Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Working Mother Magazine’s best companies and their common thread – the art of disconnecting

The Art of Disconnecting

Can you really ignore that late-night work email? At some Best Companies, the answer is an emphatic yes.

When employees at animal health products company Zoetis head home for the weekend, there’s one thing they don’t worry about: dealing with an email from the boss. CEO Juan Ramón Alaix has vowed not to send or respond to anything but an emergency message from Friday night through Sunday—and expects managers to follow his lead.

“It’s important to know how to make the most of technology without it intruding into your life,” says Roxanne Lagano, executive vice president and chief of human resources at the Florham Park, NJ–based company. She says Alaix’s declaration has had the desired effect of trickling down into every department of the company. “Unless it’s some sort of crisis, we really don’t email or make work calls over the weekend.” After all, she says, “we don’t want people to burn out.”

It’s hard to envision many CEOs of multibillion-dollar companies actively encouraging workers to shut off their laptops. But Zoetis, a newly named Working Mother 100 Best Company, is part of a growing movement to decrease electronic intrusions into evenings and weekends. For companies like this one, it’s more than a feel-good gesture, it’s a bottom-line necessity; as the volume of email rises and seeps into every hour of the day, the additional stress and loss of downtime can have a serious impact on worker productivity.

“The use of smartphones to stay connected to work 24/7 is so common that it’s now considered the new normal”. J.Deal.

Jennifer J. Deal, PhD, a research scientist authored a 2013 study on the subject for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego. That survey of 483 executives, managers and other professionals found that smartphone-toting workers actually log 72-hour workweeks when all the late-night and weekend emailing is factored in.

It’s little wonder, then, that “many professionals say they are worn out, feeling they are kept on an electronic leash by their organization,” says Dr. Deal. Another recent study, by software company neverfail, found that 83 percent of professional staffers report checking email during non-work hours, and 66 percent say they use their devices while on vacation.

Of course, the argument can cut both ways: The Web, texting and email have certainly made flexible work easier. Still, few anticipated the degree to which technology would take over our every waking minute—and experts say it will only get worse. By next year, we’ll be sending and receiving 22 percent more emails than we did just three years ago, according to the Radicati Group, a market research firm.

To rein in the trend, many best companies—including Merck, Deloitte, the Advisory Board Company and Janssen North America (a division of Johnson & Johnson)—are implementing policies or guidance on off-hours use of work-issued smartphones and laptops.

Janssen, for one, is tackling the topic as part of a new initiative to foster better work life balance, says Sharon Labbate, senior director of human resources for the pharmaceutical company. Janssen has a policy of email-free weekends, which means workers refrain from sending non-critical business messages from 8 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We see that getting people away from their electronic devices and their computers is really providing them with the opportunity to recharge,” says Labbate. Setting firm boundaries over the weekend “allows them to have that recovery break and ultimately allows them to come back on Monday refreshed.”

The mum of Olivia, 10, Julia, 8, and Peter, 5, Labbate says she understands both sides of the issue: Employees may want to catch up on emails during weekends or at night once the kids are in bed. But rather than send messages on weekends, she says, she follows Janssen’s practice of using a delay-send mode so they go out the next business day. That way, staffers don’t feel pressured to prove they’re burning the midnight oil as well.

The Advisory Board Company, a technology, research and consulting firm based in Washington, DC, has an email-free weekend at least once a year— typically on Labor Day or the Fourth of July—in order to encourage staffers to think twice before blasting out electronic interruptions during off-hours.

That sits well with Cara Weiman, a managing director and mum of Sylvie, 13, Lena, 11, and Theo, 9. She herself keeps co-workers apprised of when it’s okay to contact her and when she’ll be unreachable. Simple techniques like using the “out of office” message clearly stating when you’ll be able to respond to an email are invaluable, she says. Other strategies she likes: Don’t copy too many people on your emails, and use the office’s shared calendar to let colleagues know when you’re on duty.

