Vasudha Sharma is many things — a doctor, best-selling author, nonprofit CEO, and state beauty pageant winner — but the throughline of her work is building a network of community support that empowers people to thrive.
In fact, building that support network is behind Sharma’s newest project, the Kiddie Academy, a new childcare center on Snoqualmie Ridge that broke ground last month, and hopes to open in 2023.
It’s a facility that Sharma has been looking to build for the last five years, and, more than that, it fulfills a dream of working in early childhood education she’s had since becoming a mother to her two boys, Krish and Vansh.
“It was almost like landing on the moon,” she said of the project. “We just kept persistent in our dream and vision and were able to do it, finally.”
Sharma and her husband, Puneet, immigrated to the United States from New Delhi nearly two decades ago. When her kids were born, with the rest of her family still in India, the working couple turned to childcare for support.
It’s a challenge facing many families, she says, as the workforce becomes more demanding, but the support for parents hasn’t increased at the same level.
“We know the challenges for a parent to go to work and send their kid to someone else, while keeping their mind at ease, Is hard,” Sharma said. “Raising a family is getting harder with increased work stresses and so many other factors.”
Sharma, who has spent much of her career advocating for more leadership opportunities for women, especially women of color, hopes the new space will meet a growing need for childcare in the Valley and provide support for parents in need.
A lack of support for caretakers is one of the barriers Sharma cites in her 2021 book, “Why She Must Lead,” of why there are noticeably few women in high-leadership positions.
“Many women, just like my mother, did not accept any promotions just because they did not want to compromise responsibilities to their families,” she wrote. “As a woman, it can be a daunting balancing act.”
Research into state-wide labor participation supports that assessment. The state Department of Commerce found in a 2021 report that child care access keeps more than 133,000 potential workers out of the state’s labor force.
It also acknowledged that, during the pandemic, women left the workforce at four times the rate of men, with even higher disparities among women of color.
Locally, the Valley has almost certainly felt some of that impact, as it is among the most in-need of additional childcare services in all of King County, the Valley Record previously reported.
“Childcare is the right step,” Sharma said, noting many parents have already asked when Kiddie Academy plans to open, with a desire to return to work.
“Providing more resources to parents so they can put their anxiety at ease regarding children and responsibility, I think that’s very important,” she said.
Sharma said she chose the Kiddie Academy brand due to its emphasis on an enriched STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) curriculum, its emphasis on cooking warm meals for students and its focus on community.
Outside of Kiddie Academy, Sharma works as a physical therapist, is a member of Renton’s diversity task-force and CEO of Voice of Planet, a nonprofit which provides support to diverse populations including, women, seniors and children.
“My dream is to provide a great experience to everyone who touches our lives,” she said, “and build a community where people feel supported.”