a serial rapist and had raped a whole lot of other people, that once DNA testing started to emerge, they realized that he had done other murders and rapes that were very similar to the one that put the two brothers behind bars. And they hadn’t done it before at all. The Conviction Integrity Unit identified 12 other women who are emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by Mr. Gohagan in the 90s, which completely undercut his claim that the brothers had forced him to do anything. And the brothers the whole time said that they were at a party when the alleged crime, when the crime happened in the first place. Now I brought this here because two things: on the activist side, it was their mother who they credit for never, ever giving up. In 25 five years, she fought for her kids to be exonerated. And what you might not know is that there are some states that actually prevent the testing of DNA after convictions, that destroy DNA evidence after people are convicted. So you’ll never know if they were wrongfully convicted. That there are very loose rules around jailhouse informants and people who get deals to testify against other people. But the second is that the prosecutors allowed this to happen. They let this man lie on two other people so that he would get a lesser deal. And, you know, people faced with these unbelievable choices, they will do a lot of things to save themselves. So he saved himself a little bit by testifying against other people. And you’d be shocked that in states across the country, there are very little rules that protect anybody from being victims of this. And the prosecutor in this case: no consequence, nothing will happen to them. This just becomes a footnote. And, you know, in Michigan, there are some things that they get. So they will get, they’ll get job help. You know, in Michigan, the law required, the law allows for them to get housing for up to a year, or two years for other services like finding a job, work clothes and tools. But that in no way compensates the 25 years or ripped from society that happened to them. And I just wanted to bring this here because I worry sometimes that we only see and the documentaries that come up every now and then and we don’t realize how commonplace this is. And not everybody gets a New York Times article, but this happens more often than you think.
Myles Johnson: I just had a question because I just feel like probably everybody here is more educated on these occurrences than I am. Is there any chance that—because it always seems like when I hear stuff like this that our justice system leans more towards, the incentive is winning and losing and not like justice. Is there any chance in transforming that? Like, had there been any, any movement towards that? Because it just seems like from the Central Park Five to stuff like this, that it’s just like the same thing happening over and over and over again. Like, are we moving forward? Are there anything that’s hopeful around this? Just sincere question, yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah, I think there are some really good, you know, the Innocence Project has six policy areas, and they they fight for laws that require the recording of interrogation, that limit jailhouse informants, that do a lot of the things that would have made this—DNA, you know, the whole premise of the Innocence Project is that they were the first people to get people exonerated because of DNA evidence. So they’ve been pushing, and that’s how these two brothers got out eventually, was DNA evidence. So they’ve been leading the charge, and it’s hopeful. I think the thing that I, the thing that is not happening is a prosecutor accountability. The prosecutors do all types of shady stuff and outside of an election, they really aren’t ever held accountable for their shadiness, and that does have to be a new focus of work for people.
Kaya Henderson: This was so scary to me. I mean, because a lot of times prosecutors, you know, just make a bet on when there are multiple potential suspects, they make a bet on which one they can flip first, not which one is the person who did it. And these two dudes, they didn’t just say they were at a party, multiple witnesses confirmed that they were at a party, but the dude who actually did it said, No, they did it, they made me do X, Y, Z and Q, and they did it. And like, this is like my worst nightmare. You all know I’m deathly afraid of jail and all things jail and whatnot. And to think that some person could say that—you weren’t even in the building—to say that you did it. A prosecutor bets on him instead of you, and you end up serving 25 years in jail?! Like, that is bananas. And the fact that there is no accountability whatsoever. I mean, these two dudes, it brought tears to my eyes because the one brother was like, You know, you feel like you want to give up. 25 years in jail! My soul. But they promised their mother that they would never give up. And bless her heart, bless them. Like, this is the, I mean, the greatest miscarriage of justice. And to think that there are absolutely no consequences is just astounding. Y’all got my blood pressure up this week. Come on.
DeRay Mckesson: Let them know. Let them know.
