Paving a Better Path

AGS celebrates International Women’s Day with two strong and prominent leaders! Our latest episode of Subject to Talent features Tracey Klein, AGS' Executive Director of Global Partner Alliance and Allison Robinson, CEO and Founder of The Mom Project discussing how to support mothers in the workplace.
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F: Welcome to Subject to Talent brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions. Similar to you, we're always trying to learn more. On this podcast we speak to talent experts around the world, covering workforce management, market trends, technology, and our forever evolving dynamic industry.

F: Hello, hello. Welcome back to Subject To Talent and for those joining for the first time, welcome. My name is Frank Edge, and I'm really excited you're listening today. We've recorded this episode in the run up to International Women's Day, a day that has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It's a day used to recognize women's economic, cultural, political, and social achievements throughout history. So what better way to celebrate than have two strong successful women join us on Subject To Talent? My colleague Tracey Klein, Executive Director of Global Partner Alliance at AGS, had the pleasure of talking to Allison Robinson, the CEO and Founder of The Mom Project. Let's check it out.

T: Hello everyone. I'm Tracey Klein and I'm so excited because today we will be celebrating the upcoming International Women's Day. And I have the pleasure of sitting down with Allison Robinson. Well shall we dive in?

A: That sounds great.

T: Okay. Well, Allison, you're obviously the founder of The Mom Project and for those of our listeners who aren't familiar, can you explain what the organization is and the inspiration behind it?

A: The Mom Project, we are a talent marketplace that connects over 200,000 incredibly talented and educated women across the country with incredible work opportunities with some of the best brands in the world. I actually founded the company while I was on maternity leave myself back in 2015. I had just had my son Asher and was at home with him getting to spend some time together and I discovered a stat that was from the Harvard Business Review that over 40% of American women leave the workforce after having children. And that was a stat that I just found to be fascinating. It was something that I had seen my mom, my sister struggle with, but I realized how much more challenging this issue of trying to integrate work and family was. And it was an issue much bigger than my own family. So I thought and got excited about the possibility of what if we could create a future where women don't have to feel like they have to choose between their families and their career? So I decided to leave my job at P&G where I was working at the time and, and start working on The Mom Project. So we've been in market now about four years and it's just been an incredibly exciting journey for us and one that I just feel so deeply passionate about.

T: Allison, I've been following you for a couple of years now and I just love the passion. Of course, it's very meaningful to me and many of my colleagues and what you're doing for working women and women coming back into the workforce. Tell me a little bit more. I understand from your previous career, were you already in the talent industry? How did you get into our industry? Was it really just around the creation of your experience?

A: Yeah, Tracey, I was not at all. I really had very limited exposure to the industry. I spent about nine years at P&G before I founded The Mom Project. So the first part of my career there was in enterprise sales. So how could we, P&G, grow our portfolio of brands at big box retailers like Costco, Walmart, Target, increasingly online at e-retailers like Amazon, as that was becoming a larger piece of the market share for our business. And then had an opportunity to move back to Cincinnati, where I'm from, and lead our Pampers Innovation Team for North America. So a lot of my time spent in that role was really getting to know moms and their shifting habits, as technology was rapidly changing consumer behavior. So I was very much coming at this problem from what I would consider consumer perspective, from the mom perspective. And so kind of the whole... I understood that very well, but the whole other side of our business and how we sell to customers, how we sell employment, etc., I've just been drinking from a fire hose the last four years learning on my feet.

TWell, I just, I enjoy your story each and every time I hear it I learn a little bit more from you and your foresight is just incredible. I know I look around at my peers and friends in my neighborhood and I think about the talent, the unused talent that exists there today. So hopefully you’ll continuedto change that for us.

A:Thank you, Tracey. Your support means so much to us.

T: So we know having moms in the workplace isn't just the right thing to do, but I know you say it makes business sense as well. Can you expand on that?

A:Yeah, so allowing women, particularly mothers, to be able to fully contribute to the workforce is just such a huge economic opportunity. If you look at the size of prize, if nationally we could get closer to gender parody in terms of overall workforce participation, it's an opportunity worth over $500 billion. So getting more women back into the workforce and helping keep the women who are already there stay in the workforce is a really big business opportunity. And it's interesting, I think many companies have now awaken to the fact that more gender diverse teams yield better financial outcomes. So to be able to connect with our customers, this pool of talent that they really know is so critical in driving their business forward has been really exciting.

T: It is, and that data is certainly available and proves the point of this story and what you're trying to accomplish.

A: Yeah, it's interesting. I think it feels like it's a really special moment in time where there's so much energy for this topic, whether it be from a workforce perspective or, I was actually in Washington DC last week, a summit around supporting working families and the momentum we have for policies like paid family leave, childcare subsidies. I feel like there's just so much good energy around this topic.

T: There certainly is. So let's talk a little bit about International Women's Day. What does it mean to you?