Weiman, who works a part-time schedule at the Advisory Board Company, says it’s critical to get the support of top management in turning off the email spigot. “By creating things like the email-free weekend, our CEO, Robert Musslewhite, is focused on the fact that email was becoming a burden as much as a tool,” she says. “If you’re going to encourage people to take the time to recharge, the example has to be set from the top down.”

By: Barbara Peterson
Source: Working Mother 


Mum’s from the Top 10 Best Companies tell their story

Technology creates a 24/7 connection to work, but mums at the Top 10 Best Companies say that making a conscious effort to disconnect is essential to becoming happier and healthier. See what mums at the top 10 have to say Top 10 Best Companies: Work Life Unplugged.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tips for freelance and work from home mums

Image via Flickr (photographer: GCSNJ)

Times have changed. Where in the past working parent meant one who went to an office for 8 hours a day away from home, now working parent can mean a myriad of things. From working different schedules, freelancing, working part time and working from home, working parent means more than "going to work" these days.

For our family, my husband goes to work all day and I work from home even though I primarily stay home with my kids. Yes, this means many days are a juggle. Especially in the summer. But I am so thankful to be able to write and consult from the comfort of my own home, on my own schedule and of my own accord.

Four of the five kids are in school now. All day every day I find that it's my 15 month old and I. And while there will still be days that I'm in a childcare bind to make it to a meeting or event, for the most part right now I'm feeling like I've got this. {It's day three.}

That said, a few weeks before school started I decided I needed to make some rules for myself so that I can truly enjoy this season. I find that without boundaries I am more stressed, less efficient and really never quite finished. If you, too, work from home in any capacity, I'm sure you can relate to the struggle to truly shut down, to not click on the mail icon on your phone and truly, truly have "off" time.

So here's what's my plan this fall to keep myself on track this school year:

Be on time

When I am late, I am stressed. Sadly, I tend to be late often. This year, I have to drive one of our kids to and from school each day. If I am not intentional with making sure we get out the door on time, it will be a slippery slope. So far, so good.

Shut off the computer at 2:20 and don't turn it back on until 8

My third grader's bus arrives about 2:30 and so many times last spring once he went back to school I would be trying to "quick finish an email" or things of that nature. I want to deliberately shut down a few minutes before he arrives so I can fully welcome him and enjoy time with just him {as most days my 15 month old will still be napping} to talk about his day, get started on homework etc.

Same rule for my phone

While I likely won't actually "shut off" my phone during those hours due to sports schedules for my two oldest and other life happenings, I want to mostly not use my phone. Most of my texts aren't urgent, any email can wait and I really don't need to browse social media, do I? I'm sure there will be exceptions to this, sometimes meetings or events pop up that I would attend during these hours or there might be something I'm contracted to do but for the most part, I'd like to really be unplugged those few hours with my kids.

Aside from a quick check of the email for any school notices/reminders in the morning, don't check email

For me it comes down to, it's just hard to draw the line here. I read a few on my phone, forget to reply because I already read them or simply become overwhelmed with the things I need to accomplish later. It's not fair to myself or the people I am working for when I am trying to split my time and mind that way. I also added a time frame to my email signature that says when I will reply to emails. 12-2 or after 8pm on weekdays works best for me.

No phone calls at drop off and pick up

We've all seen the mom or dad walking into their child's school on a phone call and we've all thought, "get off the phone and pick up your kid." Well, what's so different if that parent on the phone is in the carpool line and their excited kindergartener is about to get in the car? For me, not much. So I've decided no phone calls on the way to drop off and I want to finish any phone conversation before I arrive to pick up at 3:20 so I can talk with my five year old and discuss school on the drive home.

I'm a big believer in teaching kids that they are not the center of the universe and we have made sure that there are times here and there they have to accomodate our schedules and work situations but especially with them being at school all day, I really want to be intentional with the time that they are home and the time we have together as a family.

If you are a work from home parent or have a varied work set up, what sorts of rules and boundaries do you have in place so that you can balance parenting and working from home?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New maternity coaching study reveals five game changing benefits for mums in the workplace

Could maternity coaching modernise Australian workplaces and reduce those shocking 1 in 2 discrimination statistics?

