Ladies, if you haven’t already heard of Fairygodboss, we’re about to introduce you to your new favorite career community, designed for women by women. Fairygodboss was founded by Georgene Huang and Romy Newman, two women who recognize that it’s not always easy being a woman in the workplace and understand the value of deep career research. So they created a platform where women can post anonymous job reviews, find jobs at companies that have forward-thinking policies, discuss topics like salaries, work-life balance and motherhood and get advice from other women. Fairygodboss helps women answer the questions that are hard to ask and strives to create a world where women feel empowered to take control of their careers.
We were given the opportunity to talk with Fairygodboss co-founder and CEO, Georgene Huang, about her career, how she identified the need for a business like Fairygodboss and what she sees as the biggest challenge facing woman-owned businesses today. To say we were inspired by her outlook on work, life and motherhood would be an understatement. Check out our full conversation with this amazing female entrepreneur below!
Tell us about your background. How do you think your childhood shaped your career path? I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and I interned in Silicon Valley at startups. My father is an entrepreneur and I think because I was constantly surrounded by so much innovation, it made me excited at the idea of building something from the ground up. I moved to NYC when I finished law school and have spent most of my career in New York.
Walk us through your career pre-Fairygodboss. What was your first job and how did you transition into the jobs following? I studied Economics at Cornell University and after graduating from Stanford University, I started practicing law. In a few months, I realized that my passion didn’t lie in that area and I moved into investing roles on Wall Street at a few different firms. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, I started working at Bloomberg Ventures where I was in charge of helping to incubate and grow a few different businesses from the ground up. After that I ran the enterprise business at Dow Jones.
Where did you come up with the idea for Fairygodboss? The idea for Fairygodboss came to me after what I describe as a “very bad day” at work. On that day, I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of a management shakeup. At the time, I was two months pregnant and hadn’t told anyone yet. So I was in this position of looking for a job and going on interviews — and feeling quite pressured to hide my pregnancy. While interviewing, I wanted to ask certain questions around benefits and policies like maternity leave and work-life balance — but feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career if I asked. I also wanted to hear directly from other women about their experiences and how they overcame similar challenges. So I turned to the internet for answers and was surprised by the lack of information I found, which is why we’ve formed the Fairygodboss Community. Today, FGB offers free resources as the only crowdsourced database of parental leave benefits and free, anonymous company reviews by women. Members can ask for or offer advice on a daily, interactive Fairygodboss feed.
Why do you think Fairygodboss, as a platform, is necessary for women in today’s corporate landscape? When I was looking for a job while I was pregnant, I couldn’t ask important questions without feeling like I would face bias, assumptions and judgment. I also felt incredibly alone in my experience and wanted to talk to other women who’d become mothers and also had big careers, to get their advice. By creating more transparency about how women are treated in the workplace and connecting women with each other, I hope women can find more support and success.
Do you have a favorite Fairygodboss “success story”? This past March we closed on a $10 million Series A investment, co-led by GSV Accelerate and Signal Peak Ventures. While raising money isn’t the goal of our business, it is external validation of the strong product, business and team we have built.
How has Fairygodboss changed since it started in 2015 to now? When we first started it was literally me and my co-founder, Romy Newman, working by ourselves in our apartments (and a lot of cafes!). Now, we are a team of 50 and are continuing to grow. Today, millions of women turn to Fairygodboss for a sense of community and to connect with other women. We’re obsessed with improving the workplace and believe the No. 1 way to do that is through transparency and women collaborating with each other. Our product has evolved so much as well. Fairygodboss started with only free, anonymous reviews, but now we produce career-focused editorial content, publish data and research, and recently we’ve launched a daily feed which is the centerpiece of how our community interacts with each other. We’ve also launched virtual career fairs to help job-seekers connect directly with recruiters at employers who are trying to hire more women.
What’s an initiative that you’re working on now at Fairygodboss that you’re really passionate about? Why? The daily feed we’re building is really exciting. We see women chiming in about all kinds of things, ranging from how to manage career change to difficult situations at work, or the best tips and tricks when it comes to managing their family responsibilities and workloads. There’s so much variety and diversity of viewpoints and genuinely fascinating looks into the inner worlds of so many women. The supportive community we’re building is very unique and I am really passionate about nurturing it.
What’s the biggest challenge of being a woman-owned business? I think owning a business is hard, regardless of your gender, but I think one uphill battle that women face is around getting VC funding. Recent data has shown that female founders only received 2.2% of venture funding in 2018 so if you’re starting a company whose products or services cater to women, you have to spend more time thinking about how to convince a potential investor (who is typically an older, white male) that you are solving a real and important problem. Imagine if you were starting a lipstick company, for example. While men understand what lipstick is and that many women wear it, it’s not solving a problem that they have experienced firsthand. Therefore, the whole premise of your business is foreign to them.
What motivates you as a business owner and a female entrepreneur? Knowing that we’re building something bigger than any one of us!
As a founder, what are some things you think about as a leader/actions you take to motivate your team? I believe it’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard so I make sure to take time every week to have one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. Creating clear lines of communication and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions has helped to create a more collaborative and engaging workplace culture at Fairygodboss. I also really believe in leading by example. I believe that I work very hard but I also do so flexibly when possible, and I realize the importance of modeling behavior.
There’s a lot of conversation today around “work life balance”. Do you believe there’s such a thing and if so, how do you maintain yours? While there’s no formula that works for everyone, for me the key is ruthless prioritization and being present in whatever I’m doing. To help make sure I’m giving my full attention to the tasks at hand, I really rely on my calendar and build in time for not just meetings, but things like deep thinking, working out, and of course, having my evening to spend with my family (then, it’s back to work before going to bed!).
What do you think is the toughest part of being a working mom that men and women without kids may not think about? I like to think about it in terms of being a “working parent” because it shouldn’t just be a mother’s responsibility to take care of the child and a lot of companies are coming to that realization as well. I don’t think people without kids always understand how raising children can be a full-time job. This is true even with help from family or a nanny, so having a flexible job can be really important. If a sitter has to cancel or a child gets sick, it will make the parents lives much easier if they have the ability to work from home or take a day off.
As a mother, what impact do you hope that being a CEO of a company has on your kids as they grow? I hope they see that work can be meaningful, consuming and fulfilling. I don’t expect them to be exactly like me and I respect the fact that they may have very strong non-career interests. I love my work so I hope from my example that they know they shouldn’t settle for a job they don’t love.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from another woman? The best advice I have ever gotten from a woman, happens to be from my co-founder, Romy Newman. She says “Seek out rejection. Seek out failure.” I love that because it’s so contrarian and what I take from it is the fact that growth requires putting yourself out there and there is nothing better than growth.
What’s been the most surprising part of running your own business? I’ve learned that my job changes every year or so (if not more than that). What I had to do in order to be successful in year 1 is not the same thing I should do to be successful in year 3, and so forth. That’s what makes startup life so challenging. In order to succeed over the long run, you really have to adapt very rapidly to the new situation and new role you play.