I am a founder, I just got funded and I am pregnant

imgres-1More than a few times had I have founders tell me almost sheepishly that they were pregnant.  My answer is always the same, congratulations that is fantastic.

Then comes the concerns.  How should I tell my team?  Should I prepare everyone for the time I am gone?  How do I tell the board?  What should the maternity leave policy be because we don’t have one.  What what what what?

Women are having children later.  They are having children in their prime working years.  I have told countless women not to put their personal life on hold for their business life.  They will regret it.  Hundreds of years ago women were having babies while they ran the farms.  They were back bailing hay and churning butter in no time.  The content is just different.  They figured it out and we can too.

My advice to all of these women on how to tell your company, your board or the team is just state the facts plain and simple.  I am pregnant, this is when I am due and back to work.  We live in a world where our business lives blur with our personal lives.  A mother will come back to work if companies embrace them instead of punishing them.  Help families figure out childcare…one of the biggest problems in returning to work.  Let men stay home for an extended time too.  We should support families.

Women can get pregnant and have children.  That is the circle of life.  Men can not.  Being able to bring new people into the world should be a positive not a negative.  Companies should figure out how everyone can feel good about that.  If they can it will be a win win for everyone.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Sim

    Joanne, hello.Wanted to write a quick note to say thanks for the post.I’m pregnant for the first time, due at the end of May. I was nervous about telling the team – we’re a start up, and we have a big few months with our preorder campaign coming up.I wondered if I’d be considered a burden, if the team would think of me as less capable. I’m embarrassed to admit this now – why wasn’t I stronger? – but I think many women go through these doubts at some point.I then thought of the successful career-women I know, who are also young mothers. This gave me confidence, and reminded me of what should be more obvious: women having babies is the greatest driver of the economy, for goodness’ sakes! Having a baby is powerful and wonderful, for everyone.After lots of reflection and preparation, I went in to a meeting last December with my co-founders with clear expectations, and stated the facts simply, as you suggest in your post. My team responded with excitement, happiness and full support. This is as it should be.I see so many women worrying about their careers and their place in the world when the baby question comes along. This is something both men and women need to be supportive, constructive, and open about.This is why posts like yours here are important. We’re all in this together.

    1. LE

      I wondered if I’d be considered a burden, if the team would think of me as less capable.I think this is all about communication. Upfront you can state what the situation and the truth is. Then you give the narrative on why it won’t make a difference to put people’s minds at ease.

      1. Sim

        LE, you’re right, any doubts or concerns should be shared with trusted friends, family or peers. This way, you’re ready to deliver a direct and simple message to your team, with clear and considered expectations.To be clear, my doubts were my own – my company didn’t give me any reason to worry. Rather, my concerns came from societal pressure as a woman, a working woman, a woman in tech, and a woman about to have a baby. Basically, I worried about the things most women in my position worry about.Lastly, I urge assuming good intentions, if you’re in an already supportive environment – going in defensive or ready to justify reasoning doesn’t set a great tone.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Although in all honesty it does make a difference. But it’s a difference we can embrace.

        1. Gotham Gal


  2. Ella Dyer

    Well said! One more thought “Yahoo” or, has everyone forgotten already.

  3. leeschneider

    The maternity leave situation is crazy. My wife is due with our second at the end of March. She’s a teacher. She gets 12 weeks maternity leave, of which she can only get paid for a MAX of 8 weeks, assuming she has enough sick days banked to cover the 8 weeks (she doesn’t). Pretty lame if you ask me. Should be a better system.She’s been a teacher in MA for 11 years (9 years in one town, 2 in another) If you have tenure within your district (received after 3 years of service) you can take up to 2 years off (unpaid), with the guarantee of a job when you come back. Unfortunately, years of service don’t carry over between districts (even though they are both MA public schools), so she doesn’t have tenure in her new district. She took a year off with our first. Would like to do the same here, but will be out of a job. Factor in the cost of infant daycare, time away from the kids, challenge in finding a new job, etc. Tough decision ahead…

  4. LE

    They were back bailing hay and churning butter in no time. The content is just different. They figured it out and we can too.”The figured it out” <— Exactly.My first wife ran a college advertising coupon book while she was pregnant with our two children.The idea when I purchased this small business for her ($10,000, paid off previous owners debt, early 90’s) was that she would be able to arrange her hours and be able to take care of the children.It worked very well … pretty much just as planned. She was her own boss and could arrange things as needed. Made probably as much money as if she had worked for someone else but there were tax advantages and definite lifestyle and schedule advantages.While she was pregnant she still had to come to Philly to visit clients and pick up payments and ad copy.You’ve done something similar I think so you know there are things you can’t do over the phone and this was pre-internet as well. So we did, that worked out, is that she would pay someone (happen to be a russian immigrant we found iirc) to drive her around the city so she wouldn’t have to park and schlep to much. Worked out very well. Creative solution to a problem. Which is what dealing with this is really all about and what you are saying.

