Despite the male-dominated narrative of the startup world, more than 40% of businesses in the United States are run by women. For female business owners of a certain age, questions about their personal lives are almost inevitable. Many report when asked by investors or stakeholders about their plans to have children.
Unfortunately, those plans are often seen as being in tension with business growth. If female entrepreneurs decide to become pregnant, many fear losing their funding, risking their leadership skills and professional status.
Women who run their own businesses often set rules about parental leave within their company. But this can be a very difficult task, because female founders are often the linchpin in their companies, which makes it difficult to spend any time.
There are also a few resources available to support female entrepreneurs. The US is one of the few high-income countries that does not mandate paid parental leave (although there are a few states).
We at Human Ventures recently partnered with BBG Ventures to host a master class on exploring parental leave from author Ariana Taboada. Expected entrepreneur. As investors in dozens of women-led startups, we’ve seen more than a dozen babies born after funding from our founders, and we know how much more resources are needed in this regard.
Below we’ve compiled keynotes from Taboada’s session, which provide a basic roadmap for entrepreneurs and leaders looking to prepare themselves and their teams for parental leave.
Know your funding strategies
First things first, business owners need to plan how they will pay for their license. There are a few ways to consider:
Apply for coverage if your state offers: Navigating these policies can be difficult, especially if you don’t have an employer to help you with the paperwork, so you may need to get an expert involved. Paid leave programs include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Buy short term disability insurance: Yes, pregnancy is still considered a disability. Short-term disability policies cover recovery after childbirth, and can be purchased with other company insurances.
Build a backup: It’s a good idea to start thinking early about having the funds needed to meet state or insurance coverage. Look across your team to predict what programs employees might use and how much booking you’ll need to make them complete.
Plan for operational re-organization
Planning how to run a business during a founder’s break is a big task because founders wear many hats, from people to operations to customer service. Here’s how to break down key responsibilities:
Reverse engineer workflow List the work streams that will be most urgent during your special time off so that you can reverse where you need support.
Conduct a two-week auditKeep a close eye on your time for two weeks and separate work streams into projects that can be taken off your plate by automating, delegating, or stopping them.
Set your boundaries. Your permission may not be the same as that of employees in larger corporations, and there may be areas where you need to maintain standard touchpoints. Decide where you want to participate and where you prefer to return.
Prioritize customer and investor relations
Although it can be scary for many, sharing news about an upcoming license will ultimately help you build more trust with your customers and investors. Here’s how:
Address anticipated concerns: It is up to the individual to decide how much they want to disclose. However, sharing your news early allows you to anticipate many of the inevitable questions and give you enough time to think about your expectations and limitations.
Use the opportunity to build trustThe more thought you put into your time off and plan for what your business will experience in the coming months, the more impressed your customers and investors will be. This can be an opportunity to shine as a leader.
Follow four key communication points: Schedule an initial notification meeting (call/zoom, or in person) to share the news and an overview of the high-level plan. Around 37 weeks, send a written reminder of your vacation with key points recapped. Once your license starts, turn on an autoresponder with clear instructions or ask people to email you again after a certain date. Finally, once you’re back, send a notice of your return to work.
Return to work
When you return to work after your vacation, you live in a different reality. Here’s how to consider resuming your career as you balance your new responsibilities:
Celebrate your transition. Being a parent and going back to work can’t be easy. Give yourself space to integrate your new ways of working, and remember that things will get easier over time. Add all your new responsibilities to your calendar: making time for pumping or dropping off daycare is now part of your routine.
Slowly draw again. You don’t need to go back to the 8-hour day right away. For a few weeks, you can jump online for two hours a day to sign up with your group.
Revisit your role: You may not need to return all the tasks assigned to you during a break. Parental leave can be a mandate to update operating instructions, train new employees, and reorganize the team — and some changes may be permanent.
Every founder’s will is different, but the best scientific evidence shows that six months of paid leave is best for women’s physical and mental health. Taboada emphasizes that the recovery period of two to six weeks after childbirth is very important, so parents should make sure that they are very healthy. For 16 weeks, flexibility and standard work is recommended whether you have given birth or not.
Having a family doesn’t mean sacrificing your business. Parenting elements can strengthen their leadership skills. Taboada says changes in the prenatal brain can lead to “management and sales superpowers” after giving birth, because there’s more to listening and communicating.
Heather Hartnett is CEO and General Partner of Human Ventures.