Let’s face it: in the tech world, motherhood is often viewed as something undesirable. Many employers and professional women think that having children will distract them from work, decrease their productivity and make them less effective leaders. But what if the opposite is true? What if working moms actually make some of the very best entrepreneurs, investors and employees?
This is the opinion of Sarah Lacy, a Silicon Valley tech journalist turned entrepreneur. After writing and editorial stints at TechCrunch and Businessweek, Lacy launched Pando, a web publication offering analysis and commentary on the Bay Area tech community, in 2012. She’s also the author of three books focusing on tech and entrepreneurship. Her most recent title, A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug, focuses on empowering professional women and proving through cold, hard data that working moms are often better at their jobs than their childless peers.
Lacy dropped by the Powderkeg office in Indianapolis, IN for this candid and inspiring interview. During our conversation, she shares her thoughts on the importance of good role models, evidence that working moms are some of the best people you can hire or invest in, and strategies for getting and keeping them on your team. She also shares some exciting behind-the-scenes info on her latest company, Chairman Mom, a guilt-free, judgment-free, troll-free community for professional women and moms.
In this episode with Sarah Lacy, you’ll learn:
- How good role models inspire people to live up to their full potential (3:20)
- Why Millennial women will be instrumental in driving workplace gender reform (13:45)
- Research that proves working mothers actually outperform their peers (19:34)
- Strategies for attracting working moms to your team and making them feel valued (28:00)
- About Chairman Mom and its mission to support and empower women professionals (35:07)
Please enjoy this conversation with Sarah Lacy!
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If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
Quotes from this episode of Powderkeg:
“We want to turn the shame of working motherhood into something that’s amazing and badass. Because why isn’t it?” — @sarahcuda on @PowderkegHQ
“A lot of us feel like we have to leave part of ourselves at the door when we come into the office, and that really constricts your ability to creatively solve problems.” — @sarahcuda on @PowderkegHQ
“Every single business school, every single consultancy, everyone you can think of has studies that prove inclusive workforces just perform better. It’s not even up for debate right now.” — @sarahcuda on @PowderkegHQ
“Everyone has someone who views them as a role model. And the choices you make as a role model a lot of times give people permission to be who they want to be.” — @sarahcuda on @PowderkegHQ
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Companies and Organizations:
Venture Capital Firms:
Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda)
Meg Whitman (@MegWhitman)
Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina)
Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg)
Lynn Jurich (@LynnJurich)
Katrina Lake (@kmlake)
Susan Fowler (@susanthesquark)
Amy Errett (@AmyErrett)
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What stood out most to you about what Sarah shares in this podcast?
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I ended up raising money for piano on maternity leave, like I took a baby with me fundraising. I didn’t even have a nanny. And then I got pregnant six months after starting Panda was my second I really being pregnant and being a mom was like discovering a new superpower.
Matt Hunckler 00:16
That’s Sarah Lacy. She’s the founder, Editor in Chief and CEO of panco. Daily for web publication covers tech from the point of view that startups are a part of an interconnected root system that starts in Silicon Valley. Now, Sarah has no shortage of other accomplishments that demonstrate her thought leadership. She has written multiple books, including a uterus is a feature, not a bug. And she’s also a former co host of Yahoo, finance’s tech ticker show, and was a senior editor at TechCrunch. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And you’re listening to Episode 51 of powderkeg igniting startups, a show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators toward building remarkable tech companies and areas decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. Today’s episode is an in between Episode, and we’ve geared up to launch Season Two in July, with an exciting new format. I’m not going to tell you too much about it, you’re just gonna have to wait and see. But for today’s in between so topic, let me share a little context. According to Fortune Magazine, 2017 was a big year with $85 billion in total venture capital investments, but only 2.2% of those investments went to women founders, these numbers are even more sobering for women founders of color. It’s not a huge leap to say that investment gaps in the tech space contribute to or at least influence culture and gender gaps in the tech space. But there’s also a ton of research that shows that teams with women leadership and diverse leadership outperform teams dominated by only men. Sarah Lacy joins us here today to share some of that research and talk about empowering women in tech. How families skills are assets in the workplace, and why tech companies should celebrate working motherhood as a part of their culture. Here’s Sara and me live from powderkeg offices in Indianapolis, Indiana. And we’re live here coming at you live from powderkeg headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. We are industrious in downtown Indianapolis where our headquarters are and I am joined today by Sarah Lacy, who flew in from the Bay Area. Did you come from the Bay Area?
I did. And I had about four hours of flight delays and got in into
Matt Hunckler 02:23
a oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. At least get a direct flight?
