On being a woman “with child” in tech. By Sara Mauskopf (CEO & Co-founder, Winnie)
This post originally appeared on Medium. It’s since been updated to reflect more recent developments.
Getting more women in tech is a hot topic these days, as it should be. We need to do a better job encouraging girls and women early on to enter tech, we need to make sure those women don’t drop out, and finally we need to get more of the women who do stay to the top ranks.
We’ve made great strides, even seemingly just in the last 8+ years I’ve been working in the field.
But over the course of my pregnancy this past year, I started to realize there’s a big difference between being a woman in tech and being “with child.”
The former is a movement but the latter is still somewhat of an anomaly. During my pregnancy, the more I got out there and shared my story, participated in public speaking events, and even just tweeted about the daily grind, the more I realized this was not the normal path. There are already not very many women in tech, especially at a startup, and even fewer have kids. In fact, most of the people I worked with had not been around a pregnant woman ever before.
It was fun to be sort of a “trailblazer” throughout my pregnancy. I had a difficult pregnancy but not so difficult that I couldn’t power through it. The first trimester I was exhausted and throwing up all the time. In my second trimester, the ultrasound detected an anomaly with the fetus that suddenly required me to get a battery of tests and additional monitoring throughout my pregnancy.
Fortunately it turned out everything was completely normal (something I wouldn’t find out until my baby was born), but by the time I entered my third trimester I had gained around 40 pounds for a whopping 65 pounds over the course of my pregnancy. And did I mention I’m only 5’2”?
But none of that held me back. It was a struggle, and I definitely was not at my happiest towards the end, but I worked right up to my due date.
I assumed that when I went into the hospital to get induced two days past my due date, the worst was behind me. I would look normal, I would feel normal, and after six weeks of recovery, I could get back to work and resume startup life. I’d finally be able to go out to drinks with coworkers and make up for all the valuable drinking bonding time I had missed while pregnant.
But that didn’t quite happen.
I did go back to work after six weeks (yep, you can call me Marissa) but it was a tricky balancing act. I stopped attending Friday night drinks with the company because I wanted to get home and see my daughter. I could not have understood this before I had a child. I thought it was just a logistical reason parents didn’t go out. Maybe they just had a hard time finding childcare. But it actually has very little to do with logistics. I just wanted to spend time with my daughter!
One early morning, I was feeding my daughter while responding to an urgent email from work. I should have felt badass managing both of these things. But instead I felt like a shitty mom and a shitty employee for doing both these things simultaneously — and neither of them as perfectly as I would have wanted to.
I felt like I was deceiving my colleagues at work by triaging issues while secretly feeding my child. And it’s hard to only give your child part of your attention if you’re working on something you are not deeply passionate about.
Fortunately, becoming a mother has opened my eyes to the fact that there is very little technology solving problems for parents. Given this discovery, I decided to quit my job and team up with another technologist, who also happens to be a mother, to build technology specifically for parents.
You can check out what we’re working on at winnielabs.com. At the same time as we build Winnie the product, we also want to build Winnie the company. We want to build a company where having a child is an asset rather than a dirty secret. We want to be a company where diversity (gender, race, age, etc) is valued because we know that having people from different backgrounds will make us perform better. I’m hopeful that with time, there will not only be more women in tech but more moms in tech. There’s at least one more now and this one is not leaving tech anytime soon.
About the guest blogger: Sara Mauskopf is the CEO and co-founder Winnie Labs, a startup bringing transformative technology to parenting. She was previously the Director of Product at Postmates and has worked at Twitter, YouTube and Google. Follow her on Twitter at @sm.