For many working mothers, the pandemic upended their work/life balance—affecting career ambitions and family aspirations, and creating new hardships and sources of stress. For companies, the pandemic has ushered in an opportunity to re-evaluate how they can support employees. In this panel discussion from the 2022 Women in Business Summit, hear from powerful leaders who have made it work since COVID-19 started disrupting their lives.
- Abbey Carlton, director of global social impact, Indeed
- Michelle Cordeiro Grant, CEO, Lively
- Elisa Bannon-Jones, chief people officer, GNC
Moderator: Erika Feldus, CEO, HeyMama
On the Yelp Blog: The pandemic prompted many small business owners to re-evaluate how they support employees. Hear more from speaker Abbey Carlton and small business owners about how to support and retain employees in a post-pandemic future.
Abbey Carlton is a senior leader committed to social impact. Her mission is to expand economic opportunity for low-income workers, families, and communities across tech, non-profits, philanthropy, government, and academia. At Indeed, Abbey’s team helps struggling job seekers overcome barriers and find quality jobs using Indeed technology, data, expertise, and networks.
Michelle is an entrepreneur, angel investor, podcast host, and serial optimist. She created Lively in 2016 to empower women on their own terms and provide a new point of view in the lingerie industry. Having received invaluable career advice over the years, Michelle’s goal is to now pay it forward and mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Elisa has decades of experience in human resources and aligning HR goals with business initiatives. She has brought her strategic thinking and business management skills to high-profile companies, such as T-Mobile, Pep Boys, Frontier Communications, and now GNC. She is dedicated to equality, transparency, and holistic employee health in the workplace.
Erika is a C-Suite executive, entrepreneur, and co-founder recognized for helping early stage companies achieve revenue growth, exits, and high-performing global sales and business development teams. She has been recognized by the National Association of Professional Women for ‘Excellence in Business’ and holds President’s Club and Knights of the Roundtable awards. Erika is passionate about supporting today’s female leaders as an Iridescent Learning/Technovation Challenge Mentor. She is also chairman of an arts and education non-profit and a startup advisor.
Emily: This session is A New Era of Working Motherhood, and it’s actually led by Erika Feldus from HeyMama, one of our incredible partners. So before we dive into the panel itself and chat all things mompreneurean, Erika, why don’t you join me on the virtual stage and give us some more info on HeyMama. Then when you’re done with that, after about four or five minutes, you can bring your ladies up and dive right into the discussion.
Erika: Oh, I love that, Emily. Thank you so much. Hello, everyone. I hope you’ve been enjoying this incredible session. All of these incredible speakers. I heard Bobbi was amazing. I’m here to share a little bit more about HeyMama, as the CEO for our incredible community that is currently in all 50 states. For those of you who aren’t familiar with HeyMama, we are a community that provides working mothers with connections and resources to advance their careers, connect, and feel supported, all while redefining the way working motherhood is both valued and stigmatized. We’re always trying to push things a little better for working moms everywhere, and I have to say, all moms are working moms, but within our community, we have each other’s backs. We’re continually lifting each other up and giving each other what we need to move our careers and our lives forward. At HeyMama, we’ve come together based on the things we have in common: motherhood and being a working mom. The benefit we get from being here is a direct result of the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and identities within the community.
Erika: We know that time is the most valuable and scarce resource that any of us possess, and we believe that by showing up and actively participating in our community, we’re making powerful use of that limited time. So I’d love to share a little bit more about our membership and what that includes and how you can get involved. If you join HeyMama at heymama.co, you can have access to our proprietary community platform for all communication with features like detailed personal profiles, topic-based discussions, and a private directory of our 38,000 plus members. We also have access to 100 digital events per year, plus all the on-demand recordings and our large scale conferences with expert speakers like Katie Couric and Serena Williams. We also have incredible tools and resources, by members, for members; curated networking events that are both virtual and in person; co-working days; promotional opportunities for members to promote your business or your career; one-to-one office hours with our heads of community for brainstorming and support; and access to join our quarterly membership enhancement programs, mentorship opportunities, as well as much more.
