Georgene Huang is a mom-of-two and entrepreneur with an eclectic professional background: at different times she'e been a classical musician, a lawyer, a hedge fund analyst and an executive. Together with Romy Newman, also a mom-of-two with professional experience ranging from marketing cosmetics to strategy consulting to print and digital media, the duo is remaking working motherhood through their startup: Fairygodboss. Their platform allows women to anonymously share their experiences of their workplaces (on topics like flexibility, maternity leave and culture), allowing others to make more informed decisions about where they want to work. We talked to Georgene and Romy as part of our #MotherlyMakers series, highlighting the women remaking our world.
Motherly: Was there a moment when you realized that you needed to start Fairygodboss? What clicked for you?
Georgene Huang: I was pregnant and looking for a job when Fairygodboss was 'conceived' (sorry for the pun). Trying to find a company that would be good for working moms took a LOT of work. I didn't know whether I could trust company PR about being “female friendly" and couldn't find maternity leave policies. I thought it should be easier to get this information, so Fairygodboss was born to help working women discover company benefits and corporate culture directly from other women.
Motherly: How has equality in the workplace improved for women and what more needs to be done?
Romy Newman: I've heard some pretty horrific war stories from my mom and her peers about working at large corporations in the 70's and 80's when there was no FMLA to ensure maternity leave and women often went back to work even two weeks after having their children. There wasn't even a basic expectation of fair and equal treatment of women. So I'm certain we've come a long way. And I'm confident that for the most part, hearts and efforts are in the right place.
In my opinion, lack of transparency is a great source of the remaining challenges that women face in the workplace. Because there are fewer women in core operating leadership positions, the negative or discriminatory experiences of women can often get buried or suppressed. Many times, leadership is unaware what is going on right or how institutionalized biases can be. I'm hopeful that Fairygodboss can be a tool that helps corporations hear the voices of their female employees more clearly and cogently.
Motherly: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Romy Newman: I was told that to get ahead as a woman in a crowded and competitive male-dominated environment, the best thing you can do is to volunteer for a tough but highly necessary assignment—the one no one wants—and then make it successful. It gives you a real chance to differentiate, and there is much less competition for the assignment. And if you succeed, you are a hero.
Motherly: How do you see millennial moms approaching their careers differently?
Georgene Huang: I think I'm technically a millennial mom (or at least just barely) and I believe there are two things that shape how my generation approaches their careers. (1) We have grown up seeing our own moms balance work and life so we're aware of the tradeoffs—they're not theoretical to us. (2) Our generation has access to unprecedented amounts of information and are more digitally connected than any other generation. This means we expect and demand transparency and will make decisions based on more information. We can be less reliant on tradition and institutions dictating from the top-down how careers and jobs “should be" done. This will translate into demands for more work flexibility, remote working and a bunch of other things.
Motherly: What's your secret to integrating work and family?
Georgene Huang: Support! Whether you rely on daycare, a nanny, a spouse or other family to take care of your children, you need to have full faith and trust in them to have your back and be beneficial influences for your children. If you don't, you will not be able to be your best at work.
Motherly: What keeps you inspired and excited every day?
Romy Newman: Two things: #1 is absolutely my family. And #2 is the wonderful people I've worked with in my career. I'm smarter and more equipped to succeed because of what I've learned from them, and absolutely nothing is more motivating to me than when I hear from someone how I've made a difference in their career.
Motherly: What are your words of wisdom for other mothers wanting to turn their passion into a business?
Georgene Huang: Moms can be more risk-averse because they understandably have very important responsibilities and obligations (i.e. their families) to protect. I think it's important to stage your risk-taking and be independent about your timeline for building a business, if at all possible. Specifically, I believe you don't have to do things the way that other entrepreneurs do them. You have to forge your own path.
Motherly: What are your big dreams for Fairygodboss?
Georgene Huang: My goal is for every single working woman to one day take a look at Fairygodboss somewhere in their decision-making process when it comes to applying or accepting a job. If she walks into the door with eyes-wide-open, she'll make a better decision. And employers will start to seriously care about what their female employees say, which will improve the companies where change needs to happen.
Motherly: Who is your #momcrush?
Romy Newman: My mom crush is my mom! She has inspired me to aim higher and shown me just how hard you have to work to enjoy success in life. Also, Michelle Obama, who is smart, successful, glamorous, diplomatic and a wonderful mother. Talk about balancing it all!
Motherly: What does “Motherly" mean to you?
Georgene Huang: Once I became a mom, I started to see that it meant being a person who has an obligation to leave the world a better place than she came into it. You are a role model for your children and you want them to lead lives full of meaning.
Romy Newman: Being a mother has taught me to judge much less and now I try my hardest to see the world from others' perspectives. Being a mom is the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had – and it's so important to realize that we are all in this together, and we are all trying our best.