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  • March 29, 2021

    The Past, Present and Future of Women’s History: A Journey Through the Marketing and PR Industry

    Women’s History Month is about more than history. It’s about the expanding recognition of women’s accomplishments; not just those of the past or current but encouraging the women of the future as well. As women, we must hold each other up. We remember the past to inspire ourselves today. However, we must remember to inspire the future generations now and not wait for them to go looking. 

    We thought it would be fitting to close Women’s History Month by taking a look at the past, present and future female leaders in the marketing, advertising and PR industry. As communication experts, our voices in the industry are vital. We communicate to the world what representation, equality and diversity look like. At different points in our lives, we exist in each of these categories. What do you want yours to say, and who do you want to inspire?

    Remembering the Past

    Caroline Robinson Jones

    Caroline Robinson Jones broke racial and gender barriers by becoming the most prominent Black woman in advertising. In the early 1960s, Jones started her advertising career right after college in New York as a secretary and copywriter trainee at J. Walter Thompson, later working her way up to creative director. During her career, some of her clients included: McDonald’s, Toys ’R’ Us, KFC, American Express, Campbell Soup, Prudential, U.S. Postal Service and Anheuser-Busch. Jones launched a series of Black ad agencies throughout her career, including the firm that she had opened known as Creative Resources Management in 1986.

    Caroline Robinson Jones
    Inez Y. Kaiser

    Inez Kaiser overcame the hardships that she faced during the Jim Crow era in Kansas City by becoming the first African-American woman to open her own public relations firm in 1957, Inez Kaiser & Associates, which served national clients. She was the first African-American woman to have her story published in a PR history textbook. While working in the industry some of her clients included: Jenkins Music, 7-Up, Sterling Drug, Burger King, Southwestern Bell Telephone and Sears Roebuck.

    Inez Y Kaiser
    Barbara Gardner Proctor

    Barbara Gardner Proctor had no idea that she would open and operate the second-largest African-American advertising agency in the U.S. She started her advertising career at the Post-Keyes-Gardner Agency where she won 21 awards during her three years at the agency before accepting a position at Gene Taylor Associates as a copy supervisor. In 1970, Proctor eventually opened her own advertising company known as Proctor & Gardner Advertising.

    Barbara Gardner Proctor

    Staying Current

    Carol H. Williams

    Carol H. Williams has been at the forefront of the company she founded, Carol H. Williams Advertising, since 1986. She has led and motivated more than 5,000 employees over a 30-year career and has exceeded $30 million in revenue during high-performance and growth periods. Her company prides itself on its award-winning advertising and marketing campaigns for many Fortune 500 companies. Williams started her career at Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago and quickly earned a position as their first African-American female creative director and vice president. After 13 years at Leo Burnett, she served two years as senior vice president, creative director at Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco. 

    Carol H. Williams
    Dr. Sheila Brooks, Ph.D.

    Dr. Sheila Brooks is an Emmy Award-winning marketing, media and communications executive, a former television anchor and executive producer. She is founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, our advertising, marketing and public relations agency based in Washington, D.C., which has provided advertising, multicultural and crisis communications strategy, creative, media buying and video production for more than 30 years. In 2019, we received the highest honor from corporate America when SRB was named Supplier of the Year by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Dr. Brooks’ résumé could go on for pages, but as the women closest to her every day, we find inspiration in her drive, passion and kindness. She is a true titan of industry and an even more amazing woman to know.

    Dr. Sheila Brooks, Ph.D
    Symone D. Sanders

    A champion for women, Sanders is currently serving as senior adviser and chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris. A seasoned political strategist and former CNN political commentator, Sanders was a senior adviser in President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. In 2016, at the age of 25, she became the youngest national press secretary on record while working on U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. That same year, she was named to Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of 16 young Americans shaping the 2016 election. Sanders also served as principal of the 360 Group, where she provided strategic communications guidance to organizations, businesses, individuals, campaigns and candidates and helps clients find sound solutions to tough political and social problems.

    Symone D. Sanders

    Looking to the Future

    As we traveled through the women of the past and present, we have arrived at the most important stop on our journey, the women of the future! Women like our CEO and so many others have truly paved the way for the rest of us. The younger generations, yes, we are talking about the infamous millennials and the up-and-coming Gen Zers, are the ones who are responsible for carrying on the torch. It is up to them to take what the women of the past have gone through, as well as what the current female leaders are going through and learn from it, build on it and inspire the generations to come after them. 