Erika: So I welcome all of you to learn more and continue in the conversation of how we can continue to lift each other up, provide support, and make really meaningful connections with other working moms, both nationally and locally. With that, we have an incredible panel today on A New Era of Working Motherhood. I have some powerful friends and leaders who have made it since COVID started, and I’m super excited to welcome them to the stage here in a moment, and we will get our panel started. Do I see them? Alright. I see everybody joining in here. Amazing. Our panel, A New Era of Working Motherhood, is for many of the working mothers that the pandemic has upended our work life balance, affected careers, ambitions, and family aspirations and creating new hardships and sources of stress. With me today is an incredible, as I mentioned, incredible leaders, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, the founder and CEO of Lively, Elisa Bannon Jones, Chief People Officer at GNC, and Abbey Carlton, Director of Global Social Impact at Indeed. Welcome to our panel. It’s so good to see you all. I think we’re missing Abbey.
Emily: Abbey’s going to be with us in just a moment, Erika. So if you want to get started, she’ll get pushed over and join you as soon as she’s in the green room.
Erika: Okay. Fantastic. Michelle, I’d love to start with you. I will start with Michelle, and when Abbey joins, she can add in. Please introduce yourself, your company, and share a little bit about what your home life is like today.
Michelle: Cool. Hi, everyone. I’m Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of Lively. Lively is a community first and foremost inspiring women to be passionate, purposeful, and confident. We happen to sell bras, undies, swimwear, active, loungewear, and a little self-care; pretty much anything that women need to have that first layer to feel good as they embark on hopefully a prosperous day. I have two children. My daughter, Lydia is eight, in second grade. My son Jack is five. I actually had Lydia before I left corporate America to start Lively, so that’s an interesting leap to take as a new mother. She was just one, and then I found out I was pregnant with Jack a month after I launched Lively.
Michelle: So I was fundraising and in the thick of it by the time he was born. So what is life like now? Honestly, it’s a little calmer than it was as a new mom, believe it or not, because I had a newborn and a toddler as the company was also a newborn and a toddler. I think that really pushed me to create a very non-traditional type of work schedule and work life. Today I really hold nontraditional lifestyle pretty close, and I’m very transparent about it. I think the best way to explain it is they’re a part of my work life. My work is a part of my home life and they’re very integrated.
Erika: That’s incredible. Oh, my gosh. Fundraising while having little babies. I can’t imagine how exciting it is, and a lot of the stories that you probably have there, Michelle. Elisa, I’d love for you to please introduce yourself.
Elisa: Hi, everybody. Can you hear me? Am I live?
Elisa: Thank you, Erika. Oh, you guys. Hi. It’s so nice to meet you all. I’m Elisa Bannon-Jones and I’m the chief people officer at GNC, which is the leading global health and wellness solutions provider. It’s really interesting because being the chief people officer along with the other executives, specifically, our CEO, Josh Burris, we’ve taken health and wellness very seriously during this period of a global pandemic, but also, just really making sure because we are a retail, most of our distribution is in retail stores, frontline workers, and being very conscious of what’s happening with those. My personal situation is I have three adult children, Ashley, Adam, and Alex.
Elisa: I am currently in transition—sold my house yesterday and en route to going into my new home, so you guys probably are saying, “Where is she?” In a cabin is where I am with three dogs. But really excited to talk to you all about things that are happening and bring forth a perspective of: my children are older, my first grandchild is going to be born any minute now. She was due on Sunday. But bringing forth a perspective of a little bit of what’s happening personally, but also what we have to do to make sure that we keep our employees safe in an essential worker environment. Thank you, Erika. It’s great to be here.
Erika: Oh, wonderful. I just went through that move. This is my new office, finally. I think when we were getting together previously in prep for this, I was actually moving and unpacking, which I send you so much strength for that process. It is not fun. I think Abbey’s having a little bit of trouble getting in, so when she is able to join, we’ll allow Abbey to introduce herself and share a little bit more about her story and the incredible work that she’s doing at Indeed. But with that, I would love to start with what your work situation is right now. Are you still going into an office? Is your team working from home? Is it a hybrid approach? Would you share a little bit more about what that looks like for each of your companies? Michelle, let’s start with you.
Michelle: Sure. So we are still predominantly virtual. Our team was mainly concentrated in New York. We’ve spread a bit throughout the country. I’m actually now based in Florida, but we have reopened our New York office and are really welcoming our team to come as they feel comfortable. We really find that is the best way to start. We feel like everyone has a different perspective and a different emotional state right now to where they sit. So our thesis and our approach is to create a warm and inviting space for them to start reengaging as they feel most comfortable and start opening up bigger and brighter and happier spaces to welcome them back home. So far, predominantly virtual, popping back up to New York as much as I can, but I do think in the long run, physical interaction is key, especially in a creative place. We are inspired, endorphins happen. That human connection is so key to building a brand and a community, and so we are still finding our way back to what that means consistently.
