Founder and CEO of Uplift, a turnkey platform for companies to advance working moms at scale by turning motherhood into a career advantage
What was your own maternity leave like? What was it like when you returned to work? At what point did you think you should start your own business?
I had two kids, now three and five, when I was at Google. Their policy included a month off before your due date and four months after, plus you accrued vacation. I saved my vacation to allow me to go back four days a week for the first six weeks, which was key to my sanity. I took every Wednesday off, so I only had to ‘make it’ through two days. I kept my daughter in daycare in the morning of my days off to get some much-needed me time, and then spent lovely afternoons with her.
Having a newborn is really really hard. I was lucky and made some of my closest friends during this time. We would sit in the park (or in beer garden happy hours) and trade war stories and tips.
I found that both my daughter and I were happiest when we were out, so we were adventurous. We went to MOMA and even made it to a bunch of Restaurant Week lunches. I even breastfed in Jean Georges! Pretty early on, I also got a babysitter to come two mornings a week, which allowed me to sleep or go to the gym. A three-hour break made me such a better mom.
Returning to work was honestly a disaster. The night before my first day, Chloe had the worst night of sleep of her life, waking every hour. I was a zombie. The second day back, my daughter’s daycare left a kid at the park and closed for two weeks.
I also realized that I didn’t love the job I was returning to. Having kids is a magnifying glass on your life. If you have issues, they become worse. If I was going to leave my kid for 10 hours a day, I needed to love my work.
So, I made a significant career switch a month after I returned from leave, moving from marketing to hardware product management, having no hardware experience. Studies show that life changes, like having a kid, are a great time to adopt new habits since your life is already changing. Having kids completely jumpstarted my career. I became more productive, leaned into work that challenged me, and stopped caring about the bullshit.
I always wanted to start my own company. When my second was two, I decided to make the jump, founding Uplift, a platform that helps companies advance working moms at scale. I started by interviewing over 100 moms at the top of their field on what made them successful at life and work. Then I built our program off those conversations. I wanted to help other moms not need to reinvent the wheel and use motherhood as a way to propel their career forward, not take a step back.
What formal policies are you putting in place to build a better workplace for working mothers? What informal policies? What are the unexpected challenges of making your company more working-parent friendly?
My company has employees across four time zones. Being remote builds in inherent flexibility. You can work whenever you want, as long as you get your work done. Studies show people do better work when they have autonomy and flexibility.
As a team, we also go through the Uplift program ourselves. Each week we do an activity to help us achieve more work-life balance, from identifying stress triggers to communicating our boundaries. Then we talk about our results as a team.
I also try to be very transparent about when I am spending time with my kids during the workday to normalize this flexibility. I will share pictures of school parties or show my co-working buddies in video chats when they are home sick from school.
What would you hope more traditional workplaces could learn from the policies you've put into place?
Being a working mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So many companies are focusing on just extending maternity leave or on-ramps back to work. In reality, moms need more support, not only when they return to work, but after they’ve adjusted to being back and the struggles of trying to ‘do it all’ fully set in. Coaching can help moms get off the hamster wheel and define the type of working mom they want to be. Simple tools — like the ones we’ve created in our app — are essential to help them set boundaries, reduce their housework demands, and be more resilient.
Why is this such an important issue for you?
There are more men named John who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies than women. We won’t make a significant dent in these numbers without helping moms because the most significant leak in the funnel is when women have kids — 28% lean out of the workforce.
I also have seen hundreds of women become better at their job after kids, even though 60% of moms experience bias in the workforce. I want to help rewrite the script for working moms.