De’Ara Balenger: I will just say, and I think it probably goes to Myles’s earlier point in terms of just like the culture and function of the criminal legal system. Like my dad is a criminal defense attorney and has been for 40 years now and, you know, as young as high school remember reading cases and, you know, kind of just looking at proceedings where people either weren’t offered their plea deal or where there were so many sets of circumstances which could exonerate them, but were never presented at trial. And then when I went on to law school and worked at the Innocence Project in Houston, again, just so, so many cases of unfairness, right? Like because even in the case of someone committing a crime, they still have a right to a fair trial, right? And I just feel like we’re not, our system isn’t, our system Myles, to your point is set up to win cases, right? Prosecutors are, they’re pressure to win cases. And what does that look like? Sometimes that looks like somebody that has has some modicum of evidence against them that can be used to put that person behind bars. And so, you know, when you start to, you know, humanize the individuals that are in this system and understand that it’s just a numbers game. I mean, a lot of folks that are incarcerated shouldn’t be there. There’s over two million people in this country in jail. Two million people. You know? So it’s just, when you start to think about it that way, it is so many cases of just unfairness, over-sentencing, or just plain old, they shouldn’t be there. So it’s just it’s wild.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Now, earlier this month, we had Nicole Lewis on to chat about the journey of student parents and the pursuit of higher education. This week we welcome Reshma Saujani on to share insight on her research and advocacy around women in the workplace. The political barriers for women entering the workplace date back to Nixon, and they affect working mothers’ access to subsidized childcare, adequate paid time off, and even positions of power at work. In “Pay UP: The future of women and work” Reshma argues that the American workforce, designed by and for men. And the book provides a roadmap for a serious culture and political shift that welcomes working mothers with support, but most importantly, resources. Reshma is also the founder of Girls Who Code, which aims to increase the number of women in computer science and close the gender employment difference in the field. Lot’s to unpack. I learned so much and you will, too. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: Reshma, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Reshma Saujani: Thank you for having me and so glad to be here.
DeRay Mckesson: Now I wanted to, I learned a ton, so I have a million questions, but let’s start with how did you get to studying women in the workforce? What made you want to write another book, like how, what’s your journey been to get here?
Reshma Saujani: Yeah. You know, look, I started, you know, 2020 running Girls Who Code, you know, we had a Super Bowl ad. I was on top of the world. I was having my second son. And then COVID hit, and I found myself having to take care of a newborn, you know, homeschool a kindergartner, and save my nonprofit, you know, from being shut down, because when pandemics hit the first resources to go are to women and girls. Most of my leadership team at Girls Who Code where we’re working women with little kids. And all of us in the pandemic were just barely making it right, because we’re trying to maintain our full-time jobs while we were taking care of these babies. And, you know, when the schools never opened in September and they came up with this idea of like hybrid learning where somebody., I.e. a mom, would have to log on her kid at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 all the while maintaining her full-time job, we started to see millions of women, women of color, just leave the workforce. And I remember saying to myself, well, where’s the plan? You know, you can’t lose this many jobs. You can’t, you know, have this enormous effect and so many women without having a plan. And so, you know, I started the Marshall Plan for Moms and then wrote Pay Up really to say the entire way that we’ve designed workforces has never accounted for the fact that two-thirds of the caretaking work have always been done by women.
DeRay Mckesson: Now let me go to, let me go to the book itself is that, so let me tell you one of things I didn’t know. I didn’t know this: one in four mothers go back to work less than two weeks after giving birth!
Reshma Saujani: Isn’t that crazy?
DeRay Mckesson: I mean, you obviously know that because you wrote it in the book, but did you discover that? Like, how did you come to know that?
Reshma Saujani: Oh my god, I just covered so much writing this book. You know, even the way that workplaces were designed and that they never wanted us. And, you know, the one in four women go back to work, you know, right after having a baby without having the time to even physically heal! You know, the fact that, the fact that we spend more time with our children than single moms did in the 1970s. So there was so much that I learned. And you know, the biggest learning that I talk about is how we’ve been, how corporate feminism has really crafted this big lie in that for so many of us, we thought, we were taught basically to just lean in real hard and, you know, Girlboss your way to the top, that the reason you weren’t succeeding was because you weren’t color coding your calendar or you didn’t have a mentor or sponsor. And we’ve always been trying to fix the woman instead of fixing the structure. I mean, you’re, the staff that you just said about that, right? That’s the structure being broken. How can any woman who has just given birth, not been able to bond with her child, not been able to physically recover, be expected to go back to work and succeed? Like, you’re basically just setting women up to fail.
