Girl POWER w/ FairyGodBoss CEO Romy Newman
Think Glassdoor has a monopoly on employee reviews? Think again.
Fairygodboss is one of the hottest startups hoping to help women breakthrough the glass ceiling and inspire companies to be more transparent. In this podcast, the boys explore the current state of the business with co-founder Romy Newman, as well as reveal how employers can make themselves a more diverse and inclusive place.
Enjoy this Nexxt exclusive.
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Tim Sackett: Hi, I'm Tim Sackett, and you're listening to the Chad and Cheese Podcast. I'm not sure why you are, but hey, you do you.
Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark, buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.
Joel: All right, all right, all right. It's take two, with Fairygodboss, thanks to some technical glitches, Romy Newman, president and co-founder of Fairygodboss, thanks for coming.
Romy: Yeah, they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but here it is.
Joel: But so a little bit of an intro, you're president and co-founder of Fairygodboss.
Romy: That's right.
Joel: You've had experience working at Google, Wall Street Journal, and Estee Lauder, a few small companies no one has ever heard of, and have college degrees from Yale, a little school in the Ivy League, and Northwestern-
Joel: ... Kellogg School of Business. So you're added to the long list of people who are way smarter than we are, so welcome to the show. What did I miss?
Romy: What did you miss? Let's see, I do run Fairygodboss, which I'm really proud to say has now over 50 employees out of New York City.
Romy: We are the largest career community for women, and we're used by about four million women every month to connect, share advice, research information and job reviews, and apply to jobs.
Joel: Are you global yet, or are those all domestic, North American traffic?
Romy: So about 20% of our traffic now is global, coming particularly-
Joel: Oh, wow.
Romy: ... from two markets, the UK and India. So that's really exciting.
Romy: Yeah, and I have to just say that I'm also extremely proud that we work with over 100 major Fortune 500 U.S. companies, including companies like Apple and Microsoft and Bank of America and Goldman Sachs and Unilever and General Motors and IBM, and we help all those companies attract great female job seekers, and position those companies to be the types of places that women will want to apply to jobs at.
Joel: Now one thing you failed to mention is you have had 14 million in funding, including 10 million in fusion earlier this year.
Romy: That's how we have 50 employees, yes.
Joel: Yeah, exactly. So my point was, I was going to ask you where the money's going but I assume it's hiring people.
Romy: And snacks, [crosstalk 00:02:41].
Joel: Are you hiring engineers, sales people? What else is the money going toward?
Romy: So we have an amazing engineering team, and I have to say we have an extraordinary CTO who has a really fabulous vision for our product. So for example, some of the major improvements we've made to our product over time have been to build a customized, personalize feed for our users, so when you come in ... Our goal is to become a daily habit for career-minded women. And so now our users when they come to our site are having a personalized experience based on the topics they've participated in before, based on jobs they've researched before, based on where they live, based on connections they have.
Romy: So not unlike a feed in Linkedin or Facebook, we've got a fabulous feed as our landing page for locked in users. We also have introduced in the last few months kind of smart job suggesting, so both within our tool and then via email, job seekers receive suggested jobs based on their search history.
Joel: And do you guys have apps or not?
Romy: Not yet.
Joel: Is that coming?
Romy: Let's put it this way, we haven't started working on it yet, but it's certainly something that comes up, you know, about every 30 minutes in conversation.
Chad: I'm sure, I'm sure. There are plenty of things you can do. When you start to get money, it's like oh, we could do all this stuff. Well, in some cases it's let's focus on the core. And that being said, you guys have a very unique story of how you started and where you started, and I think it's unique from the standpoint of most women went through what your co-founder went through, but she took action to be able to create Fairygodboss. So tell us about that.
Romy: Yes. So my co-founder and I met at the Wall Street Journal. We actually both reported to the same manager for a while, but we actually did not know each other very well. I think it's important to say that I had a fabulous experience at the Wall Street Journal. I had managers, male and female, who really supported me in every way, and I have no complaints to register. I think my co-founder had a less positive experience that was not specifically based on gender, but she was very senior and there was a big management shake up and she'd been a top performer, but then out of nowhere, she lost her job.
Romy: So the issue was that when that happened, she was two months pregnant with her second child. So nobody knew she was pregnant, she wasn't telling anyone, she wasn't showing, but it meant that she was immediately going to have to embark on a job search, during which it would be obvious that she was pregnant and she would be taking a job and leaving on maternity leave almost right after. So it put into really sharp focus for her that she wanted to be able to know before even setting foot in a company for an interview, before even sending in an application, she wanted to know is this a company that really supports women in the workplace? Is this a company that will support me while I go out on maternity leave? Is this a company that will let me be a senior manager and a mother at the same time? Is this a company where there's evidence of other women that are willing to go on the record and say, "I had a great experience here"?