Erika: Yeah, I can imagine. HeyMama is 100% remote and I personally am craving that personal connection, so it should be interesting. Elisa, share a little bit more about where everybody’s doing at GNC and is it hybrid? I know you have two different models here, so I’d love to hear how that’s going.
Elisa: Oh, my gosh, Erika, we have multiple models, but that makes it all fun, right?
Elisa: So our distribution centers and our retail locations have been open the whole time through the pandemic, and so we’ve been really careful and cautious and respectful, because just like essential workers, they’ve been going in and doing what they have to do. We’ve been very careful to follow the CDC guidelines and ensure health and safety are number one. For our corporate offices, which, really exciting for us because as we’re coming back in from hopefully the pandemic ending, we actually are opening brand new corporate offices. In the past two years, it has been executives coming into the office and others. For a daily part, they’ve been coming in following all the social distancing, all of that.
Elisa: But as we move forward into the new GNC, in May, our new corporate offices will be opening. So we’ll be having people that are full-time on site, but also we’ll be having the hybrid model, which is really difficult for everyone to navigate through because we don’t know what that looks like. But we are really thinking about it, much like Michelle said, is communication, collaboration, and celebration for us in these brand new corporate offices. It’s a fun space, exciting space and a place where we hope our employees will love to be. Then the other thing, Erika, you touched on really interpersonal connections, getting out, seeing people again, it brings a whole different energy to the workplace. So we’re not going to risk safety for any of those things, but multiple, multiple ways of working for us. Of course, Zoom meetings and Teams meetings and continuing to navigate through that as best we can.
Erika: I love those three Cs: communication, collaboration, and celebration. That’s great. But yes. Oh, and Abbey, hi, how are you? Welcome—
Erika: … with audio.
Abbey: I am really happy to be here. This is working via Zoom.
Erika: This is the time. This is our era. I’d love for you to please introduce yourself and your company and Indeed, and share a little bit more about what your home life is like.
Abbey: I’d love to. So hi, everyone. I am sorry for my late arrival. I’m Abbey Carlton. I am the Global Head of Social Impact for Indeed, which is the world’s largest job site. I have been in that role… I joined Indeed just about four years ago to start the Global Social Impact function, when, getting to your next question, my triplets were nine-months-old, so they are now four about to turn five. I also have a son who just turned 10, so I have four boys at home. And for the last couple of years, I have been working pretty much exclusively from home and they are on the other side of this wall right now, taking a nap or pretending to, so really excited to be here and hoping to jump right in.
Erika: Oh, my gosh, I love it. Mom of four boys. I’m actually one of four girls, so I had, growing up, the opposite there. Michelle, 75% of expecting mothers are excited to go back to work after giving birth, but 43% end up leaving the workforce entirely. As you started Lively as a new mom and fundraise as a first time second mom, I’d love to hear a little bit more about what Lively is doing to support working moms in your business and also even more broadly.
Michelle: Yeah. I think it starts with I had a tenure working for amazing corporations like Victoria’s Secret and Federated and so forth. It was a big reason why I left was I saw my bosses really kicking ass at work, but really sacrificing time with their loved ones and their kids. So I knew I needed to find a place or create a place where I could hopefully do both. Transparently, when I did have my son Jack, I wasn’t living what I set out to do. I was back at work after two to three weeks, coming in for a couple hours here or there, and then I started to realize what Lively needs to do is demonstrate by example, and that’s what we do today. I’m very transparent about when I am exercising in the morning, when I’m going to drop off or pick up with my kids, I tell my team that.
Michelle: If my kids are running around and they want to be a part of the Zoom, I actually just welcome them in and put a piece of paper down and a pen and let them feel like they’re a part of the meeting. So I think number one is to just show and lead by example. Number two is, I’m very fortunate that I have an incredible husband. I think, really talking about partners and asking for support from either your spouse, your loved ones, your mother, your babysitter, whatever your situation is—everyone is different—but again, sharing that you need a support system to get it done. Then the last thing I would say is having conversations. I think that there are maternity plans and programs out there, but Lively is still a growing, nimble, flexible, agile environment.