A recent study into the impact of maternity coaching revealed five key elements that positively impact on professional women and their maternity leave/return to work experience.

The interview-based research was lead by University of Wollongong student Jennifer North with a two-fold purpose. The first, to get a woman’s perspective on the benefits of maternity coaching; the second, to provide recommendations that employers can use to improve the ‘transformative experience’ and retention rates of women throughout their maternity leave and return to work transition.

To complete the study North interviewed experienced, professional women from various private sector organisations in order to represent various return-to-work experiences.

The results (expanded below) clearly highlighted why maternity coaching could modernise business culture in Australia. It showed that when women feel supported during one of the most challenging transitional periods of their career they feel valued, are more likely to stay with their employer and are more productive on their return.

If there was any doubt that this transitional period is challenging (and whether women really need extra support during the maternity leave transition) we need only turn to this year’s Australian Human Rights Commission nation-wide inquiry, titled Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review. It found that 1 in 2 Australian women experience discrimination during their pregnancy and/or return to work with “84% of mothers reporting significant negative impacts related to mental health, physical health, career and job opportunities, financial stability and their families”[1]. These sobering statistics support the growing evidence that maternity coaching is, for at least the women in this study, a crucial element to ensuring women avoid being victimised by tapping in to the support on offer – be that in the workplace, at home or a woman’s own reserves.

Maternity Coaching: why professional women want it

As the pace of business and life generally speeds up it makes juggling, negotiating and balancing a whole lot trickier. It’s no surprise that more professional women than ever are seeking out external support and letting go of the “I can do it all/just get on with it” mentality. Or worse - opting out altogether.

Maternity coaching is a good first port of call for such support as it establishes some perspective and sets up clear plans for managing steps to achieve short to long-term career goals. It also helps to address any practical or emotional issues related to the maternity/return to work transitional period (such as common forms of discrimination like a reduction in salary, missing out on training, professional development and promotional opportunities).

The 5 key elements of maternity coaching that the women in North’s study felt were most beneficial:
  1. Coachee-led but solution-focused. Maternity coaching adapted to a woman’s personal situation (i.e. requirement for flexible work requests) rather than following a prescribed one-size-fits-all programme.
  2. Support from the coach and feeling valued by their organisation. This encouraged loyalty by reinforcing the commitment of women to remain with their employer.
  3. Increased confidence and focus impacts productivity. Loss of confidence or uncertainty about returning to work is a common experience for women. A coach helps to restore confidence by working with women to develop solutions and a return-to-work action plan that eases the transition period and enables them to be more productive on their return.
  4. Independent third party support and confidentiality. A key theme noted in the study was that an independent third party, with no agenda, conducted the coaching. As a result they felt able to express any concerns in a safe and confidential environment. 
  5. Communication and timing of the coaching. Communicating the option to engage with a maternity coach and the timing of initiating contact is particularly important to each woman. Initially, some women did not think it was relevant for them, or the offer arrived after maternity leave had commenced and they had insufficient time to focus on it. Some women feel it would have been helpful to have the coaching while they were on maternity leave.

Why is Maternity Coaching crucial for women, businesses and the Australian economy?

The study points out that many women “do not return, or resign shortly after maternity leave due to transition issues, a trend which has financial and career implications for women and productivity and cost implications for organisations.”

When women leave the workforce for good the repercussions later in life can be extremely damaging particularly in the event of divorce, death of a spouse or old age when women are vulnerable to poverty.

But why are they leaving and how can a maternity coach turn things around?

Let’s look at the stats again. In Australia 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men experience pregnancy/return to work discrimination in the workplace. What’s more, the 2012 ABS Pregnancy and Employment Transitions report found that ‘1 in 5 women permanently left their job during pregnancy’.[2]

“Research and modelling shows that if businesses and other employers are able to retain women and men who are becoming new parents by eradicating pregnancy/ return to work discrimination, there will be a considerable economic dividend to both them and the wider economy.” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick.[3]

In the Maternity Coaching study women who had the support of a coach and felt valued by their organisation were more committed and loyal to their employer. Higher retention rates means lower recruitment costs and organisations get to hold on to some of the most productive, talented workers available.