No, no, because I was at Salesforce yesterday actually doing a really interesting panel on gender. And you know, I think Salesforce is sort of one of the few companies in tech that does care about these issues while they’re not perfect. And I’ll be the first to say that. And so generally when they asked me to do something, I do it. But that meant I raced to the airport got the last connecting flight and sat on tarmacs, like did not have dinner. I’m so sorry.
Matt Hunckler 02:54
That was your experience getting here. But I got here with direct flights. So next time, we’ll have to make sure you get a direct flight. Salesforce has fallen out years. Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. You think they would know considering they’ve got their second largest headquarters? Right.
downtown Indy. I know you guys are Salesforce fan. We
Matt Hunckler 03:13
are big. Fans. Yes. The tallest building in Indiana is Salesforce tower.
God, they just do that, don’t they? Yeah, I mean, nothing overtly masculine about that.
Matt Hunckler 03:23
And we’ll get into all of that here in a minute. But first, I want to make sure our viewers have a chance to know a good snapshot of all the amazing things that you’ve accomplished in your career. I have been following your writing for probably over a decade now. And I’m gonna read this because it is impressive list. And I don’t want to miss anything. Okay. Sarah Lacy is a Silicon Valley journalist and entrepreneur known for actually saying what much of the tech world is thinking. And she’s the founder and CEO of two companies, Panda and investigative journalism outlet covering the tech world. You’ve probably seen headlines in your Twitter feed, LinkedIn feeds for some of their journalism, but then also chairman mom, which is a guilt free judgment free troll free, very important. Mommy war free community for professional moms, which is awesome. And I really want to talk to you about that. She previously was the editor, senior editor at TechCrunch and staff writer at Businessweek. She is the author of three books once you’re lucky twice, you’re good the rebirth of Silicon Valley and the rise of web 2.0. Brilliant, crazy cocky how the top 1% of entrepreneurs profit from global chaos which he traveled all over the world for 40 weeks in emerging markets. Oh my gosh, 40 weeks, published by Wiley also based right here in Indianapolis, Indiana. And Her most recent book, which I am admittedly only partly the way through right now it’s better than most interviewers, but it is called a uterus is a feature not a bug, the working Woman’s Guide to overthrowing the patriarchy. Just a small goal there. Yeah,
notice my my ambitions got bigger and bigger. First, it was like Silicon Valley and web 2.0. And it was like the world now it’s the patriarchy
Matt Hunckler 04:59
and I want to dive into some of these experiences, obviously, your most recent ones, but even some of your past work at TechCrunch left off the most important like, You’re so right. Thank you for catching me. She is the mother of one Disney princess and one badass feminist warrior. And she lives in San Francisco. That’s amazing. I love it. You clearly have traveled all over the world. You’ve talked to amazing tech leaders. You’re an amazing tech leader yourself. But I would love to take it back a little bit and start by asking you about your mom, which I have gotten to that part in the book already. Can you talk a little bit about your mom, my mom was a working mom as well. My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten, and I was raised in a house with my mom and my two sisters. So I was the only only dude in the household. My dad moved two blocks away, admittedly, so he wasn’t far. But I really resonated with what you were saying about your your mom’s experience. You know, being a working mom, as you’re growing sitting in your classroom. Can you tell me a little bit more about her? And yeah, how that made an impact on how you approached your career.