A: Yeah, so to me, International Women's Day means a time to really celebrate the women amongst us and the women that have come before us to pave a better path for women. You know, I think about some of the most remarkable women throughout history and what they did. So I myself could be a female entrepreneur and live in a country where I can have an idea and really build a business, be able to capitalize it and make impact. That would not have happened if many other women had not paved that path for me, for which I'm very, very grateful for.

T: Yeah, it's a good reminder for me as well. What are some of the things an employer could be doing to welcome back moms to the workplace? It seems that there's a lot of opportunity there. Do you agree?

A: Absolutely. And we spent a lot of time pulling and surveying the 200,000 plus women in our network to really understand what will drive satisfaction in their work experience. And for us the findings tend to be fairly consistent. Number one, we know women are looking for flexibility. I think though, when employers hear flexibility, they often think about it maybe working fully remotely or working part time, but there's so many other variables, whether that be maybe just a shorter commute, one day from home. So really supporting an employee and giving them the flexibility that they need to be successful both at home and at work I think is really critical. A close second is respect. Time and time again we know that employers that respect their employees are just going to have much better results. We say that a company that's family friendly is just friendly. And we've found that you could have the best policies in the world, whether that be paid parental leave or the greatest flexibility, unless you've got a manager that supports that decision, it means nothing.

A: So I think those are two of the most important. And then depending on if somebody is just coming back from parental leave, I think just giving them a bit of time and space to re-acclimate their life is really important for women that we help get back to work after an extended break. There's also a lot of other considerations, maybe putting them through your standard hiring process isn't necessarily setting them up for success. But ultimately, I would say the number two drivers that employers can do to really improve their experience for women and mothers is helping them find the flexibility and supporting them through respect.

T: Let me ask you what, let's call it maybe some pre-assumptions do you think employers might have about working moms in the workplace or working moms having that flexibility to work from home at times? Are there any preconceived ideas that employers still have today?

A: So unfortunately, I think many people believe that when women become mothers they are less competent and less committed to their careers. There's a lot of data that I've read that says that all else being equal, mothers are less likely to get hired or promoted with equal credentials, which is really unfortunate. And we also know that the gender pay gap is largely a motherhood penalty. We know that that's absolutely not the case. Moms make incredible, incredible employees. They're very productive, they're very efficient with their time. Motherhood brings tremendous new skills to bear. I almost think part of my role in all of this is sort of rebranding what motherhood means in the professional setting. When employers hear a mom, it makes them excited. It has a very different effect than it often does today.

T: Yeah, it's interesting. Of course, as you had your... Was it your first child? You came into creating this business, so perhaps you weren't in the traditional employer environment, is that correct?

A: That's right.

T: You had your first?

A: Yeah, when I first I was on maternity leave from P&G, so coming out of a big corporation. And with Henry, my second, really interesting time, I was actually raising our first round of institutional capital. So I think I was like... I had him on a Monday, I was back at work on like Wednesday. So a little bit unconventional.

T: That is very unconventional, I think. The reason I ask is I think back to my own and I've had the opportunity to work remotely when very few people were. But after my one and only son, someone... And I was continuing, of course he was in childcare arrangements, and I continued to work remotely and someone actually asked me if I went to the grocery store during my day and could get things done. It was really quite an eye opener of why would you possibly think I would be doing that now that you know I have a child? So those are some of the things that everyone experiences, or some of us have experienced out there.

A: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean we hear from our moms daily and the different conscious and unconscious ways that they're experiencing bias in the workplace and it's still very rampant. So I think part of our role at The Mom Project is to help educate employers on how they can be doing better. I will say the most senior levels, employer commitment, this topic only continues to get better, I would say. So it's good to see that the willingness is there and they're really open to how they can do a better job.

T: Yeah, for sure. It's an exciting time. So Allison, you're obviously a working mom, you have two young boys at home. How do you manage your business and everything that you have going on, being an entrepreneur, and maintain a life balance with your family?

A: That's a great question, Tracey. I don't know.

T: Me either.

A: Don't they say we need to start asking dads on panels and conferences how they find work life balance? It's challenging, for sure. I think what I found in all of this is yes, I definitely don't have the work life balance, but me making those sacrifices so many more women can feels very worth it to me. And I'm very lucky and fortunate in the sense that I do have a lot of freedom over how and where I work, and I often will bring my children with me if I can. I have a wonderful nanny who will travel with me, so we kind of make the best of it. I think it's all about perspective. So while I'm not spending as much time with them as I would love to be, I feel really fortunate that I've been given this tremendous opportunity and want to make the most of it. And so yeah, we kind of fit our family life around the business. My husband's also in the business, so it's just kind of a core part of our DNA.

T: Well, and sometimes it's about that quality of time versus that quantity of time. And I don't know if this happens in your house, but I will admit occasionally the kitchen isn't clean when we all go to bed at night. But that's okay.