Michelle: So while I think a maternity policy is important as a starting place, having a conversation about how you want to utilize that time in those days. I think about when I had my kids, the first four weeks they slept a lot and I was like, “Oh, I got this. This is great.” Then at eight weeks you’re like, “Oh, my God. This person has arrived and there’s so many things happening, now I’m supposed to go to work? Some people might want to take the first four weeks, go back for a couple weeks, understand what’s happening and then go back to their kids. I think just being open-minded thinking about individuals with consistency in parallel.
Erika: Oh, my gosh, so many things there. Yes, absolutely. I think fundamentally the conversation here just in general is super important, and we’re so fortunate that we’re having this conversation on behalf of Yelp. I hope that there’s a lot more that not only all of the attendees here today can learn, but I’m sure we’re going to have quite a few questions that come up on that conversation: how you create a supportive environment for moms in general. Elisa, I’d love to ask you a question. When we spoke, you mentioned being a working mom during a time that was not so friendly for moms. I’d love to hear as chief people officer at GNC, what are some of those practices that you’re putting into place to create a level playing field for all women, both in GNC and within your distribution centers and creating a safe space for moms.
Elisa: Yeah. No, thank you, Erika. The first thing I want to say is Michelle’s spot on—support, your support system. Even in those days, I was in sales and operations with three young children, living in Chicago as a single mom and trying to make it all work. I would’ve never done it without a great support system. So a couple of things at GNC that we put in place. First of all, when you think about the glass ceiling for women moving up and ascending, because we have CEOs here, which is so amazing. We have our CEO, Josh Burris, is a big fan of women executives. As a matter of fact, at GNC, I sit on the executive team with another very talented female, Karlyn Mattson’s our chief merchandising officer. So the first thing is we have advocacy at the very top for women to ascend, which is great.
Elisa: A lot of companies may not have that in place, but I know our CEO is a big advocate, and the environment is a good environment. So we think about health and wellness and opportunity and really providing that opportunity for females to be able to further their career at the organization; transparency in how we’re going to announce—we’re announcing a brand new internal career site so women can look at these other roles—and be ready to develop to prepare to get there. The other piece that we are also really excited about is that we do adapt to this hybrid work environment in our corporate office.
Elisa: Again, we talked about sales and operations in retail. Again, if women can’t do that, if they’re at the point where they don’t have that infrastructure and support, then that’s where having these other opportunities in being transparent about them, allows them the ability to shift into something else. So transparency is the number one way that we can do that, and then the hybrid work environment. We’re also looking at our total rewards programs and how we do things that help moms and also about working moms, but also maybe dads that need some help too; so really being inclusive in the offerings that we have and overall health and well-being. We do offer employee discount for all of our products that we have that also helps keep us healthy and strong from the inside out.
Erika: I love that. Yes, for sure. It’s all about that holistic circle, if you will. You need the inside and the outside. Abbey, I have two questions to catch you up, because I would love to hear currently what the work situation is right now at Indeed. Are you back in the office or do you have a hybrid approach? I’m sure that we have some members of the audience that would love to hear how that’s going, and then I’ll ask you my second question from there.
Abbey: Sure. So we have about 12,000 employees globally. Since the early days of March 2020, everyone has had the opportunity to work from home. Actually, during the mid-point of these last couple of years, some policies were put into place to say, for the vast majority of our workforce, folks can have the option to be remote permanently if they want. Then there are two other flex, where you can either choose, or for some roles, need to come in a couple of days a week, and then a very, very small portion are roles that are going to need to be in-person every day going forward. So it has really changed for me. I am in the New York City area, and I live in the suburbs of New York. I think back on how many days I commuted an hour and 20 minutes to sit in an office to be in a phone booth on Zoom calls all day long talking to people all over the world and then commuted an hour and 20 minutes back home and did that day in and day out.
Abbey: I am so grateful to have gotten that time back, and I really hope that as we start shifting into whatever this new normal is, that we don’t find ourselves, and I don’t find myself, spending that time on the train so often, because I think it can be a lot smarter about the value of in-person time and targeting that. I don’t want to go into the office to be on Zoom all day if I don’t have to. I should say, that comes from a real place of privilege of having a job that allows me to work in that way. There are many who aren’t so fortunate, but that’s a little bit of where we are now and where I am.
