PHOENIX (NWN) — Kisha Gule was once kicked out of a Facebook group for mothers with autistic children after a controversial debate she thought was racist. Over and over again, she clashed with the white-dominated groups she sought for support as a new mother.
So Gully, who is Afro Latina, started her own parenting blog and social media account. Now it is a means of earning for him.
The multi-billion dollar world of sleep training guides, toddler activity ideas, breastfeeding tips, and all things parenting has traditionally been white. The parenting book jacket has mostly white faces. The brands that so-called mom influencers choose to advertise their products were, until recently, mostly white as well.
This has left a hole for women of color — especially new moms — who struggle to find culturally relevant parenting advice and products.
Increasingly, they are taking matters into their own hands.
“If I can’t find it, we have to start making it for ourselves. I knew I couldn’t be the only person who had these questions,” said Gully, who lives in Phoenix.
When she learned that her firstborn son was autistic, Gully delved deep into the research, searching for any resources that could help her family. And even though there was a lot of information out there, there were small but important questions that many experts couldn’t answer.
For example, how could she comb through her thick-textured hair without triggering her son’s sensory issues? What is a good sunscreen to use on dark skin that doesn’t leave a white residue?
It was a frustrating time for her that climaxed in a Facebook group when she realized that many white women were dismissive and rude to a black mother, who asked her family for advice about talking to her child’s autism diagnosis. Was asked Women did not understand that in some communities of color, the older generation may be apprehensive about autism and think that behavior and discipline cause problems. Gule defended the mother, and she was kicked out of the group.
She grew her own social media presence soon after, and now makes a living from it, earning more than she would in her 15 years as a flight attendant, she said.
For Stacy Ferguson, the need for diverse parenting voices has been top of mind for many years. She struggled to find online forums and communities that resonated with her experiences as a black mother.
Ferguson, an attorney by training who is now a business owner, founded Blogalicious, an organization and annual conference, 12 years ago to help women of color monetize and grow their blogs.
The first Blogalicious conference attracted 177 people; By the time Ferguson decided to close them in 2017, 500 people attended each year.
“There really was such a sense of magic in the room. And what we were really surprised by was that a lot of brands were really interested to come and meet our community,” Ferguson said.
Over the years, mom bloggers have evolved into Instagram influencers. Carefully curated images accompanies the post with tips on how to put baby to sleep or teach yourself how to feed. Often, influencers advertise products they say can help moms.
The trend was started mostly by white women and brands that wanted them. Ferguson says the landscape is much more diverse now, and brands are more intentional about reaching a diverse range of parents.
But a problem persists. Marketing budgets are much more limited for multicultural targets than for general advertising, Ferguson said. Traditionally, white women have been paid to market to a general audience. This means that a white mother can make more money marketing to audiences of all races and ethnicities than a woman who specifically says Latina mothers.
“It’s still that archaic way of looking at marketing,” Ferguson said. “Brands and agencies that understand (the need for diversity) are making progress. The point is that there are still too many people behind.”
There is no consensus on how much brands and companies spend on advertising or sponsorship through Mom Influencers, but many marketing experts said it is in the billions each year.
Larry Chiagoris, a professor of marketing at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, said brands are still taking hold in Latino and Black American markets.
Chiagoris said the parenting influencer world has been dominated by white women because they have been the majority in the past, but she is increasingly seeing Latin, black and Asian American women joining the field.
“It’s like a chicken-and-egg situation. Marketers want to spend money on Latino influencers, but you have to find them. There aren’t as many as you might think,” Chiagoris said.
Jacqueline Hernandez Lewis of Long Island, New York, began blogging nine years ago as a law student and military wife seeking a community.
After becoming a mother, Hernandez Lewis, 33, wanted to find a place where Latinas and other mothers of color felt empowered. When she went back to work after her first child, she struggled to adapt and wanted to find a way to spend more time at home while earning an income. Now she has three small children.
Hernandez Lewis earned $25 from his first sponsored post. Now, she earns anywhere between $700 to $3,000 per post, plus works full-time.
Her recent Instagram post features ads for a line of Spanish-language books being republished by Disney Books; For a popular brand of baby wipes; And for Poise, which makes pads that postpartum women can use.
For Hernandez Lewis, it is important that women of color have an online community and are represented, but it is equally important that they reap the rewards of their purchasing power.
“We deserve to be represented on the business side. There are brands that are not as inclusive as I expected, but a lot of brands are shifting and becoming more inclusive,” said Hernandez Lewis.
Galvan covers issues affecting Latinos in America for NWN’s Race and Ethnicity Team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/astridgalvan