The Mom Project: Allison Robinson’s Resonating Story of Rewriting Working Mom Narrative

As regards career path, women usually have the short end of the stick, finding themselves struggling to break through the glass ceiling for promotions compared to their male counterparts, especially when they become a parent. The Mom Project was born for rewriting the working mom narrative.
Allison Robinson with her two kids at the office
Source: Crain's Chicago Business
By | 11 min read

Founded by Allison Robinson who took the spark of an idea of getting moms back into the workforce after they take parental leave, the Mom Project is more than a philanthropic cause; rather, it’s a business that is expected to blanket the nation, then the world. Turning recruitment into a movement, this Chicago-based startup aims to “connect talented women with world‐class employers that respect work and life integration.”

Let’s read on to grasp the ins and outs of The Mom Project as well as why Robinson’s mission to rewrite the working-mom narrative is so resonating.

Allison Robinson: From “Selling Diapers” to “Changing Diapers”

Now with over 300,000 talented professionals and 2,000 partner companies in its network, The Mom Project, just like several other inspirational and impactful startups, was born in 2016 out of a simple thought by Allison Robinson when she was on maternity leave from a strategy role at Pampers.

“An estimated 43% of highly skilled women leave the workforce after becoming mothers. This is the jarring statistic I read while on maternity leave from Procter & Gamble with my first child. I started to imagine a future where women would not have to choose between parenthood and their careers, and could not stop thinking about what a real solution might look like. Inspired by the birth of my first son and on behalf of moms everywhere, I founded The Mom Project in 2016,” shared Robinson on a written statement posted on the company site.

Indeed, the math of women’s jobs seems to be simple yet extraordinarily disturbing. Based on a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, over 60 percent of college graduates with bachelor’s degrees are women; yet, 43 percent of women in professional roles end up leaving their careers, typically at the stage when family life becomes busier and increasingly complex, involving all types of relationship, family and eventually, eldercare issues. Such a pipeline is so leaky that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s workforce participation has been on the decline since 1999. Specifically, staggeringly 865,000 women did drop out of the labor force in September — four times the number of men.

The Mom Project website
Courtesy: The Mom Project

Even, when it comes to moms – those who make the decision of returning to work after maternity leave, in addition to additional daily hurdles of child-caring, they typically have to come up against all of the usual issues of newly needing more time flexibility, wondering whether their skills are still current enough and so on. Notwithstanding that, the average recruitment process, or job sites in general, do not really take steps to account for any of these pressing concerns.

On the other hand, from the employees’ perspective, the marketplace gaps do also exist. Businesses, whether they are large-scale corporations or SMB businesses— have long started off rethinking and reshaping how they hire and retain outstanding personnel within the overall competition for talent. Beyond any doubt, building out a diverse and inclusive workforce, involving more women from various walks of life, not only emerges as a strategically wise move to win talents and earn competitive edges but also contributes to better work culture as a whole. That’s a fact that a great number of employers have recognized independently or have simply been thrown into the spotlight unwittingly – and at present are making tough efforts to fix.

There haven’t been, nevertheless, a myriad of viable opportunities for them to pursue more diverse hiring practices. Recently, LinkedIn has made a tiny move into promoting diversity in the recruitment process by at least enabling recruiters to actively search their job candidate results by gender. Though, this is still a far cry from actually addressing the specific predicaments that these particular segments of the working population have, which, also, has not yet figured out how to allow them to connect better with employers who might be keen to bring more of them on through recruitment.

Actually, the business concept of fostering advanced job search for education-backed workers in specific cases is actually a truly fascinating and potential one that shows there is definitely still room for innovation within the recruitment landscape. For instance, Handshake earlier this year raised $40 million for its own take on this, by offering a better LinkedIn-style platform to connect minority University Graduates with attractive job opportunities at companies that are keen to drive a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

“Companies have started to realize the value in building a diverse workforce, but we still have a long way to go in achieving equal representation and opportunities,” stated Julia Taxin, a partner at Grotech Ventures and new Mom Project board member.

At that moment, the Mom Project was born to tackle the challenges at both ends of the spectrum. “I saw an enormous opportunity — an economic opportunity to help more women find work that would satisfy them professionally and personally,” Allison Robinson shared in an interview with Insider. “It’s just the right thing to do and it’s good business.”

Allison Robinson in Chicago office
Source: Crain’s Chicago Business

On the employer side, Robinson said there is plenty of education efforts to be expedited, which includes talking to HR people and getting them to understand the opportunity they could unlock by hiring more parents — which tend to be almost entirely all-women, but sometimes men, too. “We want to provide more data to these companies,” she commented, stressing out that it’s not just a matter of offer job opportunities, but also giving women, especially ones with children handy options in such areas as childcare, or flexible working schedules. “We want to show them ‘here is where you are doing well, and here is where you are not. Fixes don’t cost a lot of money, but a lot of companies are just not aware.”

Regarding this, Julia Taxin did comment, “Allison and her team have built an incredible marketplace of diverse talent for companies and I look forward to working with The Mom Project to execute on their vision of helping to close the gender gap in the workplace.”

Alda Leu Dennis, partner at Initialized Capital and new Mom Project board member, also voiced her viewpoints, “The Mom Project is determined to create a future where women aren’t forced to choose between their families and their careers”. She added, “there is a huge pool of experienced talent, parents, and non-parents, that is sometimes overlooked because companies haven’t created the kind of diverse, flexible workplace culture that attracts and retains them. Initialized wants to be part of making this cultural shift happen.”

