It’s a twist on the classic origin story: in 2014, Georgene Huang was two months pregnant when she was unexpectedly fired from her executive-level finance job in a management shakeup at a Fortune 50 firm.
It was then when she had an “a-ha” moment, says Georgene. Despite her Stanford and Cornell education, plus 10 years of experience in the male-dominated fields of law and finance, she saw for the first time that her career prospects and job search were suddenly different.
As a mother-to-be, she was looking for companies with generous maternity leave policies and flextime. She also wanted to find an organization with a culture that prioritizes gender equality on all fronts.
But when she began her job search, Georgene didn’t find what she needed. Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn were already firmly established resources for job seekers, but they weren’t focused on female candidates.
“I found that both of those major sites didn’t serve me,” she explains. “I believed that they didn’t serve the 70 million women of the American workforce as well as they could.”
She launched Fairygodboss just months later, as an answer to what she saw was missing in the job search/career development market.
Today, the platform is the largest online career community for women (though male allies are welcome too). Fairygodboss offers job listings, employer profiles, anonymous employee reviews and a daily feed where users can post either anonymously or under their real names.
Its content is geared toward topics that appeal to most career-oriented women: information about companies’ compensation, benefits, culture and leadership, as well as advice articles and podcasts, a robust social media feed and an exclusive job board populated with listings from Fortune 1000 companies.
The Fairygodboss community resonates deeply with both users and employers who post jobs on the platform. In March, Georgene and her co-founder Romy Newman wrapped a $10 million Series A to grow their brand.
“We’re creating support for women who are career-minded, regardless of whether they’re looking for a job for the first time or the seventh time, or changing careers, and everything in between,” Georgene says.
Read on for her thoughts about gender equity, building community, the art of the elevator pitch and how companies can be better workplaces for women.
Transparent as a glass slipper
On Fairygodboss, users onboard by answering specific questions about their careers so far. The platform responds with a customized user experience. “We care a lot about user behavior and data,” says Georgene.
Members can easily search for jobs, research data about salary and benefits, and learn what other women say about working for a particular company or department.
Job seekers are drawn to the 70,000-plus jobs listed by Fairygodboss’ employer partners, which are mostly Fortune 1000 companies, Georgene says.
While those companies are “by no means are perfect, they’re actively invested in recruiting more women and making their companies better for women,” she notes.
“If you find a job on the site, it means that somebody cares about hiring women, and they do it. Every job listing includes its company’s employee review ratings.”
Unlike Glassdoor, which asks for pros and cons of a job and a user’s advice to management, Fairygodboss specifically asks about a user’s experience as a woman at a company. Questions include: “do you think you’re treated equally and paid fairly?” and, “do you think your CEO cares about gender diversity?”
Members can add their opinions about the organizational culture, specifically as it affects women. They have the option to choose between obscuring their faces and resumes or publicly whistleblowing negative aspects of their former companies. The Fairygodboss community often shares “invasive, but useful” reviews, Georgene notes. And since members can toggle between identity and anonymity, “our users tell their stories in a way that they couldn’t before.”
Beyond the ball –– er, job search
Only about 20 percent of Fairygodboss users are active job seekers, Georgene says. “The other people are there because they’re thinking about some kind of life change, planning for it, and getting advice.”
A typical Fairygodboss member might be starting a family, recently married, or just looking for advice on navigating their industry, she explains.
“We’ve evolved from just being a review site to understanding that women need counsel and support at different times –– not just when they’re looking for a job.”
A charming business
Fairygodboss is built on a B2B model. Employers purchase an annual subscription that enables them to post jobs and maintain a branded profile page.
The company’s sales strategy is surgically precise.
“We go to the HR departments of mostly Fortune 1000 companies,” explains Georgene. “Since we’re still small, we’re targeting the biggest budgets.”
Her pitch focuses on how those clients can use Fairygodboss to recruit female candidates while telling their own brand stories to millions of women.
As they grow the company, the co-founders are “running both a marathon and a sprint,” Georgene says. “We’ve always had a long-term vision that we continue to steadily chip away at. A community doesn’t just form out of air, spontaneously. You have to do a lot of things to nurture it, cultivate it, observe it. But you can’t control how a community evolves. You can nudge it, but then it spreads as the market develops.”
Fairygodboss launched in what might seem like a different era. Georgene notes that though the company is only four-and-a-half years old, the world looks much different now than in 2015. “We launched before Hillary Clinton ran for president, before #MeToo, that’s how much has happened since then,” she says.
The power of story
In 2019, what should an employer do to be a great place for women?
“Women aren’t a monolith,” Georgene says. “No place is perfect for every kind of person, much less every kind of woman.
“Some women want to become the CEO and other women really don’t. They might just care about –– or maybe they’re in a phase of their life where they’re focused on –– family and caretaking. They want to come in, do their job and leave, but have their work-life balance respected.”
Overall, culture is what matters to most female candidates. It’s great when an organization improves its maternity-leave benefits, but that isn’t enough, Georgene says.
“That’s only one part of a woman’s life. Even if you have multiple kids like I do, that’s still only x number of years.”
She sees “a lot of companies try a lot of different things” to improve gender equity and promote a female-friendly culture. But they have to talk about it, says Georgene. “Tell women that you’re trying, because no place is perfect.”
Her advice to job seekers? It’s also about telling a story –– yours.
“I’m always surprised at how many people don’t have an elevator pitch for themselves,” Georgene observes.
Women tend to be less self-promotional than men. But she encourages women to think in terms of what they can offer, not just what they need.
“Job seekers often represent themselves in terms of ‘what I want,’ as opposed to thinking about what a company wants to know: ‘what can you do for us?’”