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Fighting for Employment and Equality: Fairygodboss Co-founders Share their Story of Entrepreneurship

Following the release of our recent report, A Decade in Review: Funding to the Female Founders, Crunchbase is highlighting female founders who are paving the way for the next generation of glass-ceiling-smashers. Our “Female Founder Series” consists of stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from female founders who overcame the odds, raised funding and are now leading successful companies.


Fairygodboss is the world’s largest career community for women and the best place for women to find a job. The group works with hundreds of employers that are committed to advancing gender equality and its mission is to improve the workplace by increasing transparency.

Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder, and Romy Newman, president and co-founder, share the challenges they’re facing as a resource for women seeking jobs amidst rising unemployment rates, and their journey to becoming recently funded female founders.

Fairygodboss for Crunchbase Female FoundersRomy Newman (left), Georgene Huang (right)

 

Q: How and why did you become an entrepreneur?

Georgene: I always knew I wanted to start and run my own company one day. I didn’t know when I was going to do it, but I was always interested in the idea. My father is an entrepreneur  and I grew up in Silicon Valley. I thought the innovation and excitement of building something from the ground up was extremely appealing, despite the risk.

When I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of a management shakeup while also secretly two months pregnant, I realized it was finally time to take the entrepreneurial leap into something I was passionate about: Increasing transparency in the workplace and connecting talented female candidates with great employers. 

While I was looking for a job during that time, I felt really pressured to hide my pregnancy. Even though I wanted to ask certain questions around benefits and policies like maternity leave and work-life balance during my interviews, I feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career. There wasn’t any place I could turn to and find answers, and I knew I wasn’t the only woman in the world thinking these same questions.

So while it was my choice to start this entrepreneurial journey, I also started Fairygodboss out of necessity and with the intention to make the workplace better for women everywhere. 

 

Q: In the current economic climate, how are you adjusting your business strategy? 

Georgene & Romy: There are 73 million women who work in the U.S., and our vision has always been to provide a supportive and informative community for all of them to advance in and manage their careers. Now more than ever, we’re committed to helping women find jobs they love and connecting employers with extremely talented and qualified candidates. We just launched Your Professional Profile on the site, which will help support our goals in this challenging environment. This new feature is designed to increase transparency in the job application process and create a better experience for both candidates and recruiters. While this is something we’ve been working on for months, the timing of our launch, although unfortunate, has positioned us to be even more important in a time of great job loss and uncertainty. 

In response to the current pandemic, we’re really focused on providing support and virtual resources for job seekers and women battling to maintain their sanity and responsibilities. For our corporate partners and employers we’re providing resources to help them manage employee retention and engagement, especially for those who are pausing on their hiring activities.

 

Q: How did this economic downturn impact your fundraising process?

Georgene: We were planning to raise a large Series B this year, but we are now planning on operating more leanly so we can be selective about the right type and amount of financing, even if it has to wait until next year. On a positive note, this gives us more time to focus on improving our product and continuing to grow our community. Any time we can focus on that is extremely valuable. 

 

Q: Being the founders of a career community for women, what is your approach to helping employ more women in this challenging time?

Georgene & Romy: Fairygodboss has always been a free resource for individuals and, due to all of our offerings being virtual in nature, we’re glad that we’ve been able to provide some comfort for those struggling in today’s world. We’ve already started to increase our slate of virtual programming, create new groups where people can connect to share their thoughts or resources that have helped them, and we look to highlight positive stories during an otherwise negative time. With our new professional profiles option, we’re supporting women looking for new roles and opportunities with employers who are committed to gender equality. 

 

Q: You recently raised an impressive $10 million Series A. Can you walk us through that process? 

Georgene: When we went to raise our Series A, our approach was not very different from our Angel round. Our pitch was obviously more refined and practiced, but the fundamental story of our vision and traction has not changed. Our business metrics, of course, had gotten significantly more impressive. A fellow founder once told me that an angel round is in many ways the hardest round because not only do you have the least amount of traction, there is also no established prospect list of who you should approach for investment capital. 

The more developed your startup becomes, the more clarity you will have about which funds and VCs to approach (because they are of a certain size, invest in companies at a particular stage of growth and/or in a particular industry). By definition, it’s also much more likely that by the time you raise your Series A you’ve already built a network of investor relationships you can call upon and you are therefore not starting from scratch.

Raising funding can certainly be difficult, regardless of who you are, but recent data has shown that female founders only received 3 percent of venture funding in 2019. So if you’re starting a company with products or services catering to women, you have to spend even more time thinking about how to convince a potential investor (who is, statistically speaking, very likely to be an older, white male) that you are solving a real and important problem. In our case, our Series A was co-led by GSV Accelerate and Signal Peak Ventures, both of whom we already knew.

 

Q: What is your advice for women, or anyone, who is seeking a job right now?

Georgene & Romy: The future is extremely uncertain right now, but please don’t become discouraged. While there are many companies that have put their hiring processes on hold, there are also a lot of companies still hiring and some that have had to increase the number of jobs they’re looking to fill. Approach the job search how you would normally, but put an emphasis on your digital presence and virtual networking.

People are spending more time online than ever before, so take some time to send thoughtful connections and messages to potential hiring managers or individuals you want to network with. There are many resources on our site or online about how to pursue positions you’re interested in and can help brush up on virtual interview tips so you can make a great first digital impression. Explore new resources you might not have otherwise, and use everything you can find to help you through the process.

 

Fairygodboss for Crunchbase female founder series

 

Q: Any additional points you’d like to get across about your business, or yourselves as female founders?

Georgene & Romy: One of the main explanations for why women don’t advance more in the workplace has always been that primary caregivers (who are more often female employees) have a greater need for remote working and flexible schedules. What’s so interesting about this time is that we’re all suddenly working remotely on schedules that are necessarily flexible. So it will be interesting to see how this moment changes the way we work for good, and we hope that the new world order could be one that is much more supportive of working parents.

 


Georgene Huang is obsessed with improving the workplace for women. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss, the world’s largest career community for women, providing millions of women with career connections, jobs, career advice and hard-to-find intel about how companies treat women. Previously she ran the enterprise business at Dow Jones and was a managing director at Bloomberg Ventures. She is a graduate of Cornell and Stanford universities.

 

Romy Newman is co-founder and president of Fairygodboss, a business with the mission to improve the workplace for women everywhere. Before venturing into the crazy world of entrepreneurship, Newman ran digital advertising sales and operations at The Wall Street Journal, and also worked in marketing at Google and Estee Lauder. She studied American studies, literature and art at Yale, and many more practical things at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Newman is a frequent speaker and contributor to Fortune, Huffington Post and Inc. She is a proud mother of two, wife to a very supportive husband and a devoted yogi and crossword puzzle lover who is highly motivated to bring better performance and productivity to our companies and our country by making the workplace work better for women.

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