Yeah, I mean, I could probably talk for the entire podcast about my mom, I was definitely a mommy’s girl. I was never a daddy’s girl. I was always very close to my mom. And she’s always really been like, kind of my hero and my female role model. There were so many things that she did that were really amazing. But I feel like one of the most important was, you know, she was of another generation, like, I’m in my 40s. She was almost in her 40s When she had me. So you know, she really grew up in the, in the 50s in the south. And she was a brilliant academic with like multiple degrees. And I know like at her college, the kid who got the highest GPA, got a free ride the next year. And it’s like, she got free rides all the way through college. I mean, she was really brilliant. But after she got her her last degree, and she met my dad, and they got engaged over a weekend of first meeting each other. Oh, my God, no, it is a crazy story. They’re still together amazingly. Wow. But they, they’re both people who kind of do things on gut, which is kind of amazing, because we’re both academics. At any rate, you know, we moved to Memphis, my dad started teaching at Rhodes College, which is where he taught his entire career. And my mom just like, didn’t work. And it’s like crazy for me to think someone that brilliant, who had gone to school for that many years and loved what she did. Like, didn’t work for a couple years until they started having kids. I’m always like, what was she doing? Well, she just sitting there, and they didn’t have a lot of money. So it’s like, you know, it was just such a crazy time, even for women who are so driven like that. I was the youngest of five. When I was in kindergarten, she decided to start working. And she started teaching high school English at the private all girls school that I got to go to because she taught there. And it was great, because I was the only one of my siblings who experienced having a working mom the whole time. She started working when I was in, like pre kindergarten. But it was wonderful because I went to the school for 13 years that she taught at so we still drove to school together every day, when I was a senior in high school, I got to actually have her as a teacher. She was a brilliant teacher was everyone’s favorite teacher. So like your favorite teacher. I mean, like she was my favorite everything. So like, Yes, I actually am the only kid in my family, who got to have both my parents as teachers, which is an amazing thing. Because I think so often, your kids don’t ever get to see you, being you in the real world, they don’t get to see you doing the thing that you’re better at than anyone else. And so they don’t really associate you as an individual person. And I think one of the things that was so great about going to the school that she worked at, was, I mean, everyone was in awe of her, you know, and it was like, and my father too, I went to Rhodes College, and it was like my freshman year, everyone’s like, Oh, my God, your professor Lacey’s daughter, it’s like, they just both were these superstars. And I got to see them in their environments, being their whole selves and who they were before me. And, you know, we talk a lot about the importance of like being your whole self at work, when it comes to diversity, whether like, you’re of a, you know, religion that isn’t, you know, Christianity, and you may feel isolated, whether it’s like a gender issue or a sexuality issue or race issue. You know, there’s a lot of us who feel like we have to leave part of ourselves in the door when we come in an office. And that really constricts your ability to creatively solve problems and like, bring whatever you have into whatever you’re trying to do at work. But I think it goes both ways. I think you also do bring your full self into parenting. And so I think the fact that I was able to, like experience that with her, it just redefined my entire idea of the power of womanhood. I mean, it doesn’t sound like a teacher is a powerful position. But it really is. I mean, you’re really shaping the person in the room. Yeah, there’s a scene in the book I talked about when I was in kindergarten, and I was sick. And you know, my mom had never worked before and so like the idea of like, what to do with a sick child, you know, not really Like I’ve heard her, and she had one class left or something. And so she kind of like set me up with a desk in the corner of the room. And I think she was like teaching seniors Dostoevsky at this point. And like, she was just like put coloring stuff and was like, you just please sit here in color. And let me get through the next hour. And you know, she’s teaching seniors so of course, they’re totally trying to leverage me for distraction. Yeah, because I mean, if I had my kids here now, like, I would totally be engaging, whatever they’re doing, like I would not be focused on what I’m doing. And she really held the room. And she held the room in a very her way. She has this like, resilient, strong, opinionated woman, but she’s also very soft spoken, she doesn’t yell, she doesn’t feel like she needs to, she never feels she needs to overcompensate for some feeling of inferiority, or, or whatever. And she, you know, would sit on this stool and have sort of a podium. And she would just very quietly keep control of the classroom. And she would just tell the seniors when they were acting up, you can do this all day long, is this still going to be on the test? And that was one reason I think students loved her so much, because it was almost like she was giving them this sense of like ownership, how do you want to spend the next hour, and she tells me this, I don’t remember this, because I was so young. But apparently, after class ended, I went up to her on I just said, I want to be in charge of something one day, and it was such a seminal moment. And I feel like, I started out my career as a journalist, and I love journalism. And I think I became an entrepreneur because of the time in which I was a journalist. And there were so few options to do the kind of work I wanted to do.
Matt Hunckler 11:34
But after the.com, bust, right, right, 99 2000.
But I wonder if I had not had that experience at such a young age, if I would have felt the sense of confidence that I could control a room that my voice did was just as important, if not more important than everyone else?
Matt Hunckler 11:51
What if? What if you’re a leader, female or male? And you didn’t have that? When you’re a kid? What do you say to that adult? Now? What do you think that those adults need to hear?
