‘Everyone's Story Is Important’ —How Individuals, ERGs, and Companies Can Elevate Women

Sponsored by KinderCare Learning Companies

Kelly Wagman and her son, who put himself through college by working part time at KinderCare.  He is now a sixth-grade history teacher. Photo courtesy of KinderCare Learning Companies.

Kelly Wagman and her son, who put himself through college by working part time at KinderCare. He is now a sixth-grade history teacher. Photo courtesy of KinderCare Learning Companies.

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June 22, 2024 at 10:19PM UTC

In her 24 years at KinderCare Learning Companies, Kelly Wagman has served as a Teacher, Assistant Director, Director, and District Leader. And, during the past 18 months, she's held the position of Region Director, California. 

In this role, “I have the privilege of supporting 11 District Leaders and 147 KinderCare Centers in California,” Kelly explains. “On a day-to-day basis, I work wholeheartedly to ensure that every child who walks through our KinderCare doors has the best day ever.”

For Kelly, ensuring that every child and family has a world-class experience is a lifelong mission — and she’s able to accomplish this every day at KinderCare. “KinderCare’s proprietary curriculum ensures our children get an opportunity to start on a developmental map that will send them on a journey to build confidence for life,” explains Kelly. “I truly feel blessed to be on this journey with all of them.”

As part of achieving her goals, Kelly prioritizes caring for her team of caregivers by “ensuring that we develop and build high-performing teams that feel encouraged, engaged, empowered, and energized to provide experiences that make you proud to be an early childhood educator,” says Kelly. In order to better empower her colleagues, Kelly also serves as an Executive Ally for the Women’s ERG at KinderCare. 

“Landing in a position where I can lead more women to share their thoughts and opinions freely and safely is especially important,” Kelly shares. “The success of our ERG group is shown in the ability to amplify those voices and create positive change.”

Here, Kelly is using her voice to tell us more about how this group is enacting change, and how KinderCare as a whole is fostering a truly inclusive environment.

Exploring a successful Women’s ERG.

The goals of the Women’s ERG at KinderCare are to create: 

  • Brave Space, which is a positive and inclusive space for women to be courageous, strengthen confidence, and to lift each other up.

  • Mentorship and community to provide resources for all women as KinderCare addresses wellbeing, mental health, and current women's issues (such as communication, work-life balance, social constructs, and professional development).

  • Change, which involves positively influencing policies and procedures.

Through her participation in the group, Kelly sees that these goals are continuously acted on by ERG participants who she says are “comfortable being vulnerable and sharing where they may need support, a listening ear, or moments to just share.” This is imperative for a successful ERG, since, as Kelly has learned as an Executive Ally — listening is more important than talking. “Learn from others and know that everyone's story is important to tell,” she elaborates.

As a result of following this advice, the KinderCare Women’s ERG has proven to be successful and popular, with the group increasing in participation every month. As Kelly puts it, the remarkable success of the ERG shows how “hard work and perseverance pay off.”

Kelly and her team at a Summit. Photo courtesy of KinderCare Learning Companies.

In regards to what this ERG means to her, Kelly shares that “when I have reflected on my career and the careers of the many incredible women I have had the privilege of working with, it makes me unbelievably proud of the opportunities that have been afforded to myself and so many others.” Being an Executive Ally has proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience.

A look inside KinderCare’s culture of support, equality, and inclusivity.

“KinderCare has a culture that I’m very proud to be part of,” Kelly shares. For instance, she recalls how 24 years ago, when she first joined Kindercare part-time, she was searching for a purpose and a place to lay down roots. I was looking for “a career where I was going to make a difference and find a sisterhood,” Kelly reflects. “We all want to feel like we belong, that we have a best friend at work, and someone that listens without bias. And every woman deserves to have the opportunity to gain experience, grow, and develop in a safe environment where they feel supported, celebrated, and appreciated. I found all of that and my home here at Kindercare.”

And Kelly is far from the only person who has found a home at KinderCare. In fact, she remembers meeting a brand new KinderCare teacher who was so excited to be there that she cried tears of joy. This new teacher told Kelly that she was inspired to enter this career path after meeting the Center Director at KinderCare, Ms. Yesenia, in her first college class after starting her family. “If it wasn’t for Ms. Yesenia, I would have never made it through that class or the next several I took to become a fully qualified teacher,” this new teacher told Kelly. “I then came to KinderCare, and Ms. Yesenia took a chance on me. It was here that I realized I can be a great mom, wife, and contributor to my family.” When asked what she intended to spend her very first paycheck on, the new teacher said she was going to buy all her children their first pair of new shoes. “We always bought them at yard sales and thrift stores,” the new teacher recalled, “but I will never need to do that ever again — Ms. Yesenia believed in me!”

And this belief does not come from nowhere. Yesenia, too, has an inspirational career path. Yesenia came to America “with $30 in her pocket and a dream to be a preschool teacher,” shares Kelly. “KinderCare took a chance on Yesenia, and now she directs a 100% occupied school with high-quality and world-class engagement every year!” And, as we can see, Yesenia continues to contribute to KinderCare’s culture of women supporting other women!

And how did KinderCare achieve such a culture? One way is through a person whom Kelly describes as KinderCare’s own Fairygodboss: their CEO Tom Wyatt. After joining KinderCare in 2012, Tom placed the company on what Kelly calls an engagement journey, which she’s happy to be a part of. “Our DEI and ERG initiatives are important to Tom, and that is felt by all of us as partners in this journey,” Kelly says. “I have personally felt the impact of improved communication, modeling of the right behaviors, mutual respect, and knowing my opinion counts. Tom has been a true example of thoughtful leadership that yields opportunities for everyone to truly feel heard and valued.” Thanks to the culture Tom has helped create, Kelly emphasizes how she “cannot imagine working anywhere else!”

Kelly and her team in Sacramento with Tom Wyatt. Photo courtesy of KinderCare Learning Companies.

From taking part in this transformation and all of KinderCare’s DEI efforts, Kelly has the following advice to share with other organizations who want to become more inclusive and welcoming:

“You must want change, be curious, be an active listener, and realize that this is a long road with many twists and turns. But it starts with leadership and the right people encouraging the right things without judgment. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Start today!”

Interested in learning more about this inclusive culture and joining the KinderCare team? Check out open opportunities via the link below.

Fairygodboss is proud to partner with KinderCare Learning Companies. Find a job there today!

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