DeRay Mckesson: And I love that you say that too. You talk, you’re like, We were asked to lean in, and we did! You’re like, women did lean in, right? Like women did become CEOs, VCs and da da da, but the actual workplace is designed around men. Now when you say that, and that is, I think, literally like the sentence, let me go back, I have your book all highlighted, so I was like, Let me, OK, you wrote, “We need a workplace that is not designed around men.” What does that mean? Like, can you help us understand the ways in which you think the workplace is designed around men and what we can do to offset that? And I know, but it’s obviously in the book and people need to buy the book, but give us a teaser.
Reshma Saujani: Yeah, I mean, listen, I mean, women were never allowed into the workplace until World War II, because the men had to go to war. Right? And so then they let us in. And then when the men came back, they pushed us back out. And essentially we were only allowed back in if we hid our motherhood, because so much of the way that workplaces are designed or designed for, you know, get a hetero-normative couple with two incomes, or two people, you know, two people in the household where the man is in the workplace and the woman is at home taking care of the kids. I mean, even if you think about the workday, right, the workday is nine to five, even though school days are 8:30 to three. Well, who’s picking up the kids from school and taking care of them if you’re supposed to be at work? You know, even if you think about like, happy hours, the after work drink, you know, what about that time? You know, what about, like all the, again, the domestic work that you have? So much of it is designed for the fact that we know, we think that there’s somebody else at home, a woman, who is doing the child rearing and the cooking and the cleaning, and all the stuff that you got to do for the other partner to be able to go to work and succeed. And this is also like very historical. You know, DeRay, we almost had child care under Nixon. And when Nixon voted against it, he basically said, Well, we don’t want women coming out of the home and going into the workforce and so if we start paying, the government starts paying for childcare, this will be what happens. And you kind of see remnants of that today when you hear Joe Manchin or Mitt Romney talk about the child tax credit, right? And talk about, you know, school closures, all the language that’s used around that, you know, one would think sometimes that there is basically this conspiracy to take choice away from us.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll tell you, I also didn’t know, you talk about the Great Depression and one of the things that you noted that I’m like, Where have I, why didn’t I, nobody taught me this — you wrote, for instance, the Economy Act of 1932 stipulated that only one family member could work for the government, keeping married women out of the only jobs available to them, such as teachers or librarians. What?!
Reshma Saujani: It’s so wild, it’s so wild And there’s so many remnants of that now, even the way that Social Security is. You know, for all the women that were asked to base, that were pushed out of the workforce, you know, during that year, they don’t collect Social Security benefits. You know, if you are a stay-at-home — why do you think DeRay, there’s so many women that are in senior citizen homes and so many women in those homes? It’s because of the way Social Security is designed. So if you are a stay-at-home partner, a woman, when you get Social Security benefits, you don’t get everything your husband got, you only get a certain percentage, I think, like 70%. So we’ve literally pushed women into poverty because we assume that the work that they’re doing at home has no value, no economic value, when it’s only because of that work have men been able to go into the workforce. So the entire system has been set up against us. I mean, I talk about this in the book, the pay gap. You know, it irritates the hell out of me. We talk about pay inequity as if it’s something that we can’t solve. And you saw it a couple of weeks ago with the women’s soccer team, you know, going to the White House and we often use that example as like, you know, again, progress that we’re making on pay inequity, but most of the pay inequity that exists today is not between childless women and childless men, it’s between mothers and fathers. It’s because of the motherhood penalty. When you have a child and you exit the workforce, the average when you come back, you’re taking a 40% penalty, that you never then recover. That’s why we have a pay gap. So if all we did was like build an algorithm and go into every single company and root out the motherhood penalty, we basically wouldn’t have a big gap anymore! So it’s the discrimination that we have against female caretakers in particular, right, that we have to really do something about.
DeRay Mckesson: Is anybody doing this well?
Reshma Saujani: I think that there are a handful of companies, Netflix, Microsoft, Deloitte, right, that are leading the charge on gender-neutral paid leave. You know, you just saw the Twitter CEO take some time off, right? And those are great examples. But we’re not doing, like only 10% of company subsidize child care, right? And DeRay, if you look at the latest jobs report, we still have millions of women missing. And when we look at the data as to why they’re missing, they’re missing because childcare is too expensive, it’s unavailable, and it’s unaffordable, right? More people pay more for their, for their childcare than they [unclear].