Maternity coaching also helps women realise their true value, which is particularly useful when negotiating pay, work arrangements (i.e. greater flexibility), employment conditions, career and development opportunities and entering into contracts. When women realise the value of their contribution to the workforce they stay in it.

“It has been estimated that an increase in female workforce participation by 6% would increase Australia's annual GDP by around $25 Billion dollars.”

The Grattan Institute 2012 via WGEA website[4]

Further resources

Know your own value: online pay and contract negotiation checklist for women. This Security4Women resource equips you with the tools and checklists you may need to negotiate pay and flexible working arrangements with you employers.

Mums@Work Career Coaching. Personalised, one-to-one sessions with a qualified career coach as well as toolkits, group learning forums and other information resources to holistically support employees throughout their journey as a working parent.

Maternity Coaching study: North Jen - Summary of Research paper on Maternity coaching.

[1] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, The price of parenthood: discrimination at work, viewed 12.9.14,

[2] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14

[3] Australian Human Rights Commission, Pregnancy report reveals personal and financial cost of discrimination, viewed 8.9.14

[4] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pregnant, and overlooked for promotion - women deserve better, viewed 12.9.14

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five tips for silencing your inner critic

Whatever your work load, job role or family commitments - reading this article from a woman who has lived and breathed (and made friends with) her inner critic will give you some valuable tips on how to master yours too. Women in leadership and working mums in particular are prone to negative self-talk at some point - it's hard not to be in a world structured to crush all the amazing, inspiring work we do. So take a moment to reflect on these gems of lived experience and perhaps implement a few in your own life and see what happens.

You can’t hate yourself happy.
You can’t criticise yourself thin.
You can’t shame yourself worthy.
Real change begins with self-love & self-care.
Jessica Ortner

Five tips for silencing your inner critic

This week, I faced my demons.

Given the formidable task of presenting at the Women in Media and Communications Leadership Summit, I shared the stage with an impressive line-up of female leaders.

It forced me to face the demons within: those voices suggesting that I really wasn't good enough to be there.

And in doing so, I was struck again by how difficult women can make leadership for themselves.

Panic and preparation

Throughout my career, I have been plagued by a lack of self-belief.

I would never have believed in my ability to be a leader if it weren't for the male managers and mentors who identified my leadership potential – long before I saw the capability within myself.

And each time I present to large groups, I nurse my anxiety with hours of preparation and moments of panic.

Now that I work with, and coach, executives on leadership and communication, I'm often struck by how quickly female leaders turn the discussion to confidence issues.

During my presentation, I spoke about the work I've done throughout my career to convert my inner voice from foe to friend, and this seemed to resonate with the audience. Many women admitted to feeling that they had to 'fake it until they made it', and were comforted to know they weren't alone in facing the 'impostor syndrome'.

Character and competency

The theme of my presentation was 'building trusted relationships', as this has been the driving force behind my career. For me, nothing builds success as fast as the speed of trust.

Earning and giving trust is a factor of both character and competency. It is the key to building high performing teams and is paramount to winning executive support and fostering customer loyalty. The ability to form trusted relationships brings professional success as well as personal fulfillment.

However, the most critical trust relationship for long-term success is the one we have with ourselves.

Success and sanity

As business leaders, we have to be able to back ourselves. My tips for building confidence are simple to understand, but difficult to execute on an ongoing basis.

They are, nonetheless, essential to building your success while saving your sanity.

1. Manage your mind:

      a. Defeat negative self-talk with rational positive thinking
      b. Use visualisation techniques to create strong mental images of your success

2. Be yourself, and look after yourself

3. Truly commit to success: you need determination and stamina to reach the goals you've set yourself

4. Set small goals, achieve them and celebrate success

5. Don't take it personally: try your best, but detach yourself from the outcome

I was really pleased by the overwhelming support that the conference speakers and attendees gave to each other and the commitment this group, and many others, have to improving the alarmingly low female leadership numbers in Australia.