Erika: Yes. You’re so right. Actually, as moms, I do appreciate that little bubble of time in between going from my house to my office. Now, I’m grateful if I even make it outside, so let’s just appreciate that little moment of a bubble. I would love to hear what we’re doing to create that space. Before we do that, Abbey, I have a question around: in this community, women have lost over 140,000 jobs in December as a result of the pandemic. I’d love to hear what you’re seeing in the data at Indeed, both within the platform for women, in particular, moms. Can you share a little bit about what you’re seeing and how that’s trending?
Abbey: Sure. For folks who don’t know Indeed so well, our mission is to help people get jobs. We have about 250,000 people across the world who visit our platform every month looking for work. So we, and our economists in particular, have taken a lot of time to really look at: What is happening? What are our job seekers telling us? What are we seeing through how they’re showing up on the platform? It’s probably good to take half a step back and talk about some of the differences here. I think when we look at the pandemic and work, it’s really important to name that women have been disproportionately impacted compared to men. Women with children have been disproportionately impacted, and women of color have been disproportionately impacted as compared to white women. So when we have this conversation, I think it’s important to bring in some of that nuance.
Abbey: But if you Zoom out, it is true that millions of women either reduced their hours or left the labor market entirely during the pandemic. In the early days, women were some of the first to lose their jobs, as the unemployment spiked, especially women of color. Caregiving responsibilities is another big thing that we hear about time and again. One of our surveys showed closer to the onset of the pandemic that over half of working parents said that they felt they were going to have to make a choice, either do well in their careers or help their kids do well in school. It was interesting to dig in on the data as we talked to women who were either moms in particular, who made the choice to, or who were able to stay and work full-time as compared to moms who had to either reduce their hours or leave work entirely.
Abbey: The things that they told us were the biggest differentiators were flexibility and manager empathy. Now we look, we’re here today, and we see that one in three women who left the force during the pandemic have not returned. When we try to understand, “What’s going on there? Why are fewer women actively searching for work right now than men?” I think one piece of it is that, apropos this conversation, a lot of women are really taking a step back to think about: “What do we need and what do we want from work?” What we hear when we ask those questions to our job seekers is flexibility, and actually flexibility over stability, location, ease of commute—many more women looking for remote work on our platform than men—and pay and opportunities for growth.
Abbey: Those aren’t new things, but they’re things that the pandemic really put a spotlight on. Then maybe the last thing I’ll say there when we ask about barriers, it’s really interesting to see when we look at folks who are urgently seeking work, fewer women than men would describe themselves as urgently seeking right now, and the number one issue there is childcare. That was an issue before the pandemic. It has certainly become an even more challenging and multifaceted issue during the pandemic. It’s something that, if we can’t have more affordable and reasonable childcare options for all types of workers, it’s going to keep being an issue for a long time.
Erika: Amen. Oh, my goodness. There’s so much there. It’s so true, especially coming off of February and all that we’re doing for International Women’s Day and all of those things, we’re not even there. We’re just getting to that place. I will share, at HeyMama we believe that motherhood is a training ground for leadership. On May 17th, we will be kicking off our Second Annual Motherhood on Their Resume campaign to encourage into the workforce for taking time off to become a mother, to parent, as you said. So there’s a lot of work that we can do. I’d love to hear what Lively and GNC are doing around that and returnship and what some of your hiring practices around that would be.
Michelle: Like me to start?
Erika: Yes, please.
Michelle: Sure. So I think, again, because we are small, nimble, and flexible, we really can look at case-by-case scenarios. I can give one where, because we have, gratefully, four retail stores where we had someone that needed to be home because of child care, we can switch their opportunity at Lively into customer service in a role that is more digital and more conducive to working from home and so forth. So I think number one, sharing that when we are welcoming people into the Lively community that, “This is your role and your responsibility and where the business needs you today, but if something changes within your personal life or your family life, we’re here for it. Let’s talk about it.”
Michelle: So I think it goes back to my earlier point that we are fortunate that we can have one-on-one conversations and figure out different scenarios. I think also creating communities where other women are sharing the same obstacles and perspectives, whether it’s HeyMama, in the Lively ambassador community, where we now have over 160,000 women across the country participating in our program, a lot of it when it feels like it’s impossible, you need to talk it out and find ways to make it possible.
Michelle: Literally, I just had a conversation with a new founder two days ago, and she’s like, “I talked to one of my mentors. She told me not to date and have a family because I need to focus solely on the startup.” I was like, one, such a bummer that women still think that’s true and are advising that way. Then two, we have to inspire the generations coming up into motherhood and coming into the workforce that the world has changed. It’s not up to moms alone to take care of kids. It’s up to families—and that’s a father, a mother; it could be all sorts of different ways in which the family is run, but it’s not just up to the mom. So let’s change that conversation and share that there is a whole new way of working. Henry Ford, I think, came up with a 9:00 to 5:00. I don’t think it’s relevant anymore. So I think it’s just all about demonstrating.
