Barbara Shragge, Champions Luncheon Co-Chair

As a highly successful businesswoman, Child Care Champions Luncheon Co-Chair Barbara Shragge passionately believes that quality child care not only allows children to thrive, but it empowers women to succeed in our city’s competitive workforce.

A third generation San Franciscan, Barbara’s grandfather immigrated to San Francisco from Russia in the 1800’s. “He sold newspapers in the Mission when he was four years old,” she says, “and throughout his life, he always loved being around children.” In the early 1900’s her grandfather started and built the Columbia Park Boys Club on Guerrero Street.” The facility, now called the Columbia Park Clubhouse (overseen by Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco), is still a thriving hub for neighborhood children.

As a young child, Barbara attended San Francisco public schools before earning her first degree at UC-Berkeley, and a second degree at Oxford. Because she found very few opportunities for women in the financial industry in San Francisco, she moved to New York City and worked on Wall Street for five years.

When she returned to San Francisco her career in the financial industry began to take off. She also got married and had two sons, Jimmy and David. But in 2000, her life suddenly took a turn: her husband passed away with leukemia.

“As a single mother of an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, I needed child care,” she says. “I took a few months off when my sons were born, but just like most companies still today, there was no maternity pay; you got six week’s disability, that was it. Without my husband around, my situation was even more complicated.”

“Yes, I had to work for financial reasons, but my career was also important to me. It was my lifeblood and represented my future. I’m a real feminist. Women cannot leave the work force at that age for too long, it is just so hard to get back in. Everyone else is further along, they’ve got their 401K and health care, but you’re behind in technology and you have a gap in your resume. Even when you do go back to work and you have babies at home, it’s harder to get promotions. I had a very difficult time with my job. They wanted someone who could work 12 hours a day.”

She goes on to describe her search, saying, “When I was first looking for child care 25 years ago, there weren’t a lot of options. I took my mother to some of these places, and she said. ‘You cannot leave my grandchildren here.’ And it was so expensive.”

Luckily, through a turn of fate and family friends, she found Rosa, a new immigrant to the U.S. who loved children and who was willing to come to Barbara’s home every day to look after her sons. “I was so lucky to have Rosa come into our lives. She was there on time every day and would stay until I got home, no matter what. She only spoke Spanish to the children and we loved that. She was nurturing, she cooked for them and sang to them. I never had to worry. I was so lucky, most people can’t have that. But I know how important it is to have a place where your child is safe, nurtured and happy. I want everyone to have what I had. I would not be where I am today if I had not had amazing child care those first few years.”

Barbara is passionate about the work of Children’s Council, saying, “I’m really excited that we are building the network of providers, and helping them become better at what they do. By supplying providers with books, art supplies, learning games and counseling, we are empowering them in their careers, and the children are benefitting from being in such warm, nurturing environments.”

As co-chair of our Child Care Champions Luncheon (along with Anna Nordberg), Barbara is looking forward to hearing our speakers and meeting other members of the child care community. She says, “We are in uncharted waters right now with public assistance and politics. I signed on as co-chair because parents in our city are having trouble making ends meet. Women need to get better jobs that pay more, but finding quality, affordable child care can be a huge obstacle. If women can have a safe, nurturing learning environment to leave their children, they can build their own lives too.”

Join Barbara, Anna, the rest of our wonderful event hosts, and San Francisco’s leading child care advocates for what promises to be an extraordinary event on April 6. Click here to buy tickets now!

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