  5. LE

    I am pregnant, this is when I am due and back to work. We live in a world where our business lives blur with our personal lives.A developer, a man, that works for someone that does work for me took “paternity leave” and wasn’t available to work on a key fix to a problem.So one thing I would suggest to anyone who is not able to work and is taking leave (whether paternity or maternity) is that they state specifically that they are available for important or emergency and critical situations. Maybe this is obvious but from my experience mentioned it wasn’t presented as a possibility and that really upset me in all honesty.

  6. pointsnfigures

    This is a situation that I have not encountered yet. No doubt, I will. I watched Desiree Wrigley have two kids while running a startup, GiveForward.com. She and her team handled it. On the flip side, if you are pregnant and you are fundraising, I’d disclose it early in the process. Most of the time, fundraising can take 2-6 months (or even more); hiding it will be a problem. If the VC freaks out, you don’t want their money anyway.

  7. steve cheney

    So succinctly written. You should be proud of yourself for spreading this message.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Steve

  8. Christine Tsai

    A few months after I joined 500 Startups, I found out I was pregnant w/ my 1st child. I thought it was the worst time possible, but everything turned out ok because our team and company embraced it vs. viewing it as a burden. I’m also particularly proud that we’ve invested in amazing companies led by amazing founders who happened to be pregnant during our mtgs. (Even funnier was taking a mtg w/ a company where the founder and I were both very pregnant ;-)10000% agree w/ this post – pregnancy should be embraced and welcomed, not seen as burdensome or risky. Building a company that supports parents is absolutely key. My take on it: http://500.co/8-things-you-

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks Christine!

  9. kenberger

    From my front row seat, I can say that the pivotal word in your post is “SHEEPISHLY”. That’s pretty much the issue: it’s all in the mom-to-be’s attitude.It’s largely up to the woman to show her strength and confidence that this is another 1 of life’s experiences, and she’ll figure it out. Sure, for some, things can take turns and not go as well as planned. But first item is to educate folks that *pregnancy is not an illness or disability*.As shared, the wife and I found out our news and decided to do something wacky– make things even stranger and move to Europe for the year, do the baby thing here. 8 months pregnant now, she still runs her company and we are about to go on 1 last wkend flight to Italy. We didn’t plan or expect things to go this well, but we didn’t think the condition was anything to hide either.

  10. Donna Brewington White

    It has been 14 years since I was last pregnant but I still deeply resonate with and appreciate this post. One of the most freeing discoveries of my career is that I did not have to “do work or business like a man” to be successful. Does this mean I have not faced obstacles as a result of being a woman? No, it doesn’t. Huge obstacles. Except I didn’t always realize the reasons for the obstacles. I just thought it was supposed to be this hard. And of course there have been other difficulties, but hard to sort out the causes so unless I can identify the cause as something I need to change I just move on.I became self employed, building a business, while pregnant with my third child 17 years ago (although having a toddler and a preschooler was probably a bigger deal), and added a 4th a few years later which involved bed rest at the end. Do you know that it has only been in the past few years that I realized how hard this was? So now it has become part of the story and helps me to feel more successful.Adding people to the world is noble work. If we as a society and a business community can find ways to embrace and empower those women who choose to do this work while also contributing to the larger good through business or social enterprise, we will all be the richer for it. And I don’t mean financially, but, well, I guess that too.

    1. Gotham Gal

      If you knew how hard it would be the chances are you wouldn’t have done it. 🙂

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Heh heh, yep.

  11. deirdrelord

    Thank you for this post. I was running a start-up when I got pregnant. I told a lead investor and Board Member and he was extremely unhappy and doubted my ability to manage it all.The fact is, there is no more motivated person than a working mother or prospective mother. Soon enough more and more people will see the world as you do, but we have a way to go still.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I still remember your story of breast feeding during the insanity of your business