    This Women’s History Month we highlight all of the females who are chasing their dreams, fighting to overcome the daily barriers that are set before them and living boldly in their truths. We know for sure that the advertising, marketing and PR industry wouldn’t be the same without the leaders who came before us, so we honor you and we can only aspire to be as great as you! 

    Young girl smiles while she wears a “Future Leader” t-shirt.

    To the future female business owners, PR executives, marketing influencers, publicists, advertising directors, CEOs and presidents, and more, we salute you this Women’s History Month. You are a part of history in the making, so don’t you ever forget that!

    – Sincerely, the Women of SRB Communications

  • February 15, 2021

    Operating a Business during a Global Health Pandemic

    A conversation with Dr. Sheila Brooks, president, founder and CEO of SRB Communications, about the challenges of operating a business in a pandemic.

    Question: What have been the biggest challenges to operating your business during the coronavirus pandemic.
    Answer: Operating during this global health pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges of my career, and I’ve been in business for more than 30 years. We left our downtown Washington, D.C. offices at the corner of Black Lives Matter Plaza on K Street in March, assuming that we would be returning after a lockdown of a few weeks, which turned into months. Of course, the pandemic stretched through the summer and the fall, and just when we thought it was getting better, it got worse. We will likely not return to the office before the summer or fall 2021.

    Question: What have been your biggest challenges?
    Answer: Like everyone else, we had to learn how to work remotely, among ourselves and with clients and partners. We are an advertising, marketing and public relations agency. Our business is all about people getting together and talking, ideation and messaging – whether it’s talking amongst ourselves to come up with ongoing campaigns for our clients or meeting with a client to assess their needs. We have a staff of 11 plus dozens of contract workers. The PPP money helped us to avoid furloughs, layoffs and staff cuts, as well as cutting company expenses.

    Question: How has that worked out?
    Answer: We meet mostly through Microsoft Teams. Our clients require that because of privacy concerns with other apps. We’ve had to learn how to have our weekly staff meetings, daily project outcomes meeting, and our ongoing client meetings remotely. We even had two employees who left during the pandemic and had to fill both jobs quickly during these uncertain times. Luckily, we able to fill the key leadership position with someone who had worked for us previously. Then we stepped up the skill level for the other position, opting to hire someone with more experience.

    Question: What has been the impact on staff?
    Answer: Believe it or not, I think we’ve all gotten to know each other better. 

    Question: What has been the impact of COVID-19 on Black-owned and women owned businesses? Have you lost business?
    Answer: The pandemic has been particularly devastating for Black-owned businesses. Some economists have said that 50 percent of Black-owned businesses in this country would not reopen their doors after the pandemic. We lost a pretty big multi-year contract early in the pandemic, but we’ve signed several new clients, while other clients have extended their existing contracts.

    Question: What’s your outlook for 2021?
    Answer: Believe it or not, we expect record revenue for 2021. Incredibly, one of our new clients is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looking at the disease’s stigmas and mental impact on certain minority and underrepresented groups. Howard University leads this incredible public health initiative. We are very proud to be on the cutting-edge of expanding our business verticals to public health.

  • February 12, 2021

    Best Superbowl Ads of 2021

    Marketers eagerly await the Superbowl every year like the rest of us, but for a different reason. When everyone is taking a snack break during the commercials, that’s when marketers are glued to the TV. Superbowl ads are viewed as the height of excellence in the field. These ads are literally the NFL of the industry. Each brand is duking it to claim the spot of best commercial. Some fail almost as miserably as the Chiefs did this year, others claim victory after victory, like Tom Brady. Here’s a few that SRB team felt won this year’s battle.

    Drake from State Farm

    Drake from State Farm was a really fun commercial that I’m sure made a lot of people laugh. State Farm utilized two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the first part of the commercial. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes have been recuring spokesmen for State Farm, so the start of the commercial feels like any other one they’ve done. That is until they threw a classic Superbowl twist into the mix. Towards the middle of the commercial, they reveal they have more star power than just the two quarterbacks. Randomly Paul Rudd, a comedic and beloved actor, appears as Mahomes’s “look-alike” body double. Just when you thought the star power was over, the State Farm agent’s body double turns around and it turns out to be the one and only Drake. All and all, the star power and comedic plot made this one of the more memorable ads of the night.

