Technology Enabled Home Daycare Operations To Better Support Working Mothers
Women are a critical component of America’s workforce. And according to the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor, women with children under the age of 18 made up close to 70% of the female workforce in 2015. With unemployment at its lowest level since the Vietnam War era, it’s vital that these working mothers remain at work. Yet, a lack of early childhood care remains a fundamental barrier to this.
Not only is childcare expensive - estimated in 2016 to be up to 20% of parents’ median annual income at $9,589 per child up to age four - but it’s also hard to find. The Center for American Progress found that approximately half of Americans across 22 states live in areas with an undersupply of childcare options. Stories abound of daycares with one to two year waitlists. And despite an increase in the number of women in the workforce, there has been no corresponding increase in the number of daycare services.
With such an overwhelming demand and normalized high fees, one might expect a burgeoning childcare industry awash in profits. But after speaking with WeeCare founder Jessica Chang, it became apparent the opposite is true. She says that 60% of this $50 billion market is made up of at-home daycares. And it should come as no surprise that the average salary of a day care or pre school teacher is under $30,000.
Enter Chang, who informed by her experience on both sides of the childcare industry, launched WeeCare to give these home daycare operators a technology platform that provides the features and capabilities of a much bigger operation. Living in LA, she was shocked by the high cost and limited availability of daycare when she had her son two years ago. Faced with a long waitlist, she tackled the problem head-on buying and investing in preschools. Chang quickly understood the challenges of being a daycare owner and moved to build and launch WeeCare as a way to support independent operators so they could offer care to even more parents.
Chang says WeeCare began by identifying key limitations for most home operators and then buildings nohe pieces needed to solve for them. For example, most home daycare operators could not accept credit cards, forcing them to rely on inefficient checks or cash. Not only was it cumbersome to track, but many operators had to chase parents for payments. Similarly, the few larger preschools can rely on bookkeepers for record-keeping, so Chang incorporated automated services to fill this hole. And rather than relying on texts for updates, the WeeCare platform enables real time messaging and interactive technologies like photo or video sharing in the app.
By using technology to enhance features and streamline operators, Chang and WeeCare can help bring scale and efficiencies to home daycare operations. The hope is that this creates more capacity, allowing more women to find credible childcare operations, and ultimately helping more women remain in the workforce.
But while Chang could rely on personal experience to highlight the key feature criteria for her platform, she could not call upon a deep background in technology to execute it. She had a degree in early education and was working in business when she had her son. Chang does admit that she had an awareness of tech and was familiar with how it had disrupted other similar industries. So it was a small step for her to embrace tech as a path for her new career choice.
Chang launched WeeCare with two co-founders, one of whom serves as Chief Technology Officer and had deep tech expertise. In this way, she could work closely with her co-founders on the direction and application of the technology without having to primarily be responsible for it. Chang has also works very hard to make sure that WeeCare is responsive to customer inputs and makes tech adjustments accordingly. In particular, she was critical for driving the decision to launch as a mobile-first platform and to create an interface optimized for user experience.
Daycare and childcare are two industries already dominated by women. But Chang’s experience shows there are ways these women can continue to improve within their chosen field and help support other women in the process. By helping remove some of the stigma that labels home-based daycare as unprofessional or substandard as compared to larger facilities, Chang hopes to make care more widely accessible. As Chang told me, the job of collectively raising kids is necessary, credible and has a massive impact on future generations.