Romy: And so as you know, the world has become a real job seeker's market, job seekers have a ton of power, they have a ton of information. But the information that was available to them prior to introducing Fairygodboss didn't answer the very specific set of questions that Georgine, my co-founder, as a female job seeker had. How does this company treat women? Can I expect to have similar opportunities? What will my success look like here? And so that's where I say she's the real entrepreneur because she saw white space and she said, "Instead of finding a job, I'm going to build this solution." And that was four years ago.
Romy: She approached me to be her co-founder, and it just seemed too exciting not to try and so here we are.
Chad: That's awesome. A platformer company formed out of need and, I would say, you have 4 million women every month coming back to the site. Now you talk about obviously I would think some of the topics would be not being mommy tracked, salary, discrepancies. What else are women coming to the site for? Are they coming for resources, or are you guys actually providing advocacy for them as well?
Romy: Yeah, jobs. We are a platform, so we have this amazing community of engaged women, and at varying ranges of experience from in college all the way up through the ranks to senior level. We have a lot of career coaches. So a main use for our platform is a community member coming on and posting, and I think a real differentiator of our community compared to a LinkedIn or a Facebook is that our members have an opportunity to post anonymously. So for example, a member could come and post, "I've just been promoted and I found out that a man who reports to me is making more than I make as his manager. What do I do about this?"
Romy: And we don't necessarily answer that question, but someone from our community will jump in right away and answer it. We had a really kind of robust and difficult conversation going back and forth this week about a woman who had been out of the workforce for 15 years and she wanted to come back in, but she was being told she wouldn't be able to come in at the same level that she'd left at. And there was a real intense debate among the community about whether she should accept a step down in the title or whether she should fight to maintain the same title.
Chad: Shouldn't that be an early warning system to these companies? Because this is a community that's having a discussion around their brand in many cases.
Romy: So in these discussions, they often don't ... There's not a company associated with it. So there's two ways to contribute content to our platform for uses. One is just sort of general discussion, and then yes, you're absolutely right, in our company reviews, individuals anonymously assess companies, and it absolutely is an early warning system, and should be monitored just as companies monitor Glassdoor. And what's interesting is that a differentiator I think for Glassdoor is, I think we surveyed our users and the main reason women are leaving reviews is to help each other. I think there's this feeling that if we can empower each other with information, there's real opportunity to just support women. The concept of our name is all about women helping women and the idea is that you can simply help women advance in the workplace just by sharing a little bit about your experience.
Romy: And the idea is that so now, women are sharing reviews on our site to help each other versus just critiquing management.
Joel: So I'm glad you mentioned the name, and I'm always curious about how companies come to a name, what other names were on the table that they scrapped. Is there a story behind Fairygodboss, because it is a fairy unique name?
Romy: Absolutely. So when we launched, we were looking for a name that did a few different things. Number one, we were trying to communicate that any member of the community was somebody helping women. Number two, we wanted something that wasn't very serious, because we knew that this topic can get so serious, but we wanted to note that this is a place you can have serious conversation, but also it's not academic. It's not going to be a slog to participate. And then the third thing was we wanted something that, we always knew that SEO was going to be a major source of traffic for us, and it is, and we wanted something that was really unique in terms of a URL, and so that's how we chose Fairygodboss.
Joel: And you also mentioned Glassdoor, and I'm curious because you are in a very competitive space. You're in a space where you could argue you already have Coke and Pepsi, and at this point you're hoping to be Dr. Pepper or Fanta. Is that a fair argument, or are you looking to be something bigger? Are you looking to take on Glassdoor or just be a nice little niche here for the female demographic?
Romy: I'm trying to work on my soft drink analogy to play back to you.
Romy: But I think we may want to be coconut water. But essentially, here's my view. There are fabulous generalist sites out there, right? Indeed, Glassdoor, and Linkedin, to name a few. But I don't think ... Our research indicates extensively, and LinkedIn's research backs this up as well, men and women do not represent themselves the same way in the job search, and they don't look for jobs the same way.
Romy: And so with that in mind, there is real room and opportunity for an environment that is tailored for women both from the employer side and certainly from the user side. So I think there's a real future for us to coexist. We never would say to a company, "Buy us instead of Glassdoor." That would not be a winning strategy. But if you are concerned about increasing diversity in your workforce, you should buy us in addition to Glassdoor.
Chad: So recently, Facebook has pretty much neutered their targeting, which means from a job standpoint, you can't actually target females. If you want to look for female engineers because your current talent pool is very male-heavy, you can't start to target females within the Facebook platform. Two things-
Romy: With a job description, right?
Chad: Yeah, with a job description. So two things, first and foremost, do you think that was the right decision made by Facebook, number one, and number two, is that just a great opportunity for Fairygodboss, because now they can come to you because you are the target demo?
Romy: Yes. So number one, I don't think it was a bad decision, but I think it was made on the slippery slope argument premise, right? It's not that per se a company is wrong to say, "I would like more women to apply for this job." But I think there's all kinds of bad directions that could go in, too, and I think it was just sort of to nip it in the bud. For us, yeah, it presents tremendous opportunity. I think particularly because I believe the way job opportunities are communicated and the way company benefits, and I don't just mean healthcare benefits, but the features and benefits of why someone would want to work at a company, need to be communicated differently to female job seekers. And we are experts in that, and we have a platform that already engages four million women a month.
Romy: So certainly, it is a tremendous opportunity for us. We also lean heavily on Facebook and Instagram, but rather than using demographic targeting, we really focus on creating content that we think appeals to the right audiences, telling the stories that we think will resonate with them, and then allowing the audience to self-select. So for example, a person who's interested in reading a story about why this woman thrives at the company is likely to be a female professional woman and maybe even a female job seeker, and that's how we can increase our reach beyond even our existing users for our partner companies.
Chad: So do you do that for companies? So they obviously come to you because you can help them within your current community, but also externally within their own website and other sites, like the LinkedIns or the Indeeds or what have you. Do you help them more in a holistic way or is it just really focused on the platform that you guys have at Fairygodboss?
Romy: No, I view our key value to a company is that we help make more women want to think about working at that company. We help more women consider a role at that company, and so we do that predominantly through content. We have an amazing editorial team. We produce seven original editorial articles a day about things like how to ask your boss for a raise or there was one I saw today about how to make yourself the most well-liked person in the office. Great content, and sometimes it will be like do you really have to wear pantyhose? It's all over the map.
Romy: But for our partners, we put this editorial team to work and they create content about our partners, and this team has spent a lot of time doing data-driven analysis on the types of content that resonate with the types of populations our companies are trying to reach. And so it's a real added value benefit that we provide for our partners and then we use that, yes, we put that content in all of our communications and in our daily emails, but then of course it goes out on our social channels as well.
Joel: You mentioned SEO being a major part of your driver of traffic, and I'm curious because you've also said in a previous discussion that your site is roughly 5% men, but obviously Google is not gender-specific in terms of searches.
Joel: So are you seeing a lot of searches for accounting jobs for women or what's it like for a woman to work at IBM? What are some of the queries that are driving such search traffic that isn't resulting in just a bunch of bounces because half of them are male?
Romy: Well, so first of all, I do believe some of the content cuts across, like one of our top searched terms is resume templates, so I think there's no reason somebody should bounce from ... It's still good advice, regardless of your gender.
Joel: Got you.
Romy: But best companies for women by far leads our search. There are things like gender discrimination or gender equality that drives search traffic for us as well, so you're right that we don't know that it's necessarily women, but they're terms that women are more likely to search, and again, our awesome editorial team does research on which terms women research the most. And particularly professional job seeking women, and they write about those terms.
Joel: It's commercial time.
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Chad: It's show time.
Joel: We had a topic on this week's show in regards to sort of the growth of TikTok, obviously Snapchat is very prevalent, particularly with younger folks, and we talked specifically on the show about accounts where people were, via video, talking about what it was like to work at certain companies. In the case of our show, we talked about a Walmart worker who had an actual account called Tom at Walmart or something where he would just talk about the company, particularly as an employer. And I'm curious, the review space has been around for roughly 10 to 15 years, and it's primarily been dominated by text, right? People type in what it's like to work at such and such company.
Joel: But it seems like the trend, particularly with young people, is moving toward more, "Hey, I'm going to take a short form video about what it's like to work at this company." So I'm curious, how do you and Glassdoor and others sort of evolve into this new world of video versus text-based reviewing?
Romy: I haven't given it a ton of thought, it's a really smart idea. I'm going to slap my co-founder right now. And by the way, I want you to know that I learned what TikTok was yesterday from my son's best friend.
Joel: There you go.
Chad: When you're in a long layover at an airport with Joel Cheesman, that's what he's doing, just so you know.
Romy: Got it.
Joel: Romy, when you have an opinion on that, please let us know, because I do think it will be something that all of you have to sort of tackle.
Romy: Yeah, how could it not? You look at the stuff that's going on right now with Amazon. It's critical.
Romy: It's definitely. There's no question that it's the future.
Chad: Right, right. Well, pivoting a little bit as we see companies say they're focused on equity, inclusion, but numbers aren't showing it in many cases, is gender equality really just a bunch of BS right now that companies are trying to throw at the machine instead of really putting grounded frameworks in place to ensure that they're getting the right types of individuals who are more diverse into their organization? It just doesn't seem like we're moving the dial fast enough.
Romy: You know why it doesn't seem like ... This, by the way, is like my favorite question, so thank you for asking me. The reason it doesn't feel like we're moving the dial-
Joel: Suck up.
Romy: ... fast enough is because we're not at all. According to the
World Economic Forum, we are 202 years away from achieving gender equality in the workplace at this current pace.
Chad: That is something that you just can't stand for, right? I mean-
Romy: No, yeah, it makes you wonder why I get up in the morning, right? But why I get up is I have a daughter who's five, and frankly, if we can all go crazy trying to accelerate that timeline, in my lifetime, I'm not going to see anything close to workplace gender equality, but maybe if we really get focused and deliberate, my daughter might. And so I think about that a lot.
Romy: But so in terms of what are the company's motivations, right, I see it that I think it's interesting, when Fairygodboss launched, it was 2015 and when we walked away saying we did career community for women, people thought we had three heads. Nobody does now, because the world has really changed a lot since then. But I think at first, people originally talked about diversity because it was kind of like a nice to have and it checked a box. Sometimes a board member might ask about it. Then came the whole Me Too movement, and I think there was a real kind of downside protection element to it where people were protecting it's reputational risk, etc., and having sort of a party line that they could trot out about okay, well, we're managing for diversity.
Romy: So then now today what I'm seeing in the zero unemployment world is fascinating. Companies are working hard to hire women because they can't find enough men for their job. So that's a real change, and you see there was an article recently in the Wall Street Journal about trucking and logistics companies that are hiring more and more female drivers and having to reposition themselves because they can't find any more men. Where I want the world to go is that everyone is investing in gender diversity and all kinds of diversity hiring because they know that it leads to better business results, and according to Morgan Stanley and others, you see that companies with more diverse leadership have better stock returns, right? And all corporations exist to drive shareholder value.
Romy: So if companies, I hope, will all really internalize the fact that this is a must, if you're fulfilling your fiduciary duty to your shareholders. If you want the best results you could have and your team is not diverse you're not delivering that.
Chad: So 200 years is not acceptable, first and foremost. I have two daughters, okay? Don't you feel like you at Fairygodboss almost owe it to the community to provide almost like an equality credit check for a lot of these companies, ones that you can actually see have diverse leadership teams and you can say, "Yes, they're high up on the radar because they are on the right mix. We know that it all starts from the top as it bleeds down." Is that something that you are moving toward, or is that just something that you just kind of push away and say, "Hey, it'll handle itself"?
Romy: Well, so, I try really hard not to editorialize about companies. I certainly have opinions, but I think my view is that the single best thing that every company can do to be more successful, more gender diverse, more gender equal is have more women at all ranks. And I think it doesn't serve ... I think companies who are investing regardless of where they are on their success spectrum in terms of diversity shouldn't be penalized, because really what I want is everyone wholeheartedly invested in hiring more women, bringing more women up through management, and I don't think slamming companies supports that at all.
Chad: Well, great, then in that case, taking a look at female versus male equity from top to bottom, and being able to provide kind of a credit check then. So yeah, I-
Romy: So we do have that, we have that. Again, not editorialized. So based on simply what female employees, like Glassdoor's ratings, we have a top rated companies for women and it's based entirely, I think in the best possible way, it's based on the fact that the female employees of these companies are going out and deliberately, positively representing their company and feel so strongly about it. So that's how we represent that.
Joel: Talking about what companies can do, I'm curious about what individuals can do. And Chad and I recently did an interview with Torin Ellis, who's a champion of diversity and inclusion, he's an African American man, and we asked him straight out, "What can two white guys do to help progress relations between a diverse universe?"
Romy: How can you female ally? Yes. And actually we have a whole conference devoted to this, so it's very topical. But I think what's interesting is especially in larger companies, what I see is that there's still a real disconnect between kind of the experiences that women have and what men perceive, and I certainly don't blame men for that. I think what the first step for everyone, for optimal kind of shortening the 200 year timeline, is much more direct communication.