    Last Year’s Lemons

    Bud Light highlighted their new Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade in their Superbowl commercial. This one ranks among the best because it said what everyone was thinking. The commercial plays off the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” 2020 gave us a lot of lemons and Bud Light used that to their advantage to promote the seltzer Lemonade. The clever part is, they never address what we experienced last year (or even what we are currently experiencing). Bud Light does an excellent job making light of a tough year without being too morbid or tone-deaf.

    The Neighborhood

    DoorDash’s business has boomed since the pandemic, but they see themselves as playing a vital role in helping the struggling local restaurants survive during this time. Instead of advertising the convenience of their service, they asked people to support the local restaurants in their neighborhoods. The message itself is good, but what made it a great commercial is how it was delivered, or rather who delivered it. Daveed Diggs, of Hamilton fame, sings along with the gang of Sesame Street throughout the commercial. Who better to sing a song about supporting the neighborhood than Sesame Street? It was all around a heart-warming commercial that brought a smile to people’s face.

    The Superbowl this year was obviously different and it’s no surprise that the sentiments were reflected in the ads that played as well. Some of the biggest names didn’t even join in on the commercials. Many put their budgets into COVID-19 vaccine campaigns or didn’t spend the money at all. However, we still enjoyed watching some of the most creative ads of the year… and the cringiest. Until next year. We hope it’ll look a little different by then.

  • January 15, 2021

    2021 Marketing Trends

    2020 brought forth a whirlwind of emotions and unexpected experiences. However, we have entered a new year and we now have new things to look forward to. 2021 is particularly going to be a unique year for marketing, and one of the best things that 2020 taught us was to be prepared for anything. This will be a transitional year in many ways as we hopefully come out of the pandemic and enter a new normal. Here’s a summary of what you can expect this year in marketing.

    Purpose Driven Brands

    The summer of 2020 ignited a renewed surge for racial justice in this country and put tremendous pressure on companies to make a “change.” We’ve seen many brands step up and take action. Some created programs to help racial equality in their own organizations and others started funds to support Black businesses and equality efforts. Overall, consumers are looking for brands that have purpose behind them. It is not just enough to “sell” anymore. Consumers want the brands they support to support the same issues they do. Companies have advantages that the average person doesn’t; such as influence, capital and reach. A brand that utilizes those resources to tackle an issue builds a strong connection with a consumer that shares similar views. 

    A brand shouldn’t support something as a business tactic. Consumers can smell a phony from miles away. A major part of becoming a purpose driven brand is authenticity. Each step you take needs to be out of an effort to help, rather than out of self-interest. This year more than ever, consumers are going to pay close attention to the brands they buy from. It’s on you, as the company, to transition authentically, as needed. 

    Black Lives Matter Protest

    Easy to Consume Content

    One trend that has been steadily growing over the past years is content that is easy to consume. This type of content comes in many forms; such as short videos, infographics and podcasts. They are all are easy to read, watch or listen and can be consumed nearly anywhere. Short videos are more prominent then ever since the rise of Tik Tok and other similar platforms. Google has even added these platform’s videos onto its video carousel that appears during a search. Infographics are effective ways to engage an audience by displaying the information you want to convey in a fun and interactive way. Last, podcasts have become one of the most popular forms of content. There’s even a war at hand… a podcast war that is. Companies from Spotify, Apple, and Amazon are fighting to become THE podcast platform. Each of these have one thing on common, they allow you to deliver the information you want to consumers… most of which have small attention spans.

    Point of view of women looking down at feet with her phone in her hand and headphones plugged in.

    Virtual Events

    Virtual events have existed in the past but never like this. 2020 made the digital word our reality. This was always going to happen; this past year just accelerated it. Now that virtual events are here to stay, you must know how to use them properly. These events can be extremely useful for your business by allowing your consumers to connect with you in a more personal way. There’s a lot that goes into setting up and hosting a virtual event. Luckily, we’ve done a whole blog on it that you can check out here.

    This year is going to look very different, so it’s important that you continuously listen for new trends that will emerge. We’re sure there’ll be many that we never saw coming. The SRB team is hopeful that 2021 will treats us better than 2020. Oh, and by the way…Happy New Year!

  • December 22, 2020

    Spreading Cheer with 2020’s Best Holiday Ads

    Here at SRB Communications, we believe that one of the best ways to raise spirits during the holiday is to share some cheer. What better way to do that, than to reflect on some impactful holiday ads? So, set aside your, “Bah Humbug!” and enjoy a few ads that we feel are the best of the season.