Erika: Absolutely. I encourage the audience to share some questions as well, but Elisa, I’d love to start with you on this topic, particularly around motherhood. In a recent study done by Motherly, 93% of mothers reported feeling burned out. That’s a perfect segue from your comment Michelle, around, it doesn’t have to be around the mom. I’d love to see and hear from, you on how you’re dealing with burnout, both personally and what you might be hearing internally within your team.
Elisa: Yeah. No, thank you, Erika. Personally for me, and I’ll tell you, the first thing for me is being in a work environment that you love and you’re passionate about. That is the biggest release that you can have. Being at GNC in the health and wellness, that was my gift to myself when they said, “Hey, come on and join us,” because it’s such an awesome environment where you’re focused on all the good things that are out there for life. You’re in control of that. So that’s a weird answer, I know. But when I think about the things that GNC is doing to help—so moms, stop feeling guilty if you’re on a call and your dog barks, like mine just did, or your baby cries, or bring the baby in. You know what, I think that’s one of the biggest learnings that I think that we’ve been given grace to be human, so let’s accept it. Let’s not be rattled by it.
Elisa: The second piece that I personally would give advice to women is that when you put mom on your resume, brand that, be authentic to you and believe in it, because the biggest obstacle to getting through all this and being successful is usually yourself. So that’s my mom advice, because I’ve been there and done that. At GNC, I’ll tell you. So we do have the opportunity again. We have the brick-and-mortar retail stores. We have dispersed workforce. We have distribution centers. So we do have programs in place where our team members can call if they feel any way they feel, because now we’re talking physical health, mental health, emotional health, it’s all important to us. So we offer that broadly to all our employees.
Elisa: The second piece is, and I talked about the new way of working in our new corporate location, it was designed by our CEO in mind with a lot of outdoor space. It’s right on the river in Pittsburgh. He encourages people to walk around outside, take your lunch break and just go do something else. Don’t be in four walls. So when you think about: How do you release stress, even if you’re in and you’re at a hybrid day and you still want to have your meeting outside? So somehow, sunshine and fresh air and just being outdoors really helps, but GNC has designed a space for our team members in our corporate office that encourages you to get out and feel happy, and so I think that’s a really important thing as well.
Elisa: The third thing I’ll offer is really when we talk about our positions and the roles that we’re recruiting for, we clearly, clearly say they’re hybrid or they’re remote. So women, job seekers, (any job seeker) can really understand what the requirements are for the role because we want to be transparent about that, and let’s have a conversation about that. I guess I was going to say final, but the very last thing I’ll tell you is that we do have franchisees and operators as well. So if you have the bug like Michelle and Erika, and you want to go out and start your own business, it’s a lot of work. We got to give these women a lot of credit for what they’re doing, but we also have the IFC Operator of the Year, Laura Dalton, is one of our operators. So we also have a model like that for people that maybe want to go and become their own female entrepreneurs.
Erika: I love that. Absolutely, we need more. We need more women supporting women and companies supporting women. Abbey, I’d love to hear from you. How are you feeling? Are you feeling burned out? You no longer have that 120-minute commute each way, but are you personally feeling that, and also is your team experiencing that and how are you coping?
Abbey: Yeah. I think “yes” is the real answer, the honest answer. I guess I want to pick up on something that both Elisa and Michelle have said that feels so central to me. I made a decision at some point to let my team see the mess. I have four boys who are 10 and younger. As I said, they’re on the other side of this wall right now. That’s just what it is. I decided that if I let my team see that and that I don’t have it all figured out and I’m juggling it, and I’m not going to hide that. There are days where one is home sick or needs to quarantine, and then everybody’s home and that’s really hard. If I just let that be, then what I hope I’m doing is sending a message to my team that whatever their mess is, whatever they’re struggling with right now, that they can do that a little bit more openly if they want to. That’s their choice.