Well, I think that’s where mentoring is really important. Yeah, I think role modeling is so important. And it’s like, every single person listening to this podcast is a role model of someone, you know, a role model doesn’t have to be a billionaire, it doesn’t have to be a really rich or successful founder or celebrity or an athlete. I mean, everyone has someone who views them as a role model. And, you know, I think that the choices that you make as people’s Role Model A lot of times gives people permission to be who they want to be. And I think one of the things that’s been so important over the time that I’ve been in Silicon Valley, you know, when I first moved there, no female leaders wanted to talk about being a woman in tech. And they certainly didn’t want to talk about motherhood. I mean, no one, like a lot of those women I interviewed early on like Meg Whitman, or Carly Fiorina, like I didn’t even know if they had kids like they were so like, kind of a drogyn eyes themselves. Why? Because well, because that was seen as a weakness, because to succeed, you had to be a man. And I think what Sheryl Sandberg did in talking about motherhood and that back and forth, and that tension of motherhood and work was so groundbreaking five years ago, as a lot of Lean In looks very backwards today. But at the time, it was so groundbreaking for a female leader in tech to talk about that stuff. And then you had Marissa Mayer, who was clearly pregnant. And we all knew she was pregnant while Ron doing one of the hardest jobs in tech. But she never allowed herself to be photographed pregnant. I think like when she was nine with other twins, she was on CNBC. And like they only shot her face, like she was very conscious of never appearing pregnant, because there was still some of that vestigial baggage. And then really soon after that, you have women like Lynn George of Sunrun, and Katrina lake of Stitch Fix, who take their companies public and hold their newborn babies as they ring the opening bell. And it’s like you think about just in those examples, the trajectory and the message that that sends to women in Silicon Valley, I mean, the first is I have to be a man to fit in, you know, talk about not being able to bring your whole self into something. The other is, I can acknowledge I’m a mother, but there’s a time and place for me to be a mother. And this will be viewed as weakness, and I can’t show any weakness. And the third is not only I’m not afraid of that weakness, but this is my strength. Yeah, the thing that I have been made to feel my entire life is, you know, the negative about being a woman is actually the thing where it’s like, I can outperform all of you and it’s like this idea of having a baby and being like, can you do this? Can you take a company public, go in the hospital, come out and hold a baby? That is an aspirational brand. That’s what I think we’re like on the cusp of and like those role models make a huge difference. Like that’s very much the mission of Chairman mom. We want to turn like the shame of working motherhood into something that is amazing and badass, because why isn’t it
Matt Hunckler 14:59
i I definitely want to dive into Chairman mob, because the community that you’re building there, I think a lot of our viewers and listeners will want to dive in if they’re not already a part of it. But also thinking about that time in place Silicon Valley, in that post.com, boom and bust. That’s when you’re sort of getting your writing chops working for your first couple of editors writing your first few big pieces. How did you fit into that culture then?
So I actually moved there. 99. So I moved there, like at the peak, so I sort of like got to see the peak of it, and then sort of watch the explosion. Yeah, what, but it was really valuable as a journalist, journalists turnover. So quickly, in Silicon Valley, there’s remarkably little institutional memory. And, you know, I found when I was writing my first book, which was sort of about the rise of Facebook, and YouTube and a lot of LinkedIn, and a lot of the web 2.0 companies, there’s so many people that would be like, this is just like, 99. And it was like, No, it’s not. Now, things are crazy in a different way. So when I first moved there, I was working for a really small publication, and no one wanted anything to do with me, no one wanted to return my calls, no one wanted to talk to me. And it’s like, like a lot of young women, it was really hard for me to know if that was particularly a gender thing, or a youth thing, or an inexperienced thing or a lack of network thing, or I worked at a small publication thing. That was just not an era where it’s like someone in your early 20s, you went to work at the Wall Street Journal or fortune, like you had to go through a whole minor league journalism system to get up to those publications. Because there’s no online publication, there was no blogs, there weren’t these onramps. And so it’s hard to know. And I think, for me, I didn’t view what I was going through is particularly gendered, I viewed it more as about inexperience, and youth. And being from Memphis, Tennessee, and not growing up here and not having sources and not having connections. This is really common, particularly with Gen X women, like most Gen X, women don’t become feminists until they hit 35. And there’s a lot of interesting, like, we’re sort of the last feminist generation between the older generation who was really aggro and fought a lot of battles. And the millennials, which very much identify as feminists and are fighting a lot of battles, then you have the Teen Vogue generation, which puts even the millennials to shame. But we’re sort of this like, last feminist generation. And, and I think a lot of that was because enough progress had been made by the older generations that we felt we could just kind of coast and it was a very, I’m gonna look out for me generation, and how do you look out for you, you kind of assimilate into male culture, especially if you’re a white woman, it’s a lot easier than if you’re a woman of color seems
Matt Hunckler 17:39
like these cultural shifts kind of go in cycles, sometimes. Yeah, yeah.