However, self-belief can only come from one place. If we are to assume our rightful places as co-leaders on this planet, we need to look after ourselves and we need to believe in ourselves.

By: Ava Lawler
First published: 2nd September 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Six steps to flourish at work

Image via Tumblr

Eight-five percent of businesswomen describe themselves as just functioning at work over the past six months, with more than 15 % flat out languishing according to The Australian Pulse of Women In Leadership.

Perhaps it's no wonder when for so long women have been told to change who they inherently are in order to find their seat at the boardroom table. Step up, be more assertive, and, in recent times, lean in.

The message has invariably been about 'fixing the women'. Make women more like men so they can seamlessly fit into the existing organisational structures. Blend in, don't make a fuss, suppress your femininity, don't be too special or have different needs, and god forbid, don't let anyone actually notice that you are, you know, a woman!

Is it any wonder that women are opting out of corporate careers, sidelining themselves or starting their own businesses when they feel demoralised from trying to fit a model that doesn't serve them well? No.

But 75 % of business people surveyed acknowledge that business would better if there were more women in leadership roles.

So what do women need to be more successful in their careers?

Having more women in leadership roles is not just about offering child-care friendly workplaces, part time work, job sharing, or paid maternity schemes, although these things are certainly required and valuable. And it's not just about perceived ambition gaps, sitting at the table and getting the right mentor.

It's about what actually happens when you show up for work. How you show up, and how it feels to you when you do.

We know from decades of research that when people get to do what they do best everyday, they thrive, and as a result, the business thrives. Engagement goes up, collaboration improves, innovation flourishes, productivity lifts and so does the bottom-line.

A growing body of research suggests six steps women can take to help them flourish more at work – no matter what their job is or who they work for:

1. Understanding the value of feminine traits

There is a growing global trend that recognizes the bottom-line value of feminine traits – as identified by research – such as openness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience in our organizations. As declining levels of engagement and productivity continue to plague our workplaces, we need to be aware of the unique value we're neurologically wired to deliver and stop worrying about being "too nice"

2. Challenge our mindsets

Studies are finding that more important than believing in our abilities (or our competence) is the belief we can improve upon our abilities (our confidence) when it comes to success. It's time to make peace with frustration, failure and criticism as natural parts of the learning and growth mindsets and stop measuring ourselves by our accomplishments rather than our efforts.

3. Boosting our confidence by discovering our strengths

It's time to stop hesitating, holding ourselves back and hedging our bets and time to turn our ideas into action. Stepping outside our comfort zone in ways that feel authentic can be easier by understanding what our top strengths are – those things we like doing and are good at – and using them each day at work.

4. Creating more meaning in our work

Having a sense of purpose, knowing 'for the sake of what' we're getting out of bed each morning helps women to worry less about what others think of them, focus their attention on shared goals and take up activities critical to our success.

5. Having a career management plan

Only a small percentage of women actually have a career plan in place, with more than 70% of women operating without one, and nearly 40% saying they are just 'winging it'. But how will we get from where we are to where we want to be without clear goals, a plan and mentors and sponsors to support us?

6. Investing in our wellbeing

Too often the first things we forgo when work and life gets busy is the sleep, movement and nourishment our bodies need to generate the energy, happiness and productivity we need to thrive at work. Sticking to a regular bedtime routine, moving from your seat every twenty minutes and avoiding fried, fatty or sugary foods are the wellbeing non-negotiables women should try to prioritize.

Women don't need to be fixed, molded or modified in order to fit into the ready-made cubicles in our workplaces. But they do need to be supported in order to flourish. And they need to support themselves.

Perhaps one of the most important changes that needs to be made, is for women to grant themselves a new permission to thrive on their own terms, and to embrace the practices they truly need to do so.

