For Jessica Gaffney, motherhood and career are both important to her. So much so that Jessica co-founded Pro Mama, a digital platform connecting mamas with mama-friendly jobs. With 15 years of marketing and development experience in New York City and then a gig at a non-profit in Austin, Jessica personally experienced the need for flexibility and support in the workplace as a mother. This personal experience together with anecdotal evidence and statistics are the foundation to her start-up. Scroll down to learn more about what Jessica is up to with Pro Mama.
What is Pro Mama? Pro Mama connects mamas with mama-friendly jobs. We offer women the opportunity to find a job, whether it’s part-time, work from home or contract work, that fits their current lifestyle.
What inspired you to start Pro Mama? My own experience as a new mom inspired me to start Pro Mama. I moved to Austin when I was pregnant with my first child, Gray, and I worked right up until I gave birth. I took the first six months of motherhood off, but then found myself wanting a part-time job that kept me in the game, allowed me to use my brain (and the degree I earned) and take a break from diapers. I didn’t want a full-time job because I still wanted to spend time during the week days with Gray. We don’t have family in Austin so this was a decision my husband and I made together because he was working hard on starting a new business. I remember thinking often – “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a newsletter I could receive that had great mama-friendly jobs?”
How do you select companies to work with and jobs to feature? Every job that we post needs to either be part-time, work-from-home or project-based work. We have found that women value flexibility among any other factor including pay, benefits and growth opportunities. We also review every job and company that comes our way to ensure that they meet the moral standards promoted by Pro Mama.
Best advice to a mama looking for a job? Network, network, network in an open-minded and creative way. Speak to other mamas about their career path. Ask one friend and one business contact to introduce you to one person in your chosen field (If you aren’t sure about the field, simply ask them to introduce you to someone you would get along with.). Set up coffee dates with those new contacts and introduce yourself. Ask every one of those new contacts to introduce you to one other person. Really listen to everyone you meet about their career journey and potential opportunities will eventually surface. Also, sign up for Pro Mama’s newsletter, of course and get jobs delivered right to your inbox.
What are some challenges women currently face in the workplace as mothers? The biggest challenges for mothers in the workplace can be summed up in one term: the motherhood penalty. This is essentially discrimination and leads to disadvantages for women when it comes to hiring, training, getting promoted, receiving reviews, being paid equally, and generally being invested in by an employer. You can find many startling stats that prove this point. What’s fascinating to me is that among men, the trend is reversed. When men become fathers, they are often viewed as more capable and offered significantly higher salaries than childless men.
The good news is that the tide is turning and we are moving in the right direction. It’s no secret that companies with higher percentages of women on their leadership team perform better. Companies with women on their boards outperform male-only boards by 26 percent. And guess what? Lots of women become mothers so companies are implementing policies that help to equal the playing field. From an anecdotal perspective, Pro Mama has spoken with many companies who are not only interested in hiring mamas but prefer it because they know how valuable, efficient and hard-working a mama can be. If you want to get something done, ask a mama, right?
Can you share some statistics about mothers in the workplace?
- 43.5 million moms between the ages of 15 and 50
- 70% of moms in the labor force
- 43% of highly qualified women with children leave careers or off-ramp for a period of time
- 70% of women would have stayed if they had flexible work options
What are some of the challenges you have faced starting the business? Our biggest challenge by far is finding the time and energy to focus on it. Both Ariele and I live super busy lives with family commitments. She works full time and I had my second child just a few months ago.
How did you find your business partner? I was friends with Ariele first and we often discussed both of our challenges with balancing motherhood and our careers. I really respect her opinion so I shared my idea with her one day. She loved it so much that she immediately offered to partner with me. I was very lucky.
How do you find balance in your life? I’m still searching for it on a daily basis. Having more support this time around (family, friends, hired help) has helped significantly. I thought I should do it all on my own the first time around (insert eye roll). I try to take a few minutes for myself each day. I have also learned that I shouldn’t expect each day to be balanced. Maybe one day is more family-focused and the next is more Pro Mama-focused. For now, I’m just trying to be kind and patient with this journey.
What are you most proud of so far? Truly helping mamas – we have received lots of wonderful feedback about how we are really helping moms who are struggling to make it all work. Helping to make mamas feel like they are not alone in this journey is a true privilege.