And I think that’s a lot of what Leenane keyed into is like how you can play this system, because, you know, let’s be real, this system isn’t going to change. That was a very Gen X point of view. Yeah. And I think the shift that we’ve seen in the last year, is that Gen X women have become mobilized for the first time in a broad way. But I started doing a podcast when I was writing my book, because I do these interviews anyway. And I thought, we’ll just like put them out there. So people can have some context that so many women just when they heard the title of my book, be like, I need this book to be out. Now. I’m struggling with this now. So I think we’ve done yesterday, I published like the 39th episode of that podcast. Thank you, and what’s the title of it, and it’s the same, it’s a uterus is a feature, not a bug, and it’s on iTunes, if you just search that in my name, you’ll find the whole catalogue. And I’m interviewing a lot of founders and VCs, and a lot of those people are Gen X women, because those are the people who’ve kind of finally gotten to these positions of power. And, you know, I feel like I’ve asked on almost every podcast, like when someone, you know, identified that gender was an issue that gender was something that was holding them back. And everyone says about 35. And it’s like, there’s kind of this basket of reasons why, but one of them is that sense of, you’re just getting like shit on from every direction when you’re young. And so it’s hard to know that this is specifically gender. And it’s like when you hit, you know, your late 30s. And you have this like confidence, and you’ve built this career, and you’re still getting shit on. That’s when it’s like, oh, oh, okay, wait a minute. I think what’s so inspiring about the millennial generation, all of the negatives we’ve read, and like every business school case study about why millennials are so horrible to manage, and so horrible to hire and all that other words, no, you’re the best. Like that sense of entitlement is exactly why I think millennial women who are the biggest group of parents right now are the ones who are actually new parents, I should say, are the ones who are actually going to drive massive change in terms like I think we’re going to get as a nation, I think we’re going to join the rest of the world and having paid parental leave, and it’s going to be millennials who drive it because Gen X women were like, I’ve got to pay my dues. That’s what you do in your 20s you suck it up. You suck up the abuse and you pay your dues like millennial women do not do that. And it’s not a surprise that a lot of what’s driven The me to movement in the last year has largely come from younger women. You look at Susan Fowler, who kicked a lot of this off a year ago. There’s no woman of my generation who would have been inside the highest valued private company of that era, and then even in Silicon Valley history in the terms of Uber, and would have felt, quote unquote, entitled enough to think she should also be treated like a human being in that situation.
Matt Hunckler 20:28
Well, I love that you get into a lot of these stories in the book, I think my favorite chapter so far, is one that I think is worth mentioning on the show right now, which is if you don’t hire women, after reading this chapter, you’re just sexist. Which gets to the point that hiring women it’s not just good for gender equality. Yeah, it’s good for business. Right? It’s good for growing innovative companies, high performing teams that are creative, having fun. Yeah. And they’re going to outperform the the teams that are siloed. Yeah, and are thinking myopically. Can you talk about some of the research that because you did a lot of research for this book, I was blown away, just from what I’ve read.
An argument that pregnant women and new mothers are actually superior to anyone else in the workforce, you have to bring a lot of data because no one wants to believe that argument, even women,
Matt Hunckler 21:25
which is awesome. And this, again,
was sort of Cheryl strategy, when she did lean in, she thought, I’m just gonna bring a lot of data to this, I’m gonna bring a lot of data that shows that inclusive environments are more profitable, they perform better, all of these things. And that body of research, since she wrote lean in has only increased I mean, there’s every single business school, every single consultancy, everyone you can think of has studies that prove that inclusive workforces just performed better. I mean, it’s just not even for debate right now. On top, which ways well, really, in every way, I mean, financially, they do. But I think that the shock is that even when it comes to startups, female investors on the whole, outperform male investors, which is even more shocking when you consider that female investors are usually siloed in areas like healthcare, or E commerce that don’t have the biggest returns. So that’s a pretty major thing that they outperform. Also, First Round Capital did a study that I quoted in the book, where they looked at their own portfolio over, you know, the, I guess, like decade or so they’ve been in business, and found that female co founded companies had like significantly outperformed, I think by like 63%, or something like that. I might be transposing that with another figure, but pretty significantly outperformed companies that didn’t have a female founder. I mean, there is so much data, there’s also a data on sort of the individual woman level. I mean, the impetus for me writing this book was just like the disconnect that I so viscerally experienced between everything I’ve been told about motherhood, and what I actually experienced as a mother, I mean, I was just told, I wouldn’t be able to do anything like my best years as a professional would be behind me that even you know, more scary than that. I would lose all interest in everything that I had done, up until that point, and like, these things all seemed horrifying to me. It’s like someone’s taking over your identity, and you just become a host. And there’s like, No, you left. I mean, there’s one reason I put off having kids until I was 35.