    1. Xfinity

    One of our first favorites came from Xfinity and their collaboration with Steve Carell as Santa. This ad addressed the current year head-on and touched on all of the challenges we have had to face, adapt to and overcome. This approach allowed for an optimistic rise as one continues through the rest of the ad. Steve Carell adds some much-needed comic relief and gives us a Santa that will make you look forward to the holidays ahead.

    Santa, played by Steve Carell, tasks his elves with creating new and exciting gifts to raise the spirits after the hard year.

    2. PayPal

    Our next choice comes from PayPal. This one takes a less direct approach at addressing the current state of society, but it’s clear that they aren’t ignoring it. One of the best parts of this one is the fact that there are no spoken words throughout the entire ad. The creativity comes from the story that the visuals represent. There’s a lot of little things you can pick up each time you watch this ad.

    A dad makes it his mission to create the perfect backyard stage for his daughter’s nutcracker dance after not being able to attend the real show in person. The dad makes several purchases online with PayPal throughout his journey.

    3. Microsoft

    The last ad we want to show you is from Microsoft. There’s not a lot to say here other than, who doesn’t love dogs? Microsoft reveals how simple it is to put a smile on our faces. Nothing will boost the spirits of the audience like getting plopped into the dreams of a dog. However, it does a good job of highlighting a lot of their products at the same time in a fun and creative way.

    A dog wanders to each of this human companions at home only to find them on a Microsoft device. After laying down to sleep, he dreams he is participating in all the activities the humans had been doing.

    Now, these are just a few of the ones we liked, but of course there’s plenty more out there. This holiday season we challenge you to pay attention to the ads that make you smile and spread some holiday cheer by sharing them with others. Happy holidays from the SRB team! See you in 2021!

  • December 11, 2020

    Holiday Marketing Tips for 2020

    2020 has dampened the Holiday spirit making it harder for businesses to market themselves. While this year’s Holiday season has already proven to be different, it doesn’t mean that we can’t create an effective marketing strategy and spread some cheer at the same time. So, strap on those elf ears, don those ugly sweaters, and let’s get to work with these 3 tactics.

    Email marketing

    The 2000s called and they want their email marketing back!  While email may seem like an out-of-date method to reach customers, it is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to make a conversion.

    Content is what matters most when it comes to email marketing. The Holidays are a busy time of the year, so offering customers convenience is key to increasing sales.  Making it easy to purchase the products they see is a must. That shirt they like better have a “buy now” button underneath or the sale is as good as gone. Overall, the name of the game is getting the customer to the checkout in as few clicks as possible.

    Website

    Less people are going to be rushing out on Christmas Eve to the mall to get that last-minute gift. That means that online shopping will be more important than any other year before.

    Your website needs to be up-to-date, welcoming, and easy to navigate. Go visit your website right now…Be on the lookout for any pain points a customer might experience on their way to the checkout. Pain points are revenue killers. Like we said, the holidays are a busy time and customers are looking for convenience. Your website should load fast and have user-friendly steps to get them to the checkout as smoothly and quickly as possible.

    While you’re already checking out your website, why not spruce it up a bit! Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Since we won’t have big Christmas parties or tree lightings to go to, make your website as festive as possible and give the customer a boost of Holiday spirit to spread to others.

    Girl holding out gift with candy canes

    Social Media Community

    It’s time we put the social back in social media. One of the best parts of the holidays is the sense of community we feel throughout the months. Obviously, much of what we love about the season has changed and people are searching for some sort of replacement. Engage with your followers. Reply to comments and spark conversations. Post things that foster the community they’re looking for. Use your social media to drive more people to interact with each other. As the hub of the new community, people will naturally begin to engage with your brand. It’s a great way to build an authentic persona for people to respond to; this year, people need that.

    Facebook App on Phone

    Above all, remember that this year has been hard for many. People are looking for a little cheer. Be authentic with every strategy you implement. Also, be safe, focus your efforts on online sales, and wear a mask!

    Happy Holidays!

  • November 27, 2020

    Building a World of Accessibility

    They say marketing is a reflection of society and society is a reflection of marketing. However, if you were an alien that just landed on earth and looked at the ads the marketing industry produce, you would never know people have disabilities. Our efforts to include everyone is often directed at ensuring diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation, but people with disabilities need representation too. It also important to focus on the accessibility of your marketing as well. So, we’ll look at the wrong and right ways to include people with disabilities in your marketing while also making that marketing accessible.