With regards to women employees’ interests, not only does the Mom Project stand as a platform known to people who are considering a return to work, but it also offers some fundamental, but very pivotal basics, including:

  • RISE – a scholarship program committed to accelerating equity for moms of color, granting access to upskill certifications while harnessing the power of community, support, and job placement—all in as little as three months and at no cost to participants.
  • RALLY – a community-driven program uniquely tailored to moms (and mom advocates) to connect with other community gurus one-on-one to meet, teach, learn, and grow.
  • Resume Rev – self-explanatory, this provides a basis for women to craft and design compelling resumes, allowing them to “concisely communicate their story on paper” and form “the first step to starting the next chapter of their career journey”.
  • Unity Hour – a virtual event series, which covers a plethora of themes and features an expert on each session and topic. This aims to offer women expert-proven insights, which prepare and empower them to thrive in the workplace.
  • UNITY program – a recent movement built to support individual job seekers impacted by COVID-19 hardships by pairing them with incredible professional coaches and recruiting/talent professionals. Its goal is to connect 1,000 women, moms, parents, and advocates that have been recently laid off or furloughed with supportive coaching and services to aid in their job search.

The Mom Project: The Chicago-Based Company Rings up $25M by July & Stands High Chances of Becoming 1-Billion “Unicorn” in Startup Lingo

Over recent years, the Mom Project has been on a meteoric rise.  Since December 2018, it has doubled the number of organizations posting jobs on the platform to 2,000, consisting of numerous major tech companies and other brands such as Facebook, Nike, Uber, Apple, Google, and Twitter. Remarkably, the company has also made an acquisition of a startup called Werk to add analytics tools for its business customers.

The Mom Project staff
Source: The Mom Project

Accordingly, the funding comes on the heels of some significant traction for The Mom Project. By July 2nd, the company announced the close of a $25 million Series B fundraises. This funding round is being led by 7GC — a VC that has backed the likes of Jio (the Indian juggernaut hitting the jackpot right now), Cheddar (the media platform acquired by Altice), and fintech Acorns — with participation also from Citi, Synchrony, High Alpha and Silicon Valley Bank, alongside existing investors, Initialized Capital, Grotech Ventures, OCA Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Wintrust Financial, IrishAngels and Engage Ventures.

Since its inception in 2016, The Mom Project has raised a total of $35.6 million, which includes an $8 million Series A round of funding in 2018.

Discussing the rationale for investing in the Mom Project while just “a tiny portion of VC funds goes to women”, Reddit co-founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian shared in a talk show with CNBC, “It’s a huge business opportunity. We have some very clear views about the future of work and one of those views is that especially for professionals, there is going to be a huge opportunity unlocked because of work that can be done remotely and with the efficiencies of a better marketplace. Its supply meeting demand: These are talented women and some dads who have high-value skills who just have not been able to easily connect with the firms that are demanding this kind of contract or project-based work before. And she [Allison Robinson] has got them on the platform”

These funding amounts are projected to be leveraged for the expansion of the company’s product offerings and partnerships, as well as aim at introducing new ways to support women throughout their motherhood journey, beyond their job search.

“We’re in a unique moment in time where companies are embracing flexible work and prioritizing inclusion, and are excited to rapidly accelerate our efforts to unlock the potential of moms in the workplace. Our latest round of funding will help expand our Enterprise product suite, build out our mom community engagement strategy, and engage with more small business customers,” stated Robinson in a written statement. “Together we’ve proven that hiring, retaining, and supporting moms and caregivers isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s great for business, and we’re empowered by the scale of impact we can achieve with this round of funding.”

Earlier this year, the company announced that tennis icon, investor and mom advocate Serena Williams will serve as a strategic advisor to further mobilize the mission. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a team of one or 100,000; if you’re hiring, are you considering hiring moms?” said Ms. Williams. “Together, we can influence how work gets done and build a better workplace for the future.”

Serena Williams partner with The Mom Project to promote the female workforce
Source: The Business Journal

Furthermore, a $1 billion valuation – a “unicorn” in startup lingo – is likely for the Mom Project just because Robinson figured out exactly how to link that underutilized segment of the workforce with the employers who need their talent.

Actually, Robinson embodies what she’s promoting: At the age of 32, she’s married -husband Gregory is her chief operating officer/chief financial officer – and also become the mother of two boys. “I’m tenacious, a problem-solver,” stated Robinson. From her standpoint, entrepreneurship is always a goal: having kids jump-started that plan by opening her eyes to the “universal challenges” of being a working parent. “No to her is a maybe, and maybe leads to a yes,” commented James Dugan, CEO of OCA Ventures and a Mom Project adviser who led a $2.6 million initial investment round for the company.

Allison Robinson and her kid at the park
Source: Glamour

When it comes to the company’s growth prospect, the Mom Project is going to present in six markets including New York and San Francisco. “There’s this untapped pool that companies are eager to tap into,” Robinson said, “and they look to us as the source.”

The Bottom Line

When it comes to career path, to a certain extent, women have had the short end of the stick, regularly finding themselves struggling to break through the glass ceiling for promotions and on average getting paid less than their male counterparts. That situation often gets compounded when the woman in question is a parent, getting too overwhelmed to strike a work-life balance. And this is where the Mom Project by Allison Robinson comes into place, heading towards the ultimate goals of empowering women and rewriting the working mom narrative.

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