Matt Hunckler 23:29
And was that your experience when you had kids? No, it’s quite the
opposite. I mean, I ended up raising money for panto on maternity leave, like I took a baby with me fundraising. I didn’t even have a nanny. And then I got pregnant six months after starting panda with my second, I felt like being pregnant and being a mom was like discovering a new superpower. I mean, first of all, I was in awe of what my body innately knew how to do. And I think I’d felt so much shame as a woman because of our culture. And like, tapping into that power in such cellular way was like, really amazing. But then I also just, you become far more productive. As a mother, you become a far better manager, because you really have to meet people where they are, and you learn how to do that. Because you have to do that with your children. Like, I can’t tell my son that I’m gonna like fire him if he doesn’t get potty training. Thank you. And I said, like, you know, manage my children both very differently, because they’re really different individuals. And that’s the best kind of management and it is way easier to manage by screaming and managed by threats, but it’s long term not as beneficial. And so mothers really experience that also, just creative problem solving goes into overdrive because you’re constantly having to, to work within a world of constraints as a working mom. I mean, most of us don’t have the resources to constantly throw money at problems. We’re all time constrained. You know, your children’s scale and complexity as you get better as a parent it. And so you’re constantly being challenged with new things. It’s like you can be on a plane like now if I’m on a plane, and I see like a mom with a newborn, and she’s like freaking out, I’m like, Oh my God, that’s so easy. I can do that all day long. Because you get you get better, but they get harder. And so it’s all of these parallels between what you go through as an entrepreneur building a high growth company, and what you do as a parent. And I think it’s the same way, if you’re trying to get in shape, doing like SoulCycle, and yoga and CrossFit, all cross train muscles and get you in shape way faster than doing one thing. I think having to go back and forth between those different problem sets of being a parent. And being an entrepreneur, it’s just like you are constantly working that creative problem solving muscle, you don’t get flustered, you know, you can work through every situation, I became a better journalist, I became a better writer, I became a quicker writer, my net worth increased, I became more famous, like anything you could point to became better and more extreme. Once I had a child, I
Matt Hunckler 25:58
wish I could be a mom,
I know. It’s, like sad that you can’t. But so part of it was I expect what I experienced was so different. And I would talk to younger women and tell them and they’d be like, no one’s telling me that I don’t believe you. So part of what I wanted to do with this book was like am I like some weird outlier, and like, I’m not getting back to data and where it’s even on like a individual woman level, working moms, they take a slight like a 15% Dip in productivity, right after they have children, which is pretty amazingly small, given 85% of women in this country have no access to paid leave at all, they take about a 15% hit in productivity for the first couple years. And after that, they become far more productive than anyone else in the workforce. And the more children you have, the more productive working mothers become. Now the same study also found that father’s new fathers become slightly more productive, although the the LEAP isn’t as great. But new fathers don’t become more productive with each child, but new mothers do. So you can think about if you’re a company that’s freaked out about oh my god, I’m hiring a young woman, and then she’s gonna want to get married, and then she’s gonna have kids, and she’s gonna want to be out for a few months. Think about the time and space that companies give people to pursue an MBA, or go on a sabbatical or go train in an area. I mean, think of that as what you’re doing when you’re hiring young mothers, like there’s going to be a slight distraction hit of productivity, and yes, you should fucking give them some leave, that should be a human right? It is an every other country in the world. We are wrong when it comes to this. But then they are going to be better workers for you for the rest of their career and all American Games and capitalism right now or about productivity. I mean, it’s just how much more can we squeeze out of people because like, we we’ve met so many basic problems in our society. And if you were to tell people, I can send someone somewhere to, you know, a camp for three months, and they will come back and be, you know, this much more productive than any of your other workforce. And we were talking about men employers would take that trade all day long.
Matt Hunckler 28:04
Yeah. Well, and what can companies do? I mean, in the book, you mentioned, companies like Netflix and Google that are creating these new policies. How do you How can other companies, even small startups, think about the company policies from the get go to encourage moms to become a part of the team, or to make sure that moms that are on the team feel comfortable?