    Inclusion

    According to the CDC, around 26%, or one in four people, have a disability of some sort. Besides the ethical obligations, lack of inclusion is just bad business. However, inclusion marketing is a balancing act. The end goal is inclusion and allyship, but too often marketers miss the mark. They either offer pity in the ad or use it as a source of inspiration. Pity is obviously not what people with disabilities want; they want inclusion. Inspiration doesn’t sound that bad but who is it inspiring. Often times, it actually makes a non-disabled person feel good and better for having watched it. These approaches are wrong and offer little to people with disabilities.

     A good way to ensure you’re focusing on inclusion is to ask yourself who the ad is for. If your intent is to include people with disabilities in the conversation and give them the same representation, use that to drive the message of your ad. It’s also important to acknowledge the intersectionality of a person with a disability. The disability does not define who they are; it’s valid to focus on the other things that make them who they are.

    Like any other group, representation matters within the industry as well. Diversity should be seen in the company at every level. The C-suite is made for everyone and people with disabilities can and should assume those positions. Often businesses create programs to offer resources and paths to executive positions for certain groups. Reflect on your own company’s efforts and see what you can do better to do the same for people with disabilities.

    Man using accessibility keyboard

    Accessibility

    Accessibility starts with you and the choices you make every day. When you are hosting an online event, do you describe the pictures and yourself for those who may be visually impaired or blind? Do you make sure there’s captions for those who are hearing impaired or deaf? These are the things we should all be reminding ourselves. Accessibility is on you and your company.

    Other things you should focus on is your website. There are many ways to optimize your site for accessibility. Start by including images with alt text. This allows a person who is visually impaired or blind to still access all the content. You can also allow users to enhance the font size and reevaluate other content like videos to ensure their accessibility as well. It’s important to note that there are disabilities of all types; some you can see and others you can’t. Try to address everyone’s need in redesigning your site.

    One of the biggest problems with companies promoting themselves as accessible or “disability friendly” is that it means nothing. If you say on your site that your business is “disability friendly”, it’s like saying someone asking you what you do to make your business accessible and replying with, “Yes.” You gave no detail to actually explain what about your business makes it “disability friendly”. Instead of saying it, show it. Have “disability facts” listed on your site. These facts can include information about parking, bathrooms, alternative entrances, and other things your business offers.

    Pink sign showing accessibility entrance

    Diversity means everyone. It’s on all of us to start and live it as an ever day effort. It’s important to be conscious of it and push for more inclusion in our marketing, our companies, and our communities. There’s plenty of resources out there to help guide you on what to do; take the first step and build a community that is accessible no matter one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.

  • November 12, 2020

    How to Host a Virtual Event

    Kids are going to school… online. Adults are going to work… online. People are meeting up with friends… online. COVID-19 has truly pushed everything, and everyone online, so why would events be any different?  One thing is for sure, these events don’t need to be a somber reminder of the current state of the world; they can be just as good as any other event, if you take the following key tips into consideration!

    Select the best platform for your needs

    The first step in hosting a virtual event is choosing the platform to hold it on. To do this, you need to ask yourself what type of event you’re holding. The size, cost, duration other event logistics are important to consider when making a decision. There are many platforms to select from like Zoom Webinar, Google Meet, and Join.me.

    Obviously, there’s many more out there, so do your due diligence and research as many platforms as possible to find the one that’s right for you. Remember to think about cost; some platforms will take a percentage of what you charge attendees to register, or if you’re hosting it for free, they’ll have you pay per attendee. Also, many have a limit on the number of people that can register.

    Practice and Prepare

    Practice makes perfect, and to host a virtual event you need a lot of it. Hosting requires you to jungle many balls at once. You need to make sure the event is smooth and flows from topic to topic or speaker to speaker depending on the type of event you’re conducting. This will help retain the attention of the audience. We all know it’s much easier to get distracted on your computer than it is in person.

    Practice also comes in the form of familiarizing yourself with the platform you chose. Know what features come with the platform, specifically what you’re able to do and not do. Hosting a mock event is highly recommended as this will ensure you and your speakers feel comfortable. It’s better to learn and work out the kinks before the event than in the middle of the event.

    Part of your preparation is also to make the information for registration clear. Odds are this is new for people thus well-defined instructions on how to register, how to access the event, and who to contact for help are imperative.

    Engage the Audience

    As previously stated, it’s important to retain your audience’s attention. That means actively having them participate during the event. Some platforms are better than others for this. For instance, Zoom Webinar allows you to set private and group panelist chats for attendees and panelists. You can also manage and share audience input in Q&A dialog boxes and attendees can raise their virtual hand to be called on.