By: Michelle McQuaid and Megan Dalla-Camina
First published: 25th August 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

The CEO expecting her fifth child

Image via Glamour

Susan Wojcicki has been called the most important person in advertising, named the 12th most powerful woman on the Forbes 100, and is one of just six female CEOs of the top 100 tech companies in the US.

She's running the world's largest video site, a business reportedly worth $5.6 billion, while juggling motherhood with a golden rule to be home by 6pm to join her school-aged children for dinner. Sounds like she's already pretty busy.

Well, the recently appointed CEO of Youtube announced to tech news site Re/Code that she is pregnant with her fifth child, due later this year.

Still, she's seems more than ready to manage it all. "I'm going to do my best to try and balance it, and come up with something that I think works for both my family and office," she said when asked if she would take time off.

"I think it's important to have a balance. It's important for the family and the baby to have time. And on the other hand, I have a lot of things happening at YouTube, and I love working here."

Wojcicki appears to have found balance by inextricably linking motherhood with her work. In an interview with FastCompany earlier this year she said she associates each of her children with Google milestones.

"I joined Google when I was pregnant, so my oldest I've associated with Google. Then I worked with the team and together we created AdSense after I came back from maternity leave (with my second). My third one, I associate with YouTube. The last one is DoubleClick," she said.

In 1998 she left her role at Intel to join Google as it's sixteenth employee while she was four months pregnant -- not only making the giant career leap, she also housed the company in her garage during the early days. Before taking the role of CEO at YouTube in February, Wojcicki was senior vice president of Google's advertising and analytics products.

She says she's been called the "mum of Google" due to the fact she way nurturing the company in its early days, and became the first of its employees to have a baby. She also designed Google's progressive, in-house daycare centre.

Wojcicki recently spoke about making that bold career move, despite also being pregnant at the time.

It "was a bit of a leap, but sometimes you have to do the right thing for you right now," Wojcicki said in an interview with Glamour in May.

And Wojcicki's advice for any working women thinking of starting a family? "Don't forget that it gets easier! Having a child is a big life change, but the really hectic period is relatively short," she says. "You can get through it."

By: Jordi Roth 
First published: 15th August 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Talented Women: Please Do NOT Quit

The following is an excerpt from Sramana Mitra's book, Feminine Feminism. If you are questioning whether to stay in the workforce or not this blog might help with the decision. 

Five years ago, a good friend of mine hanged herself.

I had coffee with her the day before.

She was married to a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who ran a couple of major companies and had a brilliant career. She did not work. But on the surface, they had everything.

I knew both of them well. It was a deeply disturbing incident that shook us all up.

Five years have passed. I have observed society around us closely. And today, I am writing this with a certain amount of lingering sadness.

One of the greatest defeats of the feminist movement in America has been the phenomenon that women in the thirties are quitting the workforce in large numbers. Many of them are highly educated, and just as they acquire sufficient experience to take on more substantial roles, the body clock sets off an alarm.

Time to have babies.

Women are programmed to want to have children. There is no point in denying or defying biology. Whatever it is that the feminists want women to do, asking them not to have children isn’t something that will gain any traction.

And if you have children, those children need to be raised.

Unlike societies like India where the extended family is deeply integrated into the fabric of society, and where domestic help is affordable and abundant, Western societies tend to consist of more nuclear families. Help is limited. Childcare is expensive.

Faced with a complex juggling challenge, women, often, abandon their professional lives and become full-time mothers. Paying for childcare, feeling guilty about not being there for the children, peer pressure from other women who are full-time moms – all eventually catch up with them. They quit their jobs in search of a less stressful existence.

In some cases, and this situation is particularly prevalent in places like Silicon Valley and Wall Street where wealth flows abundantly, women quit because there is no real pressure to earn money. The husband earns enough. The family can afford childcare, but that doesn’t put a stop to the hostile glares from other full-time moms. Even supposedly high-powered women like Sheryl Sandberg have been known to succumb to this kind of peer pressure and feel guilty. Once again, many women quit in response.