DeRay Mckesson: can you just pause for two seconds and just help us understand the basics, just because I want to make sure we all know. When you say like employer-subsidized childcare, that means what?
Reshma Saujani: So it means different things. For some, for some employers, they provide backup care. For some employers, they provide a cash subsidy, like send me your receipt on your Care.com, right, and I’ll pay for a portion of it. You know, some employers have in-site daycare. But because of the pandemic and again, a lot of female employees were having to reconcile homeschooling with doing their job and daycare centers are shut down, they couldn’t have grandparents come in and take care of their kids or babysitters or nannies, companies had to start being like, Okay, you got to homeschool Johnny from 9 to 11. I’m going to give you flexibility, or I’m going to give you financial support to pay for any kind of support that you might have in caring for your child. It was something that hadn’t been done before, but some companies started doing it during the pandemic. You know, culturally, we’ve always seen child care as your personal problem. It hasn’t been seen as an HR benefit in the way that, quite frankly, we see health care or even egg freezing. And so the trend has started slightly to shift but we got to do even more, because right now, when you look at the reasons why women are not returning back to the workforce, it is because of childcare, because again, it’s either unavailable or it’s unaffordable. And so if we want to do something about the great resignation, if we want to get more women to come back, fill those 11 million jobs that are open, companies are going to have to start subsidizing some form of childcare. It makes sense.
DeRay Mckesson: It wasn’t til I read the book, and for those of you who are about to buy the book, just bookmark page 124 and 125, I didn’t realize that that there were employers doing things like giving employees access to Care.com. Or you talk about Fidelity Investments providing a concierge for parents to help them find availability in local daycare. I mean, that is like, a, that was a flag for equity, because like poor people don’t get concierges, but I had no clue that this sort of stuff was–or even Facebook providing a childcare subsidy. Like, I didn’t know that those things were like, I didn’t know people were doing those
Reshma Saujani: People are doing them.
DeRay Mckesson: What’s backup care?
Reshma Saujani: So backup care is essentially like if you have a day care center that’s shut down, or let’s just say you’ve got a daycare center or a babysitter that comes in every day and she calls in sick, you then can call your company and say, I need backup care, you know, because my regular childcare provider is not available. Because that’s how a lot of this happens for so many women. And I think, DeRay, the thing to keep, I think, front and center is we got to make sure that these benefits are offered to all women and not just women that are working in the corner office. One of the things that I talk about in the book that that for so many salaried employees, the thing that they want is flexibility. But for many hourly employees, the thing that they need is predictability. So if you got a job working at a restaurant and your shift starts at seven and you’ve got two kids, and so now you paid for the, you know, daycare, you show for your seven p.m. shift, and guess what? They’re like Oh, it’s canceled. You’re out money now. So most hourly workers have no predictability about their schedule, which makes childcare really expensive and hard. And so Walmart, for example, built an app that allows, you know, folks to kind of exchange shifts with one another. And that is a way of really supporting them again with their childcare because they have then predictability over their schedule. And that’s what many hourly wage earners, mothers tell me that they need. That’s doable, right? Like, we can do that. We should be doing that.
DeRay Mckesson: Is there anything that you, that you uncovered during the research that even surprised you?