    If you don’t want to use a tool like this, use the tried and true method of live tweeting. This is a great way to have the audience be part of the conversation and even discuss among themselves without disrupting the event. This can also be utilized for a Q&A. It’s important to think about what hashtags you may want to use for your event and how they will be used. By doing this, you also allow for user generated content to advertise your event for either post event video release or future events you may hold.

    No matter the method you use, make sure to be active in the chat with your attendees. Pose questions to the audience, answer small questions people have, and keep the conversation going as well as moving. If the chat gets stale, people will lose interest. Make sure that somebody is responsible for keeping the chat lively.

    COVID-19 has changed how we behave, how we socialize, and how we work. These tips are important to perfect as we continue to battle this virus. And even when the world moves passed this pandemic and returns to “normal”, we can’t be sure our behaviors will. The world is changing. Technology is advancing, and it’s possible that COVID-19 only accelerated the timeline of virtual life.

  • July 7, 2020

    OpEd: We can’t allow the public health emergency to worsen DC’s child care crisis

    Shared adversity can bring a community together, and I’m happy to see that greater Washington is responding in solidarity in the face of both racial inequality and the immense public health challenge of COVID-19. 

    These two problems are intertwined. In addition to its tragic human cost, the pandemic has elevated the risk that existing inequality of opportunity in the District may worsen.

    Here in DC, we face significant opportunity gaps from ward to ward. For example, as of 2018, at least 12% of children were living in poverty in six of DC’s eight wards. However, in wards 7 and 8, that rate exceeded 39%. Ward 8 also has the highest number of children under age 5 and an infant mortality rate that is more than double the national average.

    This tells us that, when it comes to giving people the tools to develop and build their talents, we need to start early. Thankfully, the city made progress on this front by passing the Birth-to-Three for All DC Act of 2018, an important stride toward making sure that all young children have access to quality early childhood programs.

    However, without supporting the act with additional measures and meaningful investments, the opportunity gaps that plague our city will persist — and will do so in a way that impacts young people’s educational prospects and their future career prospects.

    One of these challenges is the lack of access to affordable, high-quality child care.

    Even before the pandemic, our nation was in the midst of a child care crisis, as demonstrated in a recent ReadyNation report. The report found that the lack of high-quality, affordable child care for infants and toddlers (children age 0 to 3) exacts a heavy toll on working families and our economy, costing our economy an incredible $57 billion per year. The reason this figure is so high is the dramatic, negative impact that the crisis has on productivity, tax revenue and workers’ earnings.

    And it’s no wonder why. Like many places around the country, DC has far more infants and toddlers than it does available high-quality child care. At the same time, the average cost of child care in the District is more than the average price of public, in-state college tuition in most places around the country.

    The child care crisis is also a two-generation problem. As working parents scramble to find care, children often wind up in less-than-ideal early childhood settings. Those experiences create impacts that society won’t feel until these children grow into their teenage years or adulthood. 

    Without access to high-quality learning and care during this critical time, a child’s chances of being “kindergarten-ready” diminish. That deficit on day one of elementary school may persist for the duration of the child’s educational career, which, in turn, leads to those opportunity gaps I mentioned a moment ago.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has made funding child care infrastructure even more urgent. Most child care providers are fundamentally small businesses, and many of them face economic hardship, even closure. 

    As a journalist, entrepreneur, business owner and longtime advocate for equity and women’s issues, I understand that these topics are inextricably tied to the child care industry. Providers now feel unprecedented pressures on their own bottom line, and the families they serve are enduring immense hardships. Therefore, we must commit to supporting, strengthening and maintaining the child care infrastructure now, so that the existing child care crisis isn’t worsened by our current health emergency. 

    There are more than 26,500 infants and toddlers under age 3 in DC, but only about 7,600 licensed child care slots. COVID-19 has the potential to make this situation even more dire, with some providers having no choice but to close absent sufficient support for the child care sector. Investments to preserve existing slots and help make up this shortfall will pay dividends to greater Washington now and in the future. Likewise, funding that helps parents navigate a system that costs, on average, $2,020 per month per infant will help ease that imposing financial burden on lower-income families.

    Protecting the child care sector is critical. Investments to do so will make businesses and working parents more productive today, and help ensure that the next generation of Washingtonians will grow up better prepared to leverage their talents and build the future we all want — a stronger and more equitable community over the long run.

    This OpEd was written by Sheila Brooks, Ph.D., founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications. It was originally published here by The DC Line, a nonprofit media organization dedicated to covering DC local news.