Advocate Spotlight: Georgene Huang, co-founder and CEO of Fairygodboss
ADVOCATE SPOTLIGHT: GEORGENE HUANG, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF FAIRYGODBOSS
The trailblazing entrepreneur discusses women’s careers and striking balance in the workplace
Whether you’re currently seeking a new role, looking for ways to get ahead in your current position, or navigating your company’s maternal health benefits, when it comes to women and the workplace, there are a lot of hard-to-ask questions. Georgene Huang co-founded Fairygodboss with Romy Newman to offer up the answers.
This month, we sat down with Georgene to learn more about the impetus behind creating Fairygodboss as well as some tips for women navigating the confusing world of parental leave benefits, pay inequality, and more.
Celmatix: What inspired you to found Fairygodboss?
Georgene: I founded Fairygodboss a few years ago, when I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of an unexpected management shakeup. At the time, I was two months pregnant and hadn’t yet told anyone. So I was in this position of looking for a job and going on interviews — and feeling quite pressured to hide my pregnancy.
So, I turned to the internet for answers, and was surprised by the lack of resources I found, given how crucial this information is to women’s careers. It was then that I decided to start an online database where women could anonymously crowdsource the answers to these crucial questions, and that’s how Fairygodboss was born. Today, we’re connecting a million women each month with job reviews, salary info, maternity leave intel, career advice, and job postings at partner companies that believe in gender equality.
Celmatix: Your mission is to improve the lives and workplace for women through transparency. What does transparency mean to you? How can companies work toward greater transparency?
Georgene: Transparency to me means being upfront and candid about your benefits, policies and culture. Companies can create transparency in a variety of ways. Showcasing your benefits and culture on your website and through platforms like Fairygodboss is key to creating more transparency. Further, using employee testimonials to endorse your workplace not only improves transparency, but also strengthens your employer brand as employees are a company’s greatest ambassadors. We’re also seeing a few companies go as far as publicly disclosing salaries.
Celmatix: Parental leave benefits are incredibly important to many women as they build their families. What insight have you gained at Fairygodboss in terms of how these benefits are changing to meet the needs of women in the workforce?
Georgene: Parental leave benefits have definitely improved in recent years, and are continuing to evolve. In the past couple years, it seems like a large number of companies have updated their parental policies and we track them in our parental leave database where you can compare policies across companies and industries, including paternity leave.
One macro-trend we’ve been seeing that it’s not enough to just offer maternity leave, and companies are trending toward offering a standard paid leave policy that benefits every employee, whether they’re a biological mother, father, or an adopting parent. I think this has to do with a few things: Firstly, more men are wanting leave work after welcoming a baby in order to support their partner and bond with their child. Secondly, we’re seeing more and more people need time to care for an elderly parent or relative. These paid leave benefits absolutely help all employees, but I think they especially support women in the workforce since most caregiving responsibilities still generally fall to women.
Celmatix: Pay inequality across genders is a huge issue. What advice do you have for women who want to make sure they’re getting appropriate compensation for their work, either in a new role or one they’ve been in for a while?
Georgene: Well, hopefully they work for a company like Salesforce who does pay audits to resolve pay inequities! However, if you’re company is not undergoing compensation audits, there are a few ways to sleuth out if you’re being paid fairly.
I would advise women to do research to determine what is appropriate compensation. You can use salary databases like the one we have at Fairygodboss and other sources like Payscale. Another great way to determine the going market rate for a role (whether it’s a new role or one you’ve been at for a while) is to connect with a recruiter. Engaging your mentors and friends with similar roles is another great way to determine what a fair and accurate salary is.
Celmatix: Many women who pursue infertility treatment or who choose to freeze their eggs often have to pay out of pocket to do so. What’s an effective way for women to encourage their employers to cover fertility treatments and egg freezing?
Georgene: One of the biggest things we’ve learned in our research at Fairygodboss is that employee resource groups work. Research we conducted late last year indicated that nearly 70% of women were able to affect some type of policy change at work through their women’s ERG. I would encourage women who want this benefit to start with their ERGs, and also engage allied groups to create a coalition around this issue.
If you can show that other employees want this benefit and build a business case as to why it’s important, you have a better chance of success.
Celmatix: There’s been a lot of discussion recently around pregnant women in the workplace, and how pregnancy can unfortunately hinder career growth. Do you have advice for pregnant women to help avoid career setbacks and stay on track?
Georgene: Communication is the best tool to avoid any setbacks. Creating a maternity leave plan and having open discussions about your return to work and professional goals with your manager can really help. It’s important to be intentional during this period and clearly communicate your expectations when you return to work, particularly if you think adverse assumptions are being made about you.
Celmatix: What other factors, aside from fertility or parental leave, should women consider when it comes to selecting a new employer?
Georgene: A lot of this is really subjective to an individual job seeker, but I think most women would want to work at a company where they see a path to leadership.
Even if you are not interested in becoming the CEO of your company, you still want to work in an environment where you know your gender will not get in the way of your career advancement.
Therefore, I would look for companies where women stay for the long term, and are promoted into senior management positions.