This week, we’re turning it over to Georgene Huang, the co-founder and CEO of employee review site Fairygodboss. Georgene has made it her personal mission to change the culture surrounding gender inequality, starting with women in the workplace.
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I started Fairygodboss because I believe women want to hear from other women about what it’s like to work at specific companies and for specific employers.
The immediate catalyst behind my vision was that I was two-months pregnant and unexpectedly found myself interviewing for jobs.
Because I assumed there was a chance that someone would be biased against hiring me if I mentioned I was pregnant, I never dared to ask about maternity leave. Logically, I did what anyone would do: I turned to the Internet.
Unfortunately, there was next to nothing online that answered my questions. We live in a day and age where people share so much online; we hear about people’s romantic lives, see embarrassing social media profiles and research whether our flu symptoms are similar to others. How was there nothing about maternity leave policies?
Considering the female perspective
Despite the fact that millions of women work and also take maternity leave, I couldn’t find basic information about leave policies and which employers were most supportive and fair for women in general.
I guessed that I wasn’t alone in my frustration. My experience also made me suspect that the people creating these online spaces for sharing weren’t considering the female perspective.
That’s where Fairygodboss was born. Fairygodboss’ mission is to improve the workplace for women through transparency.
We think there are two levers for impact. The first is that we help women self-select into better-fitting employers for them – we assist job seekers who want more information about whether they’ll fit in or succeed somewhere.
The second is the transparency we offer, which pressures employers to improve while exposing them to the types of feedback they are receiving. We’re providing a very specific “wisdom of the crowds” perspective for them. They will be able to see how they compare to other employers, making them more likely to work on these issues and problems.
By women, for women
To be clear, Fairygodboss is not about assuming that any individual woman is: A) unhappy or B) needs help. In fact, we don’t assume anything, except that women value the opinions of other women.
A big part of why we are a neutral platform is that I think some women — particularly strong, independent ones — recoil against feminism because they think of it as associating with a group of people defined by their lack of power.
But we want happy women, unhappy women, equally paid women, unequally paid women, empowered women, helpless women — basically all women — to share their stories and advice with other women. And I think Fairygodboss has succeeded in attracting a very wide range of women at different income levels, in different industries and with different beliefs about success and work-life balance.
Sure, we have uncovered some generalizations, patterns and themes in what women say and want. But we aren’t just a site for women who consider themselves “feminists.” We are a site for women who simply care about hearing from other women about what they’ve been through with an employer.
The future with a Fairygodboss
I’m very optimistic that a simple comparison, say between two women’s levels of happiness at two competitive companies, for example, can pressure employers to improve their policies and culture for women.
I would love nothing more than to be part of an arms race movement in which employers compete for female talent. We aren’t creating unions, but Fairygodboss does join together female voices in sufficient number. We believe that collective voices have the power to spur and motivate actions.
We also try to measure how employers treat women, because measurement helps all of us raise our game and understand where we can improve. The leadership teams we’ve worked with so far have expressed a genuine interest in doing the right thing and improving working conditions for their female employees.
Good intentions don’t erase inequality, but acknowledgement is certainly an important first step. We believe Fairygodboss nudges those good intentions along even further.
We hope that one day, Fairygodboss is out of business because gender equality is something that happens in every workplace. Until then, we’re going to keep fighting to get there.
Header image courtesy of Georgene Huang.