When Romy Newman and Georgene Huang, both former Dow Jones executives, wanted to find out about maternity leave policies at companies where Huang was applying, they knew she couldn’t ask during her interviews. Haung had unexpectedly lost her job — and she was two months pregnant.
“It’s a very difficult time to look for a job when you’re two months pregnant. You’re not really telling anyone you’re pregnant, but you’re probably going to take the job and go out on maternity leave soon thereafter,” says Newman.
Newman and Huang found that public information about how companies promoted and supported women in general — much less the specifics about maternity leave policies — was very limited.
The experience prompted them to launch Fairygodboss, an online portal where women can anonymously crowdsource information about their employers’ salaries, benefits and overall treatment of women. Since launching in March 2015, the site's 40,000 users have shared over 22,000 reviews, offering pull-no-punches answers to questions about maternity leave, child care, flextime and bonuses.
The site culls reviews about major employers including Apple, Amazon and IBM; companies are rated based on general questions about office culture, such as whether women feel they’re treated equal to men, and specifics, like whether they have a private space to pump for breastfeeding moms.
"The idea is if I was going to interview at a company, I could find out what women are thinking and anonymously message them through this service,” says Newman.
This week, Fairygodboss added an employer portal for companies to communicate with and recruit women at the top of their game, particularly in tech and business. So far, companies like Accenture and Dow Jones have paid the $10,000 annual fee to share content about their policies and practices on the site. (Fairygodboss is free for its individual users).
“There are many employers out there who are doing incredible things for women, and we want them telling their stories so other employers can pick up the best practices,” says Newman.
Putting information from employers side-by-side with employee reviews is part of Fairygodboss’s larger goal of improving the workplace for women by creating transparency.
“The point is any given user on the site will be able to dertermine what people have to say, and what the company has to say,” says Newman, who notes that having employers share comprehensive data adds another dimension to the site's level of transparency.
Despite strides in parental leave policies nationwide, there’s still a long way to go. A recent Fairygodboss survey found that just six of the top Fortune 100 companies actually post their maternity leave policies on their website and 80 percent of women actually take a job without knowing a maternity leave policy.
What's more, that a trolling, cheeky novel premised on wanting the perks of maternity leave without having kids even exists speaks not just to opacity about parental leave, but to persistent misconceptions about women and work.
Whether or not you or your partner has a womb, and regardless of whether you hope to hang an "occupied" sign on it soon, down the line or never, increased access to information about women and work can help employees and employers have greater empathy for working mothers.
Says Newman, “Like anything else, you can’t understand it till you’ve walked in those shoes."