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Ten Million Moms Can Scale It Up
When Divya and I had our son Ayaan in 2018 in India, Divya decided to quit her job so that she could spend time with him in his early formative years, beyond the stipulated maternity leave given to mothers. We were privileged enough to not think about the financial impact of this, which made it easier for her to make this decision.
As a father, I will be forever grateful to Divya for making that choice. As her husband, I was worried about how she would re-enter the job market.
In 2019, I was asked to lead global operations for Udacity, a change from my then role as the MD for Udacity in India. This was a great role for me, but would require us to move to the US. Divya, a true life partner, immediately told me that I should take on this new role, while she would take on the role of getting us settled and looking after Ayaan when we moved. This enabled us to move to the US in late 2019.
In 2020, COVID hit and Divya took even a greater role of managing the home, while I started working from home. The days for me got busier since the edtech world was getting headwinds from the pandemic as more people turned to online learning. Our son was growing up fast and Divya kept on holding fort. When Divya decided to get back to work, I was first hand witness to the challenges that she faced when getting back into the workforce.
I also remember the experiences that my mother shared with me from the time she was expecting me (her first child), while pursuing her medical degree in India. Soon after the delivery her boss told her “You have had your cake, but you can not eat it now. Join back immediately.” This incident and other such feedback she got during her motherhood journey became critical inputs in her decision to not have more kids in the future.
I have had the privilege of working with very impressive women in my career. The conversations that I have had with them about their struggles to leave work before the maternity break and coming back to work afterwards have been deeply troubling. I have often heard that when a mom returns she is expected to either show up in the same way she showed up before she was a mom — or it is assumed that she will not show up the way she did before she was a mom. While in the former situation it is ignored that the mom has to take care of her children, the latter situation denies her equal opportunities at work. Both of these biases make it difficult for moms to be their authentic selves at work.
As a leader, when I reflect on such stories, I can't help but think about how much we could scale our teams with this pool of talent. But it will require us to make it easier for expectant moms to prepare for their maternity breaks and for moms to return back to work, after their breaks. They were all great partners at work before they took a break to raise a child. And that does not change just because they took a break. Here are some questions we can think about -
What are the practices to help more women stay in the workforce?
Are managers trained in hiring/supporting young adults as they begin to consider and embark on the parenthood journey?
Is it an easy/celebratory conversation for a parent in the organization to tell their manager that they are having a baby?
Are there part time options for returning moms so that their re-entry is easier?
Are there specific roles, which are structured in a way that they are attractive to returning moms?
Can we normalize that moms returning to the workforce means they will be looking after their children?
For every 1000 people in the world, 504 are men (50.4%) and 496 are women (49.6%). Then why are there only 74 female CEOs at America’s 500 largest companies?
I am personally very fortunate to be working at Tala, which is founded and led by Shivani Siroya, an incredible and mission driven CEO, who is also a mother to one-year-old twins. She has also made an effort to create a diverse leadership team— 50% of our senior leadership are women. This trickles down the organization with very strong women leaders and individual contributors throughout.
It would be great to create a world wherein what is true at Tala, would be the norm, rather than an exception!
Therefore on this Mother’s Day, I am thrilled to join Kirthiga (President, Athena SPAC; ex-Partner, SoftBank; ex-MD Facebook India), Ashutosh (Founder & CEO, Eightfold), Cindy, Deepika, Parul (Strategist, X, the moonshot factory), and Emily (Chief of Staff, Eightfold) as a volunteer founding member of Laddrr, a social impact mission to enable ten millions moms to step up their professional careers.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the incredible mothers out there and to all the men and women whom they impact and enable everyday.
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