A: Right! Absolutely. Yeah, it's funny and it's like having two sons and Ronnie and this female business is so cool. He's now at a point where he's starting to understand and he knows what The Mom Project is and he asks about it. So to see my sons take it all in, it's really cool for me. And you know, maybe someday they'll be working for The Mom Project too.

T: You never know, could be a great story.

A: You never know, yeah.

T: So Allison, you're a really strong female in our industry. What advice do you have to women starting off their careers?

A: I think the best advice that I've gotten in my career is something that my dad told me when I was really young, which was when the others go left, go right. And I've never been one to go through life in a very conventional way. And so I think it's about really paving your own path and not doing what you think you should do, but what you love. And I think that's ultimately where you're going to be the most successful. I just encourage women to create their own path. That transition from corporate America to entrepreneurship was a tough one. When I was raising money I heard no so many times and I took some bruises, but kind of went about it in a different way and was successful. And that path less traveled has always been a winning strategy for me. So I would just encourage young women to figure out what's right for you, be yourself. Me being a relatively new manager, I feel like there's a lot of expectations around what management looks like, and that's not me. I can only be the best version of myself, and so owning who I am and just trying to be a better me rather than anybody else is what allows me to kind of feel very authentic to myself.

T: Well we really appreciate that you have pushed past through those nos and kept going and pushing for what you believed in.

A: Thank you so much Tracey. Well, we couldn't do it without incredible partners like you, so thank you for all the support. It really means the world to us. And we think we're really still very much in that early days, so very excited for what the future holds.

T: I know so much more to come. So Allison, do you have any role models or someone in addition, it sounds like your dad played a big role in this, but where does your other inspiration come from? Who do you look to?

A: Yeah, my dad, absolutely. He was an entrepreneur who started his business while working third shift. So really his work ethic was incredible and taught me a lot, a lot. I started working for my dad when I was probably seven or eight years old, so a lot of the fundamentals I learned from him. I also have been really blessed with great managers. While I was at P&G, I had several just really incredible managers who helped me so much in the earlier stages of my journey.You know, it's been interesting, it's been actually a lot of men who have been my strongest advocates and now I feel like it's... Now being in the startup world, these mentors mean more to me than ever because I'm just learning all of these new things for the first time. So I have so many that I won't mention them all. But yeah, I think it's finding what are the gaps that you have and then who are the right mentors that you can align yourself with to really kind of round yourself out?

T: Well, I love the part about you starting to work and support your dad and his business at such a young age, that's incredible. Great lessons learned there. And it's funny, my parents were entrepreneurs early on and small business owners for most of their lives, and what I did learn was when I answered the phone, because we only had, remember... Well, I'm quite a bit older than you, but you really only had one phone in the house, they certainly couldn't bring in two phones into the situation. So I always had to answer the phone with, "Hello, how may I help you?" And that's kind of stuck with me and people continue to tell me I have a recording voice when I-

A: I was going to say that's how you have such a great voice for podcasts, Tracey. That's amazing.

T: Well, we'll see about that. But formality on the phone I was taught very young.

A: It's a very important life skill. Good one to learn early.

T: Funny. So as we round out our time today, I have a couple last questions for you. What do you hope for future generations as they enter the workforce?

A: I hope for future generations a couple of things. For one, I hope for women that really this whole gender inequity, mother inequity no longer exists. If we have done our job right, it will just no longer be a factor. Second, I am really optimistic about every individual's ability to have the independence they need to craft a career in a way that's meaningful and also gives them the time that they need for their personal life. I think that there's so much great technology at the forefront of this, and so kind of this 40 hour rigid work week, my hope will become soon to be a thing of the past in the not so distant future and we've really kind of evolved the traditional work structure to be more compatible with life.

T: I agree. Lots of exciting things to look forward to for the future of women, and the workforce in general. Technology is certainly helping us with that. We're working in different ways that make us, I think, all more efficient and flexible to the lifestyles that we're attempting to achieve. So Allison, it's always such a great pleasure when I get to connect with you and hear about what you're doing in the industry and the impact that you have on women in their lives. So thank you for that and thank you for taking time out of your day to chat with us.

A: Thank you, Tracey. It was really my pleasure and thank you again for all the support. I feel so lucky to be your partner and that you're on this journey with us. Thank you so much.

F: Thank you for listening to this episode of Subject to Talent. A shout out to Allison Robinson and Tracey Klein for shining some light on important challenges in the world of work. If you'd like to learn more about AGS's inclusion and diversity efforts, please check us out allegisglobalsolutions.com. If you have any questions for Tracey or Allison, feel free to tweet us at @allegisglobal with the hashtag #subjectetotalent. Also, you can email us at subjecttotalent@allegisglobalsolutions.com. If you've enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe, rate us and leave a review. Until next time, cheers.

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