And also, dads take paternity leave is one of the most important things that Facebook did. I mean, we there’s so many negative things being said about Facebook in the world right now. I’ll say one positive, is that you know, Mark Zuckerberg took a long paternity leave. Yeah. And there’s this thing where even that 15% of women, and I’m sure it’s smaller, actually, for dads who are given the benefit of taking leave 60% of them in tech, don’t take it because they view it like a test. Right? It’s like we’ve all worked places where they give you unlimited vacation, but if anyone ever took even two weeks, how many people would judge them based on that? Right? You know, unlimited vacation is really a way accounting way to keep vacation off your books. No one takes unlimited vacation. And a lot of women view maternity leave is the same thing. It’s this test and if you take your full maternity leave, you’re weaker. You’re you’re playing and all these things people fear and all these lies that people are told about motherhood. And you know, the biggest thing women have to do is prove themselves again when they come back. So women feel like it’s an even bigger hurdle every extra day that they take. And you can imagine, I’m sure new fathers feel that even to a more extreme degree. Yeah, so Mark Zuckerberg actually leading by example, and at a pivotal moment in that company and like he rules that company with an iron fist. There is no if that company can survive for three months without him. There is no company in the world that cannot survive without without an employee for three months like period ended. And I think the fact that he made that I am sure every man at that company who was going to have children and wanted to take that time felt permission in a way they hadn’t before. So I think leading by example is a really important thing. I think that having the policies from day one, you know, everything goes back to day one with companies, people want to ask like, how do we solve this? How do I hire gender diverse teams? How do I hire racially diverse teams? Well, if you don’t do it from day one, you’re not going to do it. If your team is 60% diverse from day one, it will be 60% diverse when you are 1000s of employees, but it’s not something you can bolt on later. And one of the most extreme examples of that, which I talked about in the book is this company, Madison Reed, which does like really like all natural hair color for women on a subscription basis. It’s absolutely crushing it, I think, sort of after Stitch Fix, it’s going to be the next biggest female lead IPO that we see in tech. Yeah, me, Erin is just a rock star. She’s amazing. And Amy, early on, she felt like I gotta get this thing running. I just need cheap, affordable talent where I can get it. And this is like the most female empowerment company ever. Amy’s married to a woman and has a daughter like her whole life or women she’s building a company for women like this cannot be more like a lot of her senior team are women. And yet her entire developer team is male. And she has struggled and struggled and struggled and struggled to find and hire a woman. And she finds them that she can’t close them. Even though incredible female empowerment company and senior team. Why? Because it’s all men and the developer base. And she’s like, they don’t believe me, they don’t believe me, this isn’t going to be a broke company. And she has this element in the book, which actually, I think some of her team got upset about when it came out. But where she says like on a Friday afternoon, it’s like if she sort of steps away for five minutes, Nerf guns come out. Yeah. And it’s just like this testosterone rages. And like people feel that when they go into a space, and women who frequently have been traumatized by other male spaces, like, let’s remember, feeder schools, like all the Ivy League schools have a 40% campus assault rate. So a lot of these women have already had trauma before they’ve come into the workforce, or witnessed it with a close friend, you know, they don’t want to be in those environments. So it’s like we teach a chairman Mom, we actually delayed our launch by six months, because I insisted our VP of engineering had to be a woman. And it was really hard to find. And our whole engineering team was actually in LA, we could not find it in Silicon Valley, we could not find the right person. And it has to do with fit. It has to do with team, I’m not saying there’s not great female talent in the Bay Area, actually, a lot of them are so in demand, because people want to show diversity, it’s hard to close them in genuinely. But you know, as a result, you know, you take those delays early on, which a lot of I think first time founders feel this insecurity, they can’t do that they’re still trying to prove themselves to their investor prove themselves to their boards. But if you don’t take the time to do that, at the very beginning, and that includes having like really good maternity policy, I mean, we have like, I don’t know, 12 months of runway or so we’re a very small team where everyone’s doing a million jobs. And I give eight weeks of paid leave for either parent, and they don’t have to be there for a certain period of time. I mean, you built so much loyalty, you’re respecting them. You’re saying what your values are. There’s so many benefits. And I know it’s hard for people like in your listener audience who may not have venture funding, like I was able to raise an oversubscribed seed round. So it’s like, yeah, well, you have 13 months revenue runway, but that’s kind of a lot for a lot of startups. But I really encourage people to do something like that at the beginning, because everyone’s doing a million jobs in startup, you can augment that with some contract, work, whatever that person’s doing, that person will never get that time back when they first become apparent. And you want them to get their sea legs before they come back into something as crazy as a startup. Because this is this particular American messed up aspect of the patriarchy, which is kind of unique to America. 40% of this country think working moms are bad for society, they do not want women working. So how do you do that? You deprive them of paid leave. Because if they have to come back at that moment, they should have the right to be spending time with their child and physically recovering. That is when they will leave that is their weakest possible moment. And so you don’t give them leave and you make them prove themselves again, and they’re hit with all this maternal bias for the first time. That is the point where women opt out if you have someone who is indispensable enough to your team, that your male lizard brain thinks I can’t possibly spare them for six weeks. How are you going to do when they quit and go work for somewhere more enlightened?
Matt Hunckler 34:30
That is an awesome call to action. I am so happy that you are here today. I could talk to you for hours.
I feel like we scratched I’d be like we feel we’re one question.