Abbey: I also just think for me having four kids, gosh, when I found out we were going to have triplets, I had this moment of, “What does this mean for me professionally? Can I be a mom of four and still do all the things that I wanted to do?” Because I didn’t have that many models of other women who had four kids, who were having the type of roles that I aspired to have. I feel like in both of those ways, if I can just show it, then I hope I’m making others feel more comfortable and inspiring them. So I would say that’s a little bit of me. Then when I think about Indeed, one of the things that Indeed did that has been so great for me, and I think my team would tell you the same, is to implement what we call our monthly You Days.
Abbey: So once a month, the entire company closes down on either a Friday or a Monday for some of our colleagues in APAC, and nobody sends emails and there are no meetings. For me as a working mom, that’s a day when my kids are at school and yet I have the day to do whatever I need to do. Anybody who has that juggle knows how valuable and infrequent those types of days are, so I would just say that. One thing that I would just add is we have been thinking a lot as a company about what our female job seekers need right now, what working or maybe job-seeking moms need right now.
Abbey: I think the fact is that for so many people, this has been a very stressful time. It has also been a really lonely time. So we have a partnership with Luminary, which I know is very involved in this conference, to just create a fellowship for a group of women. We have 150 women who are job seekers, and then another 150 women who are small business owners to create that community coaching workshops for the small business owners, hiring supports to just say, “In this moment, can we come together, recognize what is really challenging, recognize that community is more important than ever, and meet folks where they are?” So those are a couple of things that we’re up to.
Erika: Oh, that’s great. I love the the monthly You Day. It’s like Yes Day, but for moms, I love it. It’s so great.
Abbey: Oh, yes. It’s so good.
Erika: Well, I know we’re coming up on 10 minutes and I’d love to hear from the audience, so please feel free to continue to add some questions in here. I could go on all day, but here’s a question. Abbey, you mentioned culture in there, and I’d love to double click into that specifically as we think about culture in this new era of not only working motherhood, but this new era of working, how has your culture changed internally at Indeed? How has your team adapted to that? What are some things that you’ve been doing?
Abbey: Yeah. One of the things has caught me by surprise, and I’m curious if others have had the same experience. For me working out of the New York City office and being at a company that is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and it’s global, I would sometimes find myself in this interesting dynamic of being the person on Zoom, and then everybody else was in the room together in Austin. I have really been fascinated and heartened by this cultural shift of everybody has a box on the screen. There are probably ways that we could do that that don’t require everybody to have a box on the screen, but it has changed the tenor of the conversation. Whereas before, I might have said it’s so hard to jump in and there are side conversations happening in the room, that’s been an interesting cultural shift that even now that people are going back to the office and we’re having hybrid settings, I think we are all really aware of: What is the level playing field that created and how can we push that forward, even if it doesn’t look exactly the way it’s looked for the last two years?
Abbey: So that’s one thing that comes to mind. Again, this is a place where I would love advice, because I haven’t figured this one out, maybe on the slightly more negative side, I am still trying to figure out how to have those organic hallway conversations and just build relationships in a virtual environment or a hybrid environment. I’m struck in the couple of chances when I’ve been able to go in and people in person, how much more I feel like I connected and got to know them in a couple hours in person than working together over Zoom. I haven’t figured that one out yet, but it’s a cultural piece that I’ve got my eye on and all advice is welcome.
Erika: Well, I’m sure Michelle or Elisa, you have some thoughts there.
Michelle: I don’t think you can replace human connection in person on a digital screen. I think we tried. I think we’ve had numerous Zoom happy hours, events, and digital da-da-das, but when you’re together, something different just happens emotionally. So I think you said actually earlier, Abbey, is key. The things that you don’t need to be in the office for, don’t be in the office for those, but make the time, just like we do in our personal lives, for that human connection in our professional lives.
Michelle: I see a world where the time that we spend in the office is more just about brainstorming or connecting informally, or finding time to do what I started to do during the pandemic was walk and talks. I would do 30-minute casual coffees and I would actually just walk to go outside, to Erika’s point, with someone that I wasn’t even supposed to meet with that week, just to be like, “Hey, what’s happening?” What would we have talked about in the kitchen or by the water cooler, let’s do it now. So just carving out that space, whether that’s in person or on the phone, I think it just cannot be on Zoom. Change the setting. That’s my advice.
Erika: Yeah. So true. Except I was walking, I did that yesterday and I nearly stepped on a snake, so I’m no longer in the city anymore, I am in Virginia Beach. So Elisa, I’m going to pose this question to you because we have quite a few coming in here. Any suggestions for employees approaching their employers related to discrimination they feel have dealt with, for being related to being a woman or a mom, underpaid undertitled, et cetera? Thoughts there, suggestions, advice?
