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By Candice Quarles (EMBA 2022)

Note from Inside Kellogg: In addition to passing Paid Family Leave for DeSoto, Texas, Candice Quarles recently led the passing of Ban-the-Box policy on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Joining the City of Austin, 36 states, and over 150 cities and counties, Ban-the-Box will implement hiring policies that aim to give everyone a fair chance at employment. “Ban-the-box” refers to the policy of removing the conviction history check-box from job applications. If employers must ask about convictions, they can ask later in the hiring process. 

I have always been civically engaged and hope to continue to encourage others, especially younger and minority groups, to be active in their communities. I ran for DeSoto City Council with the intention of improving things for the next generation, as well as represent an overlooked portion of the population. As someone who has a family and can relate to the policies overlooking expecting families’ needs, the issue needed to be addressed. My Human Resources experience was useful in advocating for policy changes to suit my constituents’ needs. My efforts to get paid family leave for city employees became a competitive benefit that made a difference for many families.

Advancing paid family leave

I worked on this effort for almost two years. As one of the few working mothers on the city council and the only one with a school-aged child, I knew I would have to carry this particular issue. Some of my colleagues had kids my age, and this policy area just wasn’t top of mind. Because I spent 12 years in Human Resources, I knew firsthand how women slowly stop taking any sick time or vacation time in order to conserve as much paid time off once the baby is born. I enjoyed this benefit at my employer for the birth of my daughter. However, 1 in 4 women are returning to work within 10 days of birthing a child.

As a developed nation, we are last in taking care of working women; Canada provides 17 weeks, Japan offers 14 weeks, Mexico provides 12 weeks. Out of the 41 developed countries, and the U.S. is the only one lacking. We should do better, and we can. And in DeSoto, we did.

With the passing of paid family leave for city employees, moms and dads are now provided three weeks of Paid Parental Leave before using any sick or vacation time. We are the first city in North Texas and the fourth city in the entire state to do so.

It was important to include men in this policy, as we cannot discuss equity in the workplace if we don’t discuss equity at home. Many times, the circumstances around giving birth are dynamic and require support for both moms and dads: moms or the baby may have to stay at the hospital due to complications; there are other children to take care of in addition to the new baby; dads need to bond with the baby, as well. And same sex partners/non-birth parents also share the same concern of having to return to work immediately. Although this was not a popular part of the policy, I insisted.

The benefit has been in place since October 1, 2020, and many city employees have used the benefit. We found that the biggest appreciation came from the city firefighters — while they are mostly men, they tend to be younger in age and are interested in starting their own families.

Politics is tough. This experience of advancing Paid Family Leave, including the many roadblocks along the way, has made me a better advocate for my community because I learned to work within the system to produce positive changes. There were opportunities I expected and things I never saw coming, such as partnering with the DeSoto firefighters to call for paid parental leave. Nonetheless, I persevered and have gotten many other things accomplished during my two terms that make me hopeful for my community’s future.

Continuing to grow with a Kellogg Executive MBA

Realizing how important the role women have in shaping generations and decision-making processes, I give credit to the ones who made me into the person I am. Due to their efforts, the next generation is having the necessary dialogues about women’s history and giving trailblazers recognition for their contributions. Now, more than ever, women are running for office and being ambitious with what they want in life. Names that were originally not a part of historical curriculum are now being known. By realizing their imprint on society, I understand why other young, ambitious, women of color are able to learn from watching me make a difference in my community. For example, I am able to balance a family with a career, manage leadership roles in multiple organizations, and work on achieving my second master’s degree.

While I believe some of the best ideas on how to better the world come from people in government, the execution, skills, and lack of resources present challenges that some think only corporate America can solve. I enrolled in Kellogg’s Executive MBA program to not only work on these skills with the hopes of improving my community, but to continue to grow as a person, a leader in my community — as I plan to run for higher office one day — and allow me to serve as a role model to others. I’m proof that it is never too late to work on your dreams and wish for my daughter to see that it is possible to do it all.