Reshma Saujani: You know, I think that the whole, like the whole fact of that we’ve never been paying attention to the gender inequality at home. And until you have equality at home, you’re never going to have equality in the workplace. And so the entire fabric in many ways of feminist, corporate feminism, I would say, about this idea of like, Hey, you know, you got to have 50-50 on your board or, you know, hey, like how many women are you promoting, is really not the thing that we have to be focused on. We also have to be focused on how corporate policies exacerbate gender inequality at home. And I think there’s no better example of that than paid leave. You know, like companies love to tout their paid leave policies but what I really want to know is how many men are taking it. Do you incentivize them to take it, or do you gaslight them when they do? You know, I think about my own marriage DeRay. Like, you know, when we had, I married the guy that was doing the laundry, you know, the dishes, he was cooking, he was cleaning and everything. And then we had a kid. And when we had Sean, because I took leave and he didn’t, you know, my to do list went huge in his shrunk. And so I’ve then always been the, in some ways, the primary caretaker because I knew where all the stuff was. And so, hey, having paid leave and having, you know, people take it is critical for creating equality in terms of the domestic and the cognitive labor that happens at home. You know, there are countries like, you know, Philippines that literally had an entire campaign on laundry love. They had literally a national campaign on trying to get men to do more laundry because by doing that, that was going to create more equality and more gender equality for women to focus on work. And you know, can you imagine that happening in this country, like a Super Bowl ad with LeBron James and Snoop Dogg doing the laundry, you know, a national campaign being like, Hey, we got to increase the uptake of people doing domestic work, of men doing domestic work. But that is exactly what we need to do. Exactly what we need to do. That’s the way we get to equality.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, it’s so interesting too because I used to be the chief human of capital of the school system in Baltimore and I’ll tell you, I didn’t know until I was the chief that the employer could deny FMLA, nonconsecutive FMLA for parents. I just didn’t know it. Most women take their leave consecutively because they just had a kid. But men in the school, we had 10,000 employees, men would request to like, take two weeks off, go back to school, take two weeks, like they would, they could cut to six weeks up however they wanted. And our office was literally denying every request. We would just deny them. And I didn’t know. So one day I get an email from a dad who’s like, Hey, DeRay, blah blah blah blah, your office just denied my nonconsecutive leave. Is there any way we can like review the decision? So I send it to the team and I’m just like, Hey, you know, it didn’t come to me, why do we deny it? And they write back and they go, Oh, we deny them all. And I’m like, What? And they’re like, legal told us it’s too much paperwork to log the time that people have out, so we should just deny them all.
Reshma Saujani: Wow.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: And I was like, That is the craziest thing I have ever heard. So I like I’m the chief of human capital, so I have to go up, talk to the chief of legal or whatever, and I’m just like, We’re not doing that anymore. So like, tell the superintendent, I don’t know, but like, we’re not just denying men’s leave because like, you think it’s bad paperwork.
Reshma Saujani: Crazy.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: That’s crazy. And that was one of the first times that I saw how this impacts families. And like, we were just making families deal with it. So like they were just stuck until we change that policy.
Reshma Saujani: And this is why the vast majority of men, you know, take less than 10 days of leave after having a child. So it’s just, we don’t have a country that revolves around this being a priority. You know, in other, other countries do. Like a study in Sweden, showed that women’s income rises to 6.7% for every month her partner takes leave. So the only way again that you get to equality for women is these types of policies. And so that was what was for me, like, Wow, we’ve just been focused on the wrong things for way too long. And Wow, we just went through this pandemic where we’re upending everything, or we should, and we have this opportunity to radically change workplaces and society.
DeRay Mckesson: Now one of the things that you, one of the ways that the book is set up, especially towards the end, is that you highlight what the employers are doing, and I learned a lot in that section. And then you also highlight what women can do in the workplace. Can you talk about, for women who are listening, for employers who are listening, for allies who are listening, and want to think through how they can be a part. Maybe they’re not the leadership, they don’t own the company, they don’t manage employees, but they want to make their workplace a more equitable place with regard to gender disparities. What can they do?
