3 Learnings For Female CEOs About Pregnancy Bias

In the male-driven tech world, female entrepreneurs already face more hurdles than their male counterparts. And finding out you’re pregnant on top of that can feel like the end of your budding startup.

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A few years ago, I quit my 9–5 to create my own business in the beauty & tech space. I had actually just been in the process of freezing my eggs when I got the news that I was pregnant. And when it rains, it pours because I told my co-founder she said “You won’t believe this, but I just found out that I’m pregnant too.” That was a crazy moment to say the least. And our families thought we were completely insane. We were both happy but also wondering: Are They Right? Can we do this?

From my experience, having a baby and starting a company at the same time was the craziest undertaking as of yet. But somehow, it was also the best thing that could have happened to us. It hasn’t been easy, but today we have a startup that’s revolutionizing an industry and two beautiful babies to boot.

So here are my three learnings for CEO’s who are also mom’s to be:

Your Team Will Be An Integral Piece Of The Puzzle.

The truth is a few of our male engineers immediately quit when they found out we were pregnant. But surprisingly, this didn’t create the abandon ship effect I was expecting. And it gave us a clear way to pick the right team members.

The people you hire, especially the first few hires, will have a major impact on how your culture develops. We decided then and there that we would only hire people who were in it for the long-haul.

Even when you’re in the initial stage of your startup, you should already be thinking about company culture. What qualities would make up the perfect environment for your business to thrive? Then consider the qualities that could prevent your company from achieving its goals. Having a clear picture will help you hire the right people from the start.

Fundraising May Become More Difficult, But You’ll Attract The Right Investors.

Before the pregnancy news, our startup had just been accepted into the vigorous Y Combinator accelerator program. Some of our advisors warned us that being pregnant might actually scare off investors on demo day and convinced us to defer our entry to the program.

In 2017 female entrepreneurs only received 2.2% of all VC funding, demonstrating the strong underlying bias holding women back. At such a critical junction in the birth of our startup, we were concerned that being pregnant would add an extra layer to the bias we’d already be facing.

What we actually found was that some people, like Odile Roujol, our advisor and former CEO of Lancome, were even more impressed with our drive and ambition to create a great company and be great moms — so why can’t we be both?

Making the right partnerships when it comes to investors can have an even bigger impact than hiring the right people. Investors will be there with you for the long haul. If you just chase after the money, you’ll be in for a lot of difficulties down the road. What you need are investors who really believe in you and your vision.

You’ll combine work and family, and that’s OK.

They say when you’re an entrepreneur, your business is your life. This doesn’t mean your family can’t be part of this life. My cofounder and I don’t distinguish between work and personal life. We have the flexibility to combine both and it’s worked so far.

A startup is like a family and that’s one of its competitive advantages. If you develop a strong professional and personal relationship with your team, you’ll be able to trust and rely on each other. This isn’t just a one-way relationship. When you hire great people who are committed, you also need to give back by providing an environment that’s supportive and flexible.

I really admire companies that have been pioneers in pushing for actual work/life balance options. For example, Patagonia has provided on-site childcare since 1983. Parents work right next door to where their children are playing and learning, making it possible to check in on them and have lunch together every day. Netflix offers both new moms and dads up to one year of paid leave.

It’s initiatives like these that are helping to change bias against mothers to be. Companies lose so much talent by not providing the flexibility that enables both mothers and fathers to continue their careers.

One Final Learning…

When you’re an entrepreneur, your company is like your other baby. Being a great parent should only be a positive sign of your ability to develop, grow and nurture your business.

Ultimately, my cofounder and I learned that the best way to break down the “maternal wall” is by building a successful startup at the same time.

Ming

CEO & Founder Proven Skincare

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