CLA lecturer named First 5 SLO County’s January “Hands-on Hero @Work”
Christina Lefevre Latner began her work
with the Chamber in October 2021.
By Nicole Troy
Women’s, Gender and Queer Studies Department Lecturer Christina Lefevre Latner (MPP, '14) was named First 5 San Luis Obispo County’s January “Hands-on Hero @Work” for her role as Workforce Development Manager with the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce.
Lefevre Latner received the distinction in recognition of her work spearheading the Family-Friendly Workplace Accelerator Program, which provides resources and support to SLO County businesses to help foster a strong local workforce through family-friendly policies.
“I am really excited to be the first one kicking this off, and I definitely feel honored by that, but this is also a great opportunity to talk about why family-friendly workplaces are so important,” Lefevre Latner said.
The Family-Friendly Workplace Accelerator Program, supported by investment from both the County of San Luis Obispo and First 5 San Luis Obispo County, strives to provide businesses with simple practices to attract and retain employees, improve employee satisfaction through work-life balance and strengthen productivity. Policies include, but are not limited to, flexible scheduling, accommodations and support, health spending accounts and childcare support.
“The two policies that I am currently focusing to educate businesses on their benefits are flexible scheduling and telecommuting,” Lefevre Latner said. “There are a lot of companies right now who are on the fence thinking, ‘Do we continue how we've been working since COVID, or do we go back to normal?’ I'm hoping nobody goes back to normal because normal wasn't working for a vast majority of us.”
A 2013 Pew Research Study found that among working parents with children under age 18, more than half say it is difficult to balance their work and family life, and half of all workers feel they could do their job better if allowed more flexible schedules.
As a mother of two caring for an aging parent, Lefevre Latner finds herself advocating for policies that she has extensive personal experience with.
“I'm kind of a perfect example of how family-friendly workplace policies can bring people into positions that are perfect for them that they wouldn't necessarily be able to do if it were a strict 9–5 desk job,” Lefevre Latner said. “I work from home most of the time, and while I work during core hours where I can, there is flexibility if I need to pick up my kids from school or help get lunch for my mom, who is 88 and suffers from dementia. I'm able to stay home with her, rather than having a caregiver come in all the time, which is extraordinarily expensive, if you can even find one. There have been shortages in caregivers throughout the pandemic for all ages, from infants to the elderly.”
Throughout Lefevre Latner’s impressive 20-plus year career in areas including policy analysis, implementing services and consulting, she says the ethos of her career has often been, “removing barriers to access for marginalized groups.” That idea is both present in the program with the Chamber and something she discusses heavily with her students.
“Because my background is in policy, I teach my class using a feminist policy analysis framework. I want students to really understand how institutions have caused these different types of inequality, not just for women but for other marginalized groups, and how you can then change them to become more equitable,” she said.
Lefevre Latner has lectured at Cal Poly for seven years and says her interest in work regarding family-friendly policies “partially sprung out of conversations with my students.”
“One of the big topics we talk about is women in the workforce and things like the pay gap, the broken career pipeline and choices. In talking to many of my students, I found that for many of them they considered how their career choice would impact their ability to parent, and often it impacted their decisions,” Lefevre Latner said. “While I was teaching and having these conversations with students, I began work with First 5 to develop an advocacy platform which was informed by what I had learned from student experiences.”
The job opening at the Chamber sprang from this early work and allowed Lefevre Latner to combine her policy experience, conversations with students and background consulting for First 5 on their Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit into one meaningful position.
Within three years, Lefevre Latner hopes to have 100 local businesses incorporate at least one family-friendly policy.
“There is always more that can be done to support families and others in the community, and even though they are called family-friendly workplace policies, a lot of these policies are ones that will benefit — not just parents or children — but it will really benefit everyone,” Lefevre Latner said.