working women

Should Moms Work at Start-ups?

Yesterday, Fairygodboss received some great advice from a marketing executive.  This woman, who is also a fellow mom, left an agency career for a start-up where things didn’t go very well.  I had a similar conversation with a former colleague last week who told me she thought it’d be much easier to join a start-up once her children were older.  Then, this morning I read this article by a start-up marketing exec who pointed out the reasons mothers shouldn’t be afraid of joining tech start-ups, i.e. start-ups are not necessarily less stable, more demanding, or staffed by un-sympathetic colleagues.

By definition, start-ups are fast-paced environments where individual contribution matters in a closely-felt, intimate way.  I know this very well because Fairygodboss is my start-up and I live this reality every day.  So would I hire a mom?  Yes, in a heartbeat.  Obviously my company’s mission is part of the reason I wouldn’t hesitate.  I believe in women, and my company would benefit from the passion and perspective that a working mom would bring.  But would I promote start-ups in general to working moms?  Here, I’d have to hesitate.

The reason I hesitate is that joining a start-up is about joining a team.  And while teams come in many flavors, there are many start-ups where a working mother would be the first female on the team, the oldest person at the company, and/or the only person to have family obligations.  While this could certainly be true at larger, more established companies, its much more likely to be the case at a start-up because (a) start-ups employ small numbers of people, and (b) those people tend to be (young and single/childless) men.  I’m generalizing, of course, but these generalizations are what scare some women away from start-ups, so it bears noting.  Women at start-ups tell me all the time that they’re afraid of posting reviews on Fairygodboss because their companies are too small, and they’re one of the only women on the team which means they wouldn’t remain truly anonymous.  Thankfully this is not true of all start-ups and some women at startups have great things to say about their employers.

So what would I recommend?  Find out as much as possible about what its really like to work at any particular start-up you’re interested in.  Ask for opinions via word-of-mouth, networking and check out review sites.  If you are interviewing at a start-up, I would not hide my personal life in order to get a job.  (Actually, if you feel like you have to hide a lot of your personal life in order to get an offer, that’s probably a huge red flag.)  If you’re at a start-up where you’re not afraid to talk honestly about the culture, then we’d love for you to share this with other women.  I know there are some great start-ups for working women (and mothers) and those companies deserve to be known.  There’s a lot of negative press these days about women in technology and each one of those articles probably keeps a woman from even trying to enter the industry.  If you’re a woman who is happy working at your start-up, you should shout it out!

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