Reshma Saujani: Yeah, I mean, I really want, I really feel like this is an opportunity to take women from crisis to power, and really teach women how to advocate for themselves. You know, one of the things that I think is really critical that I talk about is the importance of being specific in your ask, right? And so if we’re talking about caregiving and wanting your company to support you with childcare, you know, educate yourself on all the options that are open and available to you, you know? Go to childcare.gov, there’s some good research or Care.com has some amazing resources. And then educate your employer, for example, on the cost of not subsidizing childcare. You know, this is a big thing, and this is why I say women have never had more leverage than we do at this moment. You know, like I said, that there are 11 million jobs that are open right now, and so many companies are responding to this being like, Oh, what do you need? How much money do you need, OK, I’m to pay you what you need. And but then people are leaving in six months, seven months, four months. And so the cost of attrition in many ways is more expensive than the cost of supporting and helping somebody with their child care cost. You know, so again, you know, there’s a study that that came out that I cite in the book in Gallup that the cost of replacing an individual employee is almost one to one and a half times that of their salary. So that is very expensive. And so I think laying that out and making your case is really critical. And you know, this is the moment. We can’t go back. You know, what I say to women is like, we can’t go back to the old normal. Like most women I know, for example, you know, hid their pregnancy to the last possible second, because we assumed that we were going to be discriminated against the minute our employer knows that we’re pregnant, whether it’s we’re not going to promoted, we’re going to get something taken away from us, we may even get fired. And so we hide it. It’s like literally part of work culture. I mean, there’s an article out recently about how Zoom is so great because it allows you to hide your pregnancy til the last possible second. I mean, think about that, that in the old workplace, we were asking women to hide being pregnant. So we can’t do that as we return back to normal, or whatever it is. Like, we can’t go back to a culture that expected that of us. I mean, it’s just such an indicator of how broken workplaces are. Now we have power, and now we got to build that muscle of like, how do we advocate for ourselves? And then how do we band together, not just with other moms, but with women, with men, with dads, with child–this is something that we all want. You know, when I built Girls Who Code and I was building the model, I started by going to refugee camps. I started by going to the poorest school districts and if I could teach a girl who didn’t have wi-fi, who had one device between, you know, four other siblings, if I could teach her to code, I could teach anyone. So when we think about like, what workplaces should look like, they should be designed around a single mom, period. And if we can make that workplace work for single mom, it will work for all of us.
DeRay Mckesson: There are a couple of questions that we ask everybody. And the first is ,what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Reshma Saujani: To never give up. It’s like a model that we have in our family. To never, ever give up. And, you know, as a movement builder and social entrepreneur, as a mom in this moment where it feels like damn, like this, everything is set up against us. They don’t care that we’re in a mental health crisis, that 51% of moms are anxious and depressed, they’ll shut down the schools without even asking whether we know, whether we have the time or the ability to do it. We’ve sacrifice our jobs, our dreams, I mean, everything. And you kind of, I mean, government, they’re bailing out airlines but they can’t bailout moms. They passed the bill on daylight savings, but they can’t pass a bill on child care or paid leave. You know? What a statement on how we’re valued and respected in this country. And so, you know, moms feel like, broken and so, but my message to them is like ther’e forty million of us that he experienced something together, and we need to not give up and not to assume that that’s just the way it is or the cost of being a mom in America.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And the second question is what do you tell people, and maybe this is close to the answer that you just gave, but there are a lot of people who feel like they’ve done everything right? They’ve read your book, read mine. They called, they emailed, they testified, they voted for the right person, they stood in the street. They did all the things, and the world has not changed in the way they wanted to. They saw the vote for daylight savings time and the willful refusal to do things around gender and race and equity, what do you say to those people, the people whose hope is challenged in moments like this?
Reshma Saujani: I say also give yourself grace. Give yourself Grace. You know? I do think, this is a thing I struggle with. One minute I say to keep fighting the other minute I’m saying like, take a break, take a breath. Because I do feel like for a lot of people these past few years have been really challenging and hard and a lot has happened and we always expect, whether it’s moms, whether it’s young people, whether it’s people of color, that we are the ones who do the fighting. And I think it’s really, I think you can’t be an advocate if you also don’t do and practice self-care. And this is a moment for all of us to really start practicing the self-care, to take a minute to rest, take a beat, and then go back and fight. Like, we’re burnt out and we’ve been through trauma and our kids have been through trauma. And you know, we’ve got to support our mental health in this moment.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Can you remind everybody that name and title of the book, and where they can get it?
Reshma Saujani: The name of the book is Pay Up: The Future of Women in Work and Why it’s Different than You Think. You can get it at your favorite bookstore, and go to payupbook dot com and we have lots of amazing, amazing options there. And don’t just get one for you. Get one for everyone you know. We’re building a movement.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, we consider you a friend of the pod and cannot wait to have you back.
Reshma Saujani: Thank you, dear. I can’t wait to be back.
DeRay Mckesson: OK, before you go, this is a real question that I had to ask earlier, is how can people stay in touch with you, though? Like, should people follow you on Twitter or Facebook? Or is there an Instagram or, I don’t know, is there a newsletter?
Reshma Saujani: Yeah, follow me all of it. And LinkedIn @reshmasaujani is where you can follow me and, you know, sign up on our website @Marshallplanformoms dot com for our news letter.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Veronica Simonetti, and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson.