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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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-

Chad: Hello.

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.

Chad: Nice.

Joel: Whoa.

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?

Joel: Jobs.

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.

Chad: Tab.

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.