Also, some families do not believe in outsourced childcare. Especially, immigrant families who want to impart the culture of another country into the children, have to invest time and energy in doing so, personally. Children of Indian or French parents raised by Mexican nannies are subject to tremendous clashes of culture, not to mention language development challenges. Add to that the notion of cross-cultural families where there are already two different cultures to navigate. If the nanny introduces a third culture, kids can get utterly confused.

Then there is the option of a stay-at-home dad, of course. However, a large percentage of women are not drawn to the dynamic of a male partner not working. This is a bias that both nature and society have developed from the stone ages. Men are supposed to hunt. Now, in the twenty first century, it is okay for women to hunt, but my observation is that men who just gather do not turn on most women.

It is important to be turned on by your mate.

In short, raising children while maintaining a serious career is and will continue to be complex for women, forever. The temptation to quit will always beckon.

What happens if you do?

My friend Renee Fields worked in Wall Street. In her thirties, she married and supported the dreams of a man who has since become a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Now in her fifties, Renee has raised four children, and along the way, gave up her professional career. She says that she has regretted giving up her career and staying at home, driving the kids around all day long to their schools and activities, feeling intellectually starved.

By the time her husband comes home from an exhausting day at work, Renee is longing for adult company, stimulation, and engagement. But her husband wants to chill.

The most telling observation from Renee’s experience is the identity crisis that she has experienced. “From a Wall Street trading desk to this domestic swirl has been mind-numbing,” she says. While most women are unwilling to admit to their regrets, Renee speaks of them candidly: “Going to lunch with other bored housewives is just not interesting to me.”

It offers a window into the large-scale identity crisis that a generation of women is going through. They have made the choice to quit. They have raised children. In the process, they have lost one of the most fundamental secrets of human happiness: the sense-of-self.

My friend who killed herself had no sense-of-self left.

She did not do anything with her talents. She had raised two great kids.

Once they left, she had no identity of her own.

A few months ago, I met Jana Francis, founder and CEO of online daily deals site Her story is one that I find both inspiring and instructional to those women who have, perhaps, already made the choice of quitting, or are contemplating doing so.

The motivation for came to Jana Francis right after she had a daughter, her third child, when she had to head back to work at the end of her maternity leave. She realized she was a smart, capable woman who could work from home. Once she started thinking along those lines, the ideas started to flow.

Jana was always the one you could count on for online shopping deals – her friends called her the dotcom princess. But when it came to online shopping in the baby space, she was disappointed. There was no website that would tell you the story of the product, why you would want it, what problem it would solve for you, and offer great deals. She developed a burning desire to create a new kind of website that would launch new deals every day – a steep 40% to 80% discount on premium baby products.

With a full-time career and three kids, one of which was a newborn, Jana took 18 months to go from concept to creation. She partnered with Rett Clevenger who at that time was an online media manager for a large e-commerce site, to launch in April 2008. was the first site to be launched and as the business became profitable, more sites were launched –,, and

The revenue in 2012 was $16.4 million.

Jana now has over 70 full-time employees, most of them based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Her Webmaster was a former colleague who had left the company after her maternity leave. About 70% of her employees are women and about 25% of them have had a baby in the past two years.

Being a completely bootstrapped company, cannot offer its team the best possible pay. But for most of them the flexibility the company provides means a lot. Most of the customer service staff is able to work from home for 30 hours a week.

Jana says, “For me it is very rewarding to know that the situation I dreamed of for myself is being provided for so many moms in Utah who would not have a job if they were not working here.”

What I like about Jana’s story is that she has been able to have a flexible, but fully engaging career herself by moving over to the entrepreneurship side. Additionally, she has leveraged her understanding of women’s need for flexibility and desire to work, and created a uniquely appealing culture in her company that is allowing many other women to continue working, while raising children.

So my suggestion to all you talented women facing the same dilemma: Do not quit. Become an entrepreneur. Do not risk losing your sense-of-self.

Work is not just for livelihood. It is as much a source of fundamental life force.

*Excerpt from Feminine Feminism by Sramana Mitra

By: Sramana Mitra
Originally published: November 15th 2013