CEO & Co-founder, Fairygodboss
Mom of three
As a former publishing executive, the inspiration to create Fairygodboss came when Georgene was fired while 2 months pregnant, and found herself interviewing for jobs. She found it difficult to know how to ask about maternity benefits and support for working moms during interviews. Fairygodboss was born to fill the gap she experienced, with the goal of empowering women to share their workplace experiences and support one another.
Today, Fairygodboss is a thriving female-focused career community, providing jobs, advice and connections amongst working women. In addition to being CEO of Fairygodboss, Georgene is a mom of three young children. We're thrilled to share more about Georgene's career and motherhood experience!
The Returnity Project: How were you personally inspired to create Fairygodboss?
Georgene Huang: I was inspired to create Fairygodboss after, what I describe as, a very bad day at work. On that day, I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of a 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.
While interviewing, I wanted to ask certain questions around benefits and policies like maternity leave and work-life balance — but feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career. I also wanted to hear directly from other women about their experiences and how they overcame similar challenges So, I turned to the internet for answers, and was surprised by the lack of information I found, which is why we’ve formed the FGB Community.
TRP: As the founder of a company who has designed a platform to help women find supportive and empowering workplaces, how have you structured your company to provide these things to your female employees?
GH: We pride ourselves in creating a flexible, open, and supportive work environment at Fairygodboss and not just for our female employees, but for all of our employees. I think it’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard so I make sure to take time every week to have one-on-one meetings with my direct reports. Creating clear lines of communication and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions has helped to create a more collaborative and engaging workplace culture at Fairygodboss. I also really believe in leading by example. I believe that I work very hard but I also do so flexibly when possible, and I realize the importance of modeling behavior.
TRP: What was your experience returning to work from maternity leave? How do you aim to support the women in your company returning from maternity leave?
GH: My maternity leave certainly wasn’t normal because I didn’t return to work afterwards. Instead I started working on creating Fairygodboss. I was essentially taking on the challenge of trying to create and build a company with a newborn on my hands. That said, being your own boss means you get to determine your own work schedule to a certain extent. Compared to my maternity leave while working at a bigger, established corporation, I’d say it may have netted out to being a less stressful maternity leave overall. Another reason it may have been easier is that it was my second-time around being a mom.
When I had my first child, I was an expat working in London and sought out a promotion while on maternity leave (and got it!). This meant going back to work voluntarily and earlier than I had planned, but my family and I made it work.
At Fairygodboss, even though we are a startup, we made sure that we would always be able to offer our employees what they need when trying to start or grow their families. We offer paid parental leave for anyone either having a child, using a surrogate or adopting. We also offer a flexible work environment. Employees can choose their own hours and have the ability to work from home. Sometimes a sitter will cancel or a child, family member or pet will get sick, so having these policies in place allow people to address care-taking no matter what comes up.
TRP: What advice would you share with working moms who do not feel supported in their workplaces?
GH: I believe that women shouldn’t have to choose between building a family and a fulfilling career. By creating more transparency about benefits and how mothers are treated in the workplace, I hope fewer women have to make that choice, but instead can have and succeed in both. My advice to women who don’t feel supported is to have a conversation with your direct manager, if you feel comfortable doing so, and try to find a solution that works for both of you, whether it be working from home a few days a week, working flexible hours, or something else that you both agree on.
You also have to take advantage of every resource available to you. In free career communities like Fairygodboss you can expand the number of people in your network, understand what other powerful women are reading and thinking on a daily basis, and get advice from other women directly about jobs, employers, and situations you may be experiencing.
TRP: What are you most proud of?
GH: Fairygodboss! Today, more than three million women turn to FGB to connect with other women and use our free resources to help them in their careers and we work with over 100 corporate partners. Although growth is challenging at times, it’s been extremely exciting and something I’m very proud of.