The Hidden Workforce

The Hidden Workforce


Words by Ashley Locke

When Delphine Carter had her second child, she found herself in the same situation as a lot of moms—struggling to balance her job as a mother with her career. Managing school pickup times, sick children, appointments, and extra curriculars while working strict hours was almost impossible, and it made her feel like a failure. However, she couldn’t see quitting her job as an option. “I was so scared that if I stepped out of the workforce, I would never get my career back, so I stuck with it,” she said.

Fast forward to today—Delphine is solving the working mom problem into her own hands. Her company, Boulo, has a mission: “We surface a hidden workforce for innovative employers: talented women who accomplish more while finding healthy work and life integration.”

The idea for Boulo came to Delphine because of her own needs. “I was struggling at work to get some projects completed because my team’s plate was full. I just needed a part-time person or a contract person with the right expertise,” she said. “At the same time I saw the genius moms in my community who kept saying they wanted to find work but weren’t ready or able to go back full time.”

A traditional work day is usually thought of as being in the office from 9 AM to 5 PM, but Boulo is flipping the script. There is a goldmine of untapped talent in mothers—women who want to work, but also need to be able to pick their kids up from school. Thanks to technology, offering this flexibility is possible.

“With internet and cell phones we have the ability to Skype, text, quickly work with a team on documents and so much more. Without the constraints of having to be in close proximity, we could as efficiently, and some would argue more efficiently, work with team members located anywhere in the world,” said Delphine. “This means you can get access to skills that can’t be found in your community, and that long commutes eating away at family time aren’t necessary.”

Flexibility in the workplace has become increasingly popular, especially among working parents. In fact, flexibility is a more requested perk than increased pay or benefits. “Flexibility means I have more options to executing on things that are important to me. I can find creative ways to accomplish more,” said Delphine. “Parents are able to pick up their kids from school, make it to extra-curricular events, be home with their sick child and still complete their work.”

While getting moms back into the workforce is a nation-wide issue, Boulo is currently focused on Alabama. “Alabama has the second lowest female workforce participation rate in the nation,” Delphine said. “Our economy and our businesses are better with a diverse workforce. If Boulo got 30% of just Alabama stay-at-home moms back into the workforce in a part-time role, it would result in a $2.6B economic impact.”

One of Boulo’s biggest challenges is educating employers on the benefits of providing a flexible work schedule. Currently, 51% of businesses are open to hiring a contractor/remote worker, but that number is growing every year. “Many businesses still measure an employee’s performance only based on time at a desk. We coach businesses to establish KPIs or goals and objectives for defining success,” Delphine said. “There is also a need to educate companies to look beyond keywords and titles on a resume or job board. Our platform allows companies to see talent from a 360° view rather than just focusing on one or two skills.”

So far, Boulo has been successful in connecting talent with flexible employers. They have over 700 women on the platform, and they have filled over 100 roles. “Our proudest stat is that once a business meets these talented women, the majority post another role,” said Delphine.

Delphine believes employers need to start taking advantage of the vast pool of talent waiting at home, and she will continue to be the mediating force to make it happen. “Women who step out of the workforce don’t put their brains on hold,” she said. “They nationally contribute 4.5 billion hours of unpaid work, equaling $103.8 billion in salary value—but this work isn’t recognized by many hiring managers or by the online job boards. We encourage hiring managers and HR departments to recognize the value of non-traditional work.”

As Boulo continues to grow, more and more women will be able to fulfill their work-life balance needs. “Being just one thing—just a mother or just a professional woman—makes us bury a significant side of ourselves,” Delphine said. “It’s important to me because I want women to be their whole selves.”

Why should people care about the fact women have to choose between family and work?

  • Human capital issue—We are running out of workers and poaching from each other. Opening up our jobs to non-traditional workers is a huge value. A business loses $16K in lost productivity trying to fill the average job posting. Let’s start thinking differently.
  • Business policy issue—We have to change our business policies to accommodate caregivers. Everyone should have a remote work policy or flexible work policy. The effect of the Corona virus on how we work should have really opened some corporation’s eyes. 
  • Social policy issue—The US is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer its citizens paid maternity leave. We don’t put value on care giving but we berate parents if they don’t come off as the super mom.  
  • Gender equity concern—Studies show over and over again that businesses operate better with diverse thinking. We can’t continue to have a stagnate female participation rate in the US.