While the media is abuzz with advice that women should to “lean in” to their careers, many of us are looking for ways to “push back.” In other words, many of us want and need to slow down our careers for periods of time, especially when our children are young. But finding jobs that allow us to do this is not always easy.
I recently had the good fortune to discuss this dilemma with Stacey Delo over salads in San Francisco’s Levi’s Plaza. Stacey (along with her business partner, Debi Ryan) is a co-founder of Maybrooks, a company dedicated to helping professional women find flexible careers. Both women have young children, and have found ways to not only share a business, but a childcare arrangement as well.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What inspired you to start Maybrooks?
A: While I was on maternity leave with my first child, a friend of mine pointed out an option in my company’s maternity leave paperwork that said you could return to work on a part-time basis for the full length of the designated leave time (while your job was still protected), if your manager approved.
I asked to come back three days a week and my manager, a mother of three, said OK. I did that for two years, until my second baby was born. It meant the world to me and to my family that I could do this. It also helped my employer that I did not completely jump ship.
During this time, I began thinking about how many women don’t ask for these situations. I began to wonder where women could go to consider their options, learn how to ask, or find another job that might be more flexible.
I spent a vacation thinking only about this and pounded out an initial concept/business plan, which I shared with my friend and nanny-share partner, Debi Ryan. Together we realized there was no go-to online resource for working moms that rolled off the tongue in the same way Babycenter.com does when you are having a baby, or Amazon.com when you want to buy a book. So we built maybrooks.com to be that resource.
Q: Why the focus on women. Don’t men need flexibility, too?
A: I get asked this a lot and wholeheartedly support flexibility for everyone—women, men, people with and without kids. Our connected lives mean that everyone works all the time anyway, and the ability to be a person outside of work is important for everyone.
That said, we chose to focus on moms because we see a particular pain point given that they continue (statistically) to be the primary caregivers. Thirty percent of women with MBAs drop out of the workforce within 10 years of getting their graduate degree. Wouldn’t it be great if some of them could put those degrees — and big brains — to work on a project basis while they take care of their kids?
Q: Who is your typical job seeker?
A: Our typical job seeker is someone with significant previous—or current—work experience. She’s educated. And she either seeks more flexibility in her career, or is looking for some opportunities to transition back into the workforce.
Q: Who is your typical job poster?
A: Typical job posters include small business owners looking for smart, highly experienced talent that they may not be able to afford otherwise. Additionally we are seeing larger companies post with us as way to source smart women.
Q: What kinds of jobs have they found on your site?
A: We have a wide range of jobs on the site—everything from sales, marketing, and writing opportunities, to management positions with major corporations.
Q: Tell me about this concept of the “returnship”?
A: The returnship is essentially an internship for someone who has been out of the workforce for a while and needs to refresh her skills. This can be a paid or unpaid opportunity, and benefits the employer as much as the woman!
Q: The company is still very young. What are your plans to grow?
A: We are laser focused on spreading the word to employers that we are a fantastic new resource to reach talent that has been otherwise difficult to reach before—working mothers.
Q: Here’s a personal question…How much flexibility do you have in your work life? After all, don’t start up founders work a minimum 100 hours per week?
A: It’s funny because in some ways I have a ton of flexibility, even though I’m working around the clock. Debi and I sync our schedules to take meetings a couple days a week together, and each work out of our houses otherwise. Additionally, we each reserve one day of the week to be with our kids. I’m home on Thursdays with mine, and she’s home on Fridays with hers. We built this into the infrastructure of our company from the get-go. We each burn a lot of midnight oil!
Q: I often get emails and blog comments from moms who feel trapped by their full-time jobs. Do you have any advice for them?
A: Please know that there are options out there for you. We see fabulous, flexible job opportunities being added to our site everyday. Even skimming the listings should offer inspiration and give you the confidence to know that when you are ready for change, we, and all the great companies listing jobs with us, will be there for you.
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Personally I’ve found that being self-employed and doing project-based work (UX design consulting—web stuff) has been the key to happiness. I know I’ve been lucky—my work is naturally project-based, I work in a field with high demand, and I’ve had a fairly easy time (knock wood) getting projects that I like.
What about you? Are you self-employed doing project-based work? How has it worked for you?
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Unrelated question: I noticed the top keyword search that got people to my website yesterday was “crappy mother’s day.” So just wondering. . .How was your Mother’s Day?
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