Romy: To answer your question, I think the first thing you can do, any man can do, is approach women in the workplace and approach maybe if your company has a women's resource group and say, "Hey, I want to be a male ally. I'm raising my hand so put me to work. Let me help. Or I'd like to find out more about your experiences. Where have you found problems? Do you feel like there's inequality here, and if so, where have you seen it?" So just raising your hand, identifying yourself as someone who wants to know and wants to hear, and then when you hear it, doing something about it, and helping to light that fire.
Chad: Romy, I have a question around spending, okay? So in most cases, companies focus on their bottom line and how their bottom line's being impacted and how they treat their customers. Most companies don't see candidates as customers.
Romy: But more and more do, right?
Chad: Yeah, well, they're starting to, but they're not there yet. Now when women, at least some of the research that I've actually seen, women are driving 70% or more of consumer spending in the United States today. Is that not really just a big hammer to hit these companies over the head with and say, "Look, guys, this is impacting either positively or negatively your bottom line from a products, a service, or a total brand standpoint." What are you doing, Fairygodboss, or what can you do at Fairygodboss to take this banner and ride it all the way up to every Fortune 500 company, because this matters?
Romy: Right. Well, I mean, one of my favorite companies to talk about is General Motors, because they have a female CEO, a female CFO, half female board, and they've had like five or six years of record profit and stock price. And an interesting takeaway from them is they have a woman's network or woman's employee resource group as many companies do, and the way that the objective or the way that success of this woman's network is measured is in terms of their market share among female car buyers.
Romy: And I've rarely heard a company so directly connect diversity efforts to the business outcome. But I think it's brilliant, and I think everyone should try to figure out a way to do that. And you know where you see it a lot? Where we're seeing it more and more is not yet in the consumer space, but in the professional services space. Law firms, consulting firms, advertising agencies. Increasingly, you're seeing that clients won't accept teams from providers that are not gender diverse, or diverse in all ways.
Joel: So we've covered individuals and companies, and I want to talk about employer-specific real quick. And there's a lot of information out there in regards to job descriptions and how they should be worded to be inclusive of all, both men and women. For example, don't use words like aggressive or demanding, that somehow bullet points are more favorable to women. Do you put any stock in this research and do you give advice to companies using your service in regards to how they should actually structure their job descriptions?
Romy: So I think job descriptions are terribly flawed anyway, right? For all humans. And so no, frankly we don't spend a ton of time on them because there's so much that needs to be fixed and there's so many reasons it hasn't been fixed, right? Whether it's legalities, whether it's complicated companies, whether it's ATSs, you name it, it is not an easy place. But that is also why it is our belief that if you're trying to attract female talent, it isn't about the job description. Women don't connect with job ... Nobody connects with job descriptions, but especially not women. Women want to hear stories.
Romy: And I think a lot about years ago, a couple years ago, my husband and I bought an apartment and we went to all these different apartments and in every single apartment, he had his tape measure and he was checking out the HVAC and he wanted to understand the mechanics, and I wanted to know where the breakfast nook was and how comfortable were the kids' rooms. We had a completely different experience with the same process. And I really think that, and obviously huge generalizations here and everyone's on a spectrum, but women are inspired to confer and connect with a role in a very different way than men are. And that is why we lean heavily on the storytelling. We lean heavily on the role modeling.
Romy: Women really react to and respond to hearing why this woman thinks her job is amazing, and how it fits into her life. And some of the best articles we've written, some of the most successful articles we've written, one was for fidelity and it was called "Why my career in finance has made me a better mother," and it really sizzled. It was all about how this woman had this very entrepreneurial experience being a financial advisor, fidelity and how they supported her and trained her, and she was able to be with her children when she needed to be. So really, really convincing women who might not have thought about this job or company to apply.
Joel: Sizzled. That's awesome.
Chad: So Romy, we thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts for coming on the Chad and Cheese Podcast. If our listeners-
Romy: Thank you.
Chad: ... want to find out more about Fairygodboss, where would they go?
Romy: So please visit our site and register for our site at Fairygodboss.com. Of course, we are also on Facebook, we're on Instagram, we're on LinkedIn, and you can email at us at info@fairygodboss, and I would love to talk to any of you.
Joel: And soon to be on TikTok.
Romy: Later to that.
Chad: And again, anyone looking to be an ally and really caring about equity, inclusion, equality, check out Fairygodboss.com. Thanks so much Romy.
Romy: Thank you guys.
Joel: We out.
Chad: We out.
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