The Secret to Our Success: Hiring Moms

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Mauria Finley learned the value of recruiting moms from stints as an executive at eBay and PayPal. Now she's putting that insight to use at her new startup Citrus Lane – and it's paying off big time. By Mauria Finley (CEO & founder, Citrus Lane)

In recent weeks, two news stories from prominent business leaders have captured widespread attention: Marissa Mayer’s decision to eliminate certain flexible work policies at Yahoo! and the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In. Both topics have ignited debate about working mothers, specifically what they need to do to succeed and how corporate policy can help or hinder their career growth.

At Citrus Lane, we have a very simple perspective: We are succeeding because we’re hiring moms, not despite hiring moms. We may have an unfair competitive advantage in this area given that the focus of our company is on moms (and their babies), but we think we’re gaining a serious edge by doing so.

The Business Case for More Moms

Two years ago I started Citrus Lane. I knew that building a business would be difficult, and doing so while raising two young boys would make the task even harder. I wanted to build an organization and culture that recognized and embraced moms as customers, employees and executives. Today, Citrus Lane is growing 1000% annually with paying subscribers, has built a loyal and engaged community of moms across the US, and is building a strong and trusted brand in the e-commerce space. We’ve also built an outstanding team, which features moms prominently:

  • 85% of our executive team are moms
  • 65% of the overall team are women
  • 50% of the engineering team are women
  • 50% of our team members have kids under three years of age
  • 25% of our team members work part-time and/or remotely
  • 10% of the team are moms who returned to work after significant time off to raise their kids

Building this type of culture is a smart – and intentional – business decision we’ve made based on many years of experience. While serving as an executive at eBay and PayPal from 2004-2010, I noticed that many of our top performers were moms. When conducting searches for key hires, we often found that really well qualified moms were available on the market. To make it work, we often created flexible schedules and leveraged technologies like video chat. I can’t honestly think of an example where a working mom with a flexible schedule couldn’t deliver on par with a colleague.

Making It Work for Moms

Our parent-friendly recruiting strategy has led to Citrus Lane attracting top talent from successful companies like LinkedIn, Mint.com, Netflix, Yahoo!, and eBay. And just like these companies, we set high bars for performance and expect people to achieve them, but also understand that daycare pick-ups and “pumping breaks” are just part of the schedule. We compensate for the slightly squeezed day by choosing focus over foosball, and by checking in at night when our little ones are finally down and dreaming.

For the moms who work at Citrus Lane, we are living our version of “leaning in", and it's working for us both at work and at home. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the Citrus Lane service inherently benefits from having many mom points of view in the office (we are an e-commerce business focused on moms, after all). I would argue however, that we are also a great example of what companies can accomplish if they embrace working moms and the flexible schedules that come with them.

Women 2.0 readers: Do you feel moms are a special benefit to your startup?

About the guest blogger: Mauria Finley is the founder and CEO of Citrus Lane, a social e-commerce company focused on helping moms discover the best products for their kids by sending a monthly box of "best of" products. Prior to founding Citrus Lane, Mauria held leadership roles at eBay and led new ventures for PayPal. Mauria holds two degrees in Computer Science from Stanford University. Photo Credit: rankun76 via Flickr