Elisa: Yeah. Oh, that’s an interesting one. So for our organization, and frankly, every organization that I’ve been a part of, there is always a confidential ethics line that you can use. Now, if you’re in a smaller group setting where you don’t have that, this is about being brave and courageous. If you feel it, then you have to be able to tell somebody that you trust that’s going to do something with that. But if there’s a way to go to your direct supervisor or somebody else, if it’s your direct supervisor, then you have that conversation. That’s a tough conversation to have.
Elisa: If your company has the ethics hotline or something like, that’s the safe way to go, because you’ll have a team of HR professionals that will work with you on that. Again, you guys, we all know I’m probably the most geriatric person on this panel, and I’ve been through the days working in the ’70s and the ’80s and the ‘90s where that really wasn’t an option, transparency and open and honesty. If something’s going on, then you have to find a way to report it to somebody you trust, then they will go forth and do what they need to do, because that’s what it’s about, courage in a safe space.
Erika: Absolutely. Well, I know we’re coming up here on time. We have about four minutes left, so I’d love to pose another question that just came in, and maybe it’s a one word or two-word answer here. What are some tactics that you have personally used to help you when you get completely overwhelmed between work life and motherhood? Two tactics.
Michelle: Number one, I have to leave my environment, and I really believe in changing your body temperature. So I’ve literally in the middle of the day just taken a shower and restart, or I’ll go outside if it’s cold and take a cold, brisk walk. But I do believe in changing your body temperature, just to get perspective that there’s a bigger world than this crazy moment that you’re in. Number two is, write down the things that need to happen versus are nice to happen. I think we all sign up for way too much and our bar is always too high, so reset the priorities. So change your body temperature, reset your priorities.
Erika: I love that. My good friend Sheldon Rumor taught me a “today list:” five things that you are going to accomplish today. Elisa, what are some tactics that you do?
Elisa: Okay, two things, one very practical. Block out time in your day for you to be able to exhale and just shake it off. I know at GNC, 12 to 1, everybody’s calendar’s blocked off because that’s your time to regroup, but literally, I’ve had to learn to manage my calendar so that pressure and that stress doesn’t all back-to-back-to-back, so use your calendar. I love, Michelle yes, walk outside. Here’s something totally impractical, if I’m home and something crazy happened, then I’ll go find one of my dogs. Then just that will change the whole thing for me. So block your calendar and manage your time, and be able to give yourself that time to regroup.
Erika: Abbey, how about you?
Abbey: The calendar blocking, it seems obvious, and it has probably been the biggest game changer for me in the last year. I shouldn’t be giving the secret away, maybe my team is listening, but you know what? They should know this. I have half-an-hour blocked, maybe 45 minutes every afternoon, and I walk and pick my son up at school. That’s what I do.
Erika: That’s great.
Abbey: I have it blocked off, and it’s a meeting time. And I have my lunch blocked, and I have thinking time blocked a couple times a week. It seems so simple. Everybody else, except for me, was probably doing it, but I think I found myself in a place where I was letting my calendar get filled up by all the things that other people were putting on it and not taking control of it myself and taking a step back.
Abbey: Somebody gave me this advice. They said, “You’re not going to fix it this week. Look three weeks out and put the blocks in place there. In the next three weeks, it probably won’t feel that much better because you still have all those meetings, but about three weeks out, it’s going to start to change.” It’s been amazing. I also, I’m a big believer in the take a walk too. That’s my thing. Like, take a lap around the block if I need to get some fresh air and change my perspective, so just very much agreed with what folks have shared.
Erika: I love that. Well, here we are on time. Michelle, Abbey, Elisa, it’s been incredible. Thank you so much for this really stimulating conversation. There’s been a lot in the chat here about how positive this has been. I know there’s still a lot of work to do on this New Era of Working Motherhood, but I’m happy to hear that Lively, Indeed, and GNC are really getting involved in making that. For those looking for a community, please look at HeyMama as well. It’s super important to have that connection and that support. Enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much.
Emily: That was so fabulous. Thank you, Erika, for leading us through that incredible session. I have to say I have so much respect and admiration for all of the working mothers out there. I, myself, am only a dog mom and I already know what juggling that adds to my schedule. So all of you taking care of humans in addition to businesses are really doing it all. Kudos to you guys and keep up the hard work.