Matt Hunckler 34:40
We scratched the surface. I am talking right now. Sarah Lacy, new author. Well, you several time offer author, new book. uterus is a feature not a bug. I really wanted to dive into Chairman mom a little bit but maybe just a close Could you give us that like 30 seconds or pitch on what that is and how people can get involved.
Yeah. So a lot of Chairman mom came out of my experience reporting and researching this book, and just seeing how transformative It was when when working women actually spend time together and share common experiences. And it sounds sort of simple and obvious. But that’s like, really where social revolutions happen. I’m someone who obviously, as you know, from the last 45 minutes, feels super passionately about motherhood. And yet I’m not a member of any mother groups. Why is that? So you know, I wanted to create a lot of them online have a lot of Mommy Wars have a lot of trolling, it is kind of Ground Zero, where this like anger and resentment over the way working women are treated in the way frankly, stay at home moms are also treated in our society, you know, gets lashed out sort of mom against mom, and it’s just super not appealing to me. So I wanted to create a space that was really, really designed for professional women, and you don’t really have to be a mom. I mean, all women face maternal bias, once they, you know, get into their 20s whether they ever plan on having children or not. So we did question yesterday about egg freezing. There’s a lot of content for non mothers there. But I wanted to focus it on professional working women. And my goal was to give them a place where they could ask the hardest questions in a really protected environment. Because frequently like working women are so isolated, like they’re isolated at work, because even if there are other women who and mothers who work in their company, they have to project they’ve got everything, you know, they cannot sort of like ask these hard, vulnerable questions. They’re isolated in society, because of some of the judgment around working moms are frequently isolated in school groups. If you send your kids to a high achieving private school, or a public school in a place like Palo Alto or Menlo Park, you’re frequently the only working mom, which makes you feel bad about yourself. And they’re frequently isolated in their marriages. If a woman earns even $1, more than her spouse, the odds of his infidelity go up. And the more financially dependent, a man is on the woman, the more likely he will cheat on her. How messed up is that crazy? So like, they can’t even describe that chapter? Yeah, yeah. They can’t even discuss these things at home. So they’re so isolated from every corner, and they’re just trying to do this amazing thing for their family and themselves. And so, you know, they certainly can have these conversations that are happening on Chairman mom on any other social network. And frequently they can’t anywhere else in their lives. So we pick two questions a day from our community. What about work? What about life? And it’s not like, do I need a permit for a bounce house? Or does this restaurant have a changing table, go to weenie for that they’re amazing. They do the broad the broad breadth of being a new parent. But it’s things like I think our questions on the site today. Well, we had one yesterday about is it okay, if it’s your last resort? Is it okay to take money from a known misogynist? And then one of the questions today is about oh, I’ve been asked, I’ve been like reference checked on a boss who was super sexist and horrible to me. How much retaliation or revenge? Should I see? Basically, like, how should I handle that? And there’s, there was one of the questions. Yeah, one of the most amazing threads we had was someone who said simply, you know, I’m not in a volatile marriage, but I’m not happy, should I stay together for the kids. And I’m telling you, that whole thread, even the women who said they were they were still with someone, none of them made marriage sound good. It really confirmed my my decision to be a divorced woman. But you know, it’s a lot of these things that we feel so much shame about as women that you cannot even talk about are happening. You know, we launched two weeks ago in private beta. Already, there’s this amazing level of trust and openness that’s happening in the community. And it’s, you know, really transformative, like, sometimes it’s tactical questions. One woman had to sue a client who hadn’t been paid and wanted advice on that, you know, it’s this, these things you can’t get elsewhere. So if anyone are in private beta, but you can go to beta dot Chairman mom.com, if you want to join will be up here. Yeah, we’ll be opening it up in about a month or so. And I think it’s really going to change women’s lives.
Matt Hunckler 38:51
But sounds like it already is. Sara, thank you so much for coming in Annapolis today. I do believe we’re just scratching the surface. So I hope we’re gonna have you back on the show sometime. I would love to talk about some of the things you’re learning building this awesome community. Thanks. Thank you. That’s it for our show with Sarah Lacy, aka Sarah CUDA on Twitter. That’s S A R A H see you u dA on Twitter. Make sure you follow her and check out Chairman mom.com, which is a social platform for working mothers. It sounds awesome to get links to the resources and people mentioned in this episode, as well as more stories on entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals outside of Silicon Valley. Subscribe to us on email@example.com forward slash iTunes. You’ll want to subscribe because we have some great guests coming up in season two, so don’t miss it. Thanks again for listening to this special in between a sewed you’ll be hearing from us again soon on powderkeg igniting startups