SM: It is incredibly challenging to have a career, let alone be an entrepreneur, and have a baby.
JH: I feel very strongly that I can create an environment where women who have a skill and are talented and driven are welcomed at our company. I just hired a head of customer experience who had a baby eight months ago. I have been talking to a lot of different candidates who had children nine to twelve months ago and feel they are ready to get back into the workforce. They feel that the maternity leave program we have set up in our country is not realistic.
I am personally making the commitment to not be a hypocrite. It is what it is, and I want to accept and acknowledge the fact that there is a huge amount of talent out there that has dropped out of the workforce. It is interesting because I am friends with a lot of women who are extremely talented and driven, and they put it into their kids. This may be controversial, but kids were not meant to be managed. People put their own ambitions into their children.
I think that everyone copes differently. What Kevin and I have cannot be replicated on a number of levels. At the same time, I feel there has to be a happy medium. It is not going to happen overnight. I feel as though women can be empowered, where they can have leadership roles and have a family, and I can be a part of that on a grassroots level. It is definitely not the easiest path to cut.
SM: The question that remains is if you can be an entrepreneur and have a baby on your own. This question comes up a lot among younger women in the workforce. They want to do it all and think they can. I am conjecturing quite a bit, but most women want to have children rather than have careers. If you are faced with one or the other, that is a difficult choice.
JH: It is biology. There is not much we can do about that. I know a fair number of people who have one child because they want to go on with their career. They want the two-year disruption and not the six-year disruption.
I think there should be a partnership in every entrepreneurial venture. Saddling a project on one person has its faults. It does not necessarily have to be your spouse, but to make something really great you have to have more than one mind behind it.
SM: Evidence does not suggest that conclusion. The greatest entrepreneurs are solo leaders such as Steve Jobs. Obviously, you can be successful in other ways, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are not a solo act. If there is a failure in the relationship or partnership, it is much more complex to unravel. As you said, you need clear lines and a defined game plan.
JH: Keeping that in perspective, I think we find that most women would choose their own families over their career ambitions. It is a unique situation for each person, but generally women would choose having children over having a career. Funny enough, what is happening now is that women are trying to delay having children as long as possible, and then they run into problems having a child.
It is a greater challenge. If you are an entrepreneur and you have your own family with a child, you have to instill principles of prioritization. My model is to find my vortex of happiness. A woman who is running her own company and has children at home clearly needs a lot of support and must also be willing to sacrifice.
SM: We live in a place that is full of immigrants without family around, or where people do not live near their parents. The situation you have with your mother and in-laws is not available to them, and there may be no choice but to pay for daycare or hire a nanny. There are a lot of choices that must be made that are suboptimal choices.
JH: They are also very resource intensive. When you are not making a salary it is hard to pay a nanny. Kevin and I work for below-market salaries. I will never forget when someone who worked with us said, “Hey, Julia’s salary goes toward the nanny.” I had never thought of it like that, but people do.