My second son is four months old today. Maternity leave lasts four months at many large companies like Google, Facebook, and my former employer McKinsey. As COO of a seed-stage startup, I get lots of questions about how maternity leave worked for me and for Republic. Here’s my shot at answering this complicated question.
How much time do “they” give you? – Formal policy and the business reality
Republic didn’t have a formal maternity policy. I was the first woman to join the team. And even with a formal policy, losing 10% of the team for an extended period of time was not a practicable set-up. This wasn’t about asking for x-number of weeks, as much as it was about balancing the need to be with my newborn and doing what’s best for the business.
How much time are you taking? – There is no number for that
It’s tough to quantify. What someone needs or wants depends on the person and their individual circumstances––the health of the baby, the health of the mother, support from family, and resources for caretakers are just a few. For two months after my son was born, my involvement varied from 5% to 30%+ of a usual, pre-maternity day. I divided time-sensitive “day-to-day” work up for different team members to own (e.g. most of our marketing) and transitioned those pieces over progressively in the last month prior to leave. I kept/took on a few tasks I could complete on my own time. These tasks ranged from transactional, like billing/expenses, to more operational projects, like planning a multi-hour team session, the holiday party and moving our offices. After about 8 weeks, I eased myself back into a full-time schedule, but the gradual shift made it feel very manageable.
What did your team do? – Feeling supported has so many facets
I can’t say enough good things about the Republic team. There was some celebration (we tested “Republic had a baby” as a newsletter headline), but mostly incredible support by all team members. They shouldered the extra work, met me for quick work sessions at or near my home, and laughed with me when they were mistaken for my son’s dad at a coffee shop. (Yes, let’s be honest––it’s not a typical work set-up.)
So you just work from home? – No, but a flexible work culture makes a difference
At Republic, everyone feels like a part owner, works hard, and does their best to build the company. And often people do so in the setting that work best for them. That can mean working from home every now and then, keeping a somewhat odd schedule, or even taking a few weeks per year to work on a different continent to be close to family. While we’re by no means a virtual team, we’ve learned to measure and value output over physical office presence. This flexibility not only enables short-term remote work, it empowers me to pursue a meaningful career while raising kids.
All in all – this isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have an incredibly interesting job that I doubt I would’ve found at a larger organization. My (almost) exclusively-male team at Republic is supportive and inclusive––and with so many stories about tech bros, sexism in tech, and workplace discrimination––I can’t emphasize that enough. Last, but definitely not least––and this isn’t the subject of this post––it takes the unconditional support and help from family, friends, and caretakers to make this work. Motherhood and entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but we won’t move towards more diversity and equality if we don’t try.
Caroline spent 7 years at McKinsey before joining Republic as our COO. She holds an MBA from Harvard, and a Masters from the London School of Economics. This post originally appeared on her LinkedIn.