MomWarrior conference in San Ramon takes aim at work/family balance
By Lou Fancher
Tet Salva grew up in the Philippines with a mother who worked full-time and was largely hands-off. Her father, too, was mostly absent. Living in and out of foster homes after coming to the United States for college, working four jobs, she developed resilience.
Good fortune and Salva’s fortitude led her to female mentors as she built a successful career in reorganizational leadership for large corporations. Eventually, Salva and her husband, Jeremy Coyne, settled in the Bay Area and while working full-time, began a family that now includes four daughters ages 2-11.
So when on a return trip to her homeland she noticed in her oldest daughter a lack of awareness about the life of girls and women in a country with few resources, she knew she had to break the bubble.
“I started Bentogirl because I saw entitlement in my children,” says Salva, about launching the business that targets girls 12-18 and includes an initiative for women, MomWarriors. “I want to tap that bubble of privilege. I want them to see how rich and full the world is. I want them to be girl warriors.”
She turned her attention to her peers — moms and professionals who recognize that when it comes to career and family, they can’t “have it all,” but they can have a lot. To find balance and build a world in which children will thrive, she says she founded MomWarriors for women who trust higher education, evidence-based research, energy from mentors and networks, and early intervention.
MomWarriors is for women whose busy lives may include two parents working full-time, school, extracurriculars, extended family obligations, and a desire to achieve in the workplace while being present for their children.
“Bentogirl is focusing on the whole girl,” said Salva. “There are many girl movements out there. What’s unique about Bentogirl is taking girls in this country and having them learn from the common threads with girls in countries with limited resources. The small things will open their perspectives: Acceptance and ignorance will fall away.”
On May 12, Salva held what she dubbed the first MomWarrior conference, a one-day event in San Ramon that brought together female experts in technology, media, business, academia and entrepreneur sectors.
“MomWarriors was born out of the idea that moms are an underserved demographic,” says Salva. While attending conferences and consulting with successful startups, she often wondered, “How does a woman with four kids and working 80 hours a week fit in? I saw a gap. I started thinking about a space where like-minded people share their thoughts about identity and finding balance.”
Conference moderator Kristi Scobie, of Pleasanton, shares Salva’s vision. After a career in the consumer wireless industry, the mother of two children jumped ship to engage as a social enterprise project entrepreneur.
“Meshing career goals and being present for our children,” Scobie says connected her to MomWarrior. She is developing Colorfully Cultured, an organization that will provide interactive, online global learning for girls. “Like Tet, bringing my children into the work I’m doing allows my passion for social literacy to be instilled in my family. It’s family, but it’s also my business.”
The conference revealed the complex paradigm for professional women who are mothers. “If we’re just looking at dollars and cents at the expense of culture, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Lisa Wood, of Danville. Speaking on the “Your Passion Vs. Motherhood” panel, Wood said entrepreneurial women must build teams that include social, financial and technical skills support
Panel member Sandra Ann Harris, inventor and president of plastic-free food container company ECOlunchbox, advised women to continue consulting in their professions while launching startups that will — even after they become successful — include tremendous risk. Since 2009, Harris’s company has sold more than 280,000 ECOlunchboxes.
Women at the conference — both speakers and participants — said that although the movement to achieve balance and find energy for work-family lifestyles will require girls and women to join and mentor each other, boys and men play a role.
Morad Mouheb, 32, the conference’s sole male participant, hails from France and is spending a semester as a graduate student at UC Berkeley. He is developing Acuity For Moms, a startup that provides online educational resources for moms to re-enter the workforce by updating their knowledge base, then pairing them with companies.
“Men leave, but not for as long. Men stay in touch with their business networks. Mothers isolate with their families and leave for longer so there are skills gaps,” said Mouheb.
Salva says Bentogirl and MomWarrior activities will soon be housed in a downtown Lafayette location. The club will offer writing classes, Life Design workshops, retreats and other programs for women. For girls, it will be a place to do homework or enroll in eight-week leadership courses that result in action plans and pair them with mentors. For high school girls, three-week, international programs will be available. Initiation (estimated at $325) and a monthly fee ($25-45) will operate like a gym membership and include add-on programs and classes.