Not enough women of color are working as childbirth professionals. There is not one simple easy answer why in the United States more white women work as doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, lactation consultants, and other birth professionals than women of color.
Next time you attend a conference or workshop for childbirth professionals, look around, you can really see the lack of diversity. It is an ongoing important conversation of how to be more inclusive in this field.
Reasons why the numbers are low for nonwhite childbirth professionals include lack of awareness about the field. Lacking the means to pay for trainings and workshops. Also, lacking access to the network or sisterhood of birth professionals that can help advance their careers.
It is important that more women of all ethnic backgrounds are able to become childbirth professionals. One reason is because they can build a career that offers a stable income with so much potential for growth. They also will be able to do work that is valuable, fulfilling, and has prestige. And they may be able to connect to nonwhite expecting families more effectively than a Caucasian birth professional is able to. This in turn can help make a difference in maternal health disparities.
Scholarships to assist women of color to further their education as doulas, midwives, and other birth professionals are available. See:
What is important to examine is are woman of color that are birth professionals beholden to only serve other woman of color? Often scholarships programs have this as a requirement. The reasoning makes sense. Women of color potentially can make a greater impact because they are able to relate and understand more about their ethnic group.
Something not often discussed is the economic class of women of color and the role class plays in determining community. As well it is important that education, training, and the career that one pursues leads them to achieve a higher class or standard of living.
The subject is uncomfortable, but it sometimes seems the unspoken expectation is that if you are a Black woman or a Spanish speaking woman working as a childbirth professional then you should serve underserved poor women of color. While it is very important that underserved pregnant women receive care by someone that is culturally relatable and sensitive to their needs, serving this population could have a direct impact upon one’s income and upward mobility.
The work provided by doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, midwives, etc. is a growing niche market that middle and upper class families are willing to pay top dollars for. A doula in New York or San Francisco may charge families $1500-$2000 to support them at their birth.
Underserved communities are not often able to pay at the top of the scale for doula or other childbirth professional services. Nonprofit groups sometimes help to supplement the fees of doulas and lactation consultants through grants and donations for those that cannot afford them, but many times childbirth professionals are expected to cut their fair market fees.
So a woman of color serving an underserved community may have her income capped if she solely serves them.
As well people of color have thriving middle and upper classes. It is possible that a woman of color’s community may not be defined as needy. And even if she comes from a needy community is she obligated to serve them. Community is self defined and can change over time.
Where are the women of color birth professionals is an ongoing conversation that has many angles.