The Mom Project raises $25M for its job site aimed at women returning to work

Women have long had the short end of the stick when it comes to employment, regularly finding themselves struggling to break through the glass ceiling for promotions and on average getting paid less than their male counterparts. That situation often gets compounded when the woman in question is a parent, balancing the needs of professional and home life and more.

But we’re seeing a gradual shift among companies to “do better” on inclusion, and that’s opening the door to new opportunities. And to underscore that, The Mom Project — a Chicago startup that focuses on connecting women, including parents, with jobs from organizations specifically open to employing people who meet that profile — is announcing a $25 million round of funding to expand its business.

The funding comes on the heels of some significant traction for The Mom Project . Since we first profiled the company in December 2018 (when it had raised a round of $8 million led by Initialized Capital) it has grown to 275,000 users (up from 75,000), and doubled the number of organizations posting jobs on the platform to 2,000, including several major tech companies other brands like Facebook, Nike, Uber, Apple, Google and Twitter. The company has also made an acquisition of a startup called Werk to add analytics tools to for its business customers.

The Series B round of funding brings the total raised by the startup to $36 million, and it is being led by 7CG — a VC that has backed the likes of Jio (the Indian juggernaut raising like crazy right now), Cheddar (the media platform acquired by Altice) and fintech Acorns — with participation also from Citi Ventures, Synchrony Financial, SVB and High Alpha, as well as previous investors Initialized Capital, Grotech Ventures, OCA, Aspect Ventures, Wintrust Financial, Irish Angels and Engage VC.

The Mom Project is built around a two-sided platform and both of those sides will be getting a boost with this funding.

On one side, the startup works with businesses to post job listings that specifically target women and those returning to work who might need more flexible terms in their employment engagements, as well as analyse its overall HR strategies around those efforts.

On the other side, it provides a platform to women who fit that basic profile — the average age of its users is between 28 and 44, its CEO and founder Allison Robinson (pictured above with her child) said — providing them both with job listings and other support.

The plan will be to enhance both aspects of the business: more tools for enterprises to better engage The Mom Project’s community, as well as manage the recruitment and employment of people better; and more tools for Mom users, including building out an interactive community (and forums) to better “address the pain points of family and career,” Robinson said.

While there are a lot of job boards online — indeed recruitment dot-coms were some of the earliest successful business in the earliest days of the World Wide Web, meaning there are giant legacy players out there — The Mom Project is a strong example of how that model has been evolving.

Specifically, we’re seeing a flourishing of startups, and sites, focused on identifying and cultivating job opportunities for specific segments of the market, be it specific types of jobs like engineers, or a specific demographic, or both — in ways that more general job boards like those on LinkedIn or Indeed either don’t highlight as well or simply cannot address.

These are not only connecting with specific talent groups, but speaking to the needs of businesses that are trying to make more of an effort to boost their workforce diversity as part of larger inclusion policies: they are also struggling, in their case to find effective ways to target specific kinds of candidates.

As we noted when we previously profiled The Mom Project, it was started when Robinson herself struggled to return to work — her previous career had he working as an executive at Pampers — after having a child, and it’s a problem that she is not alone in having identified, and the focus on addressing that and executing well on it is one reason The Mom Project has grown.

Needless to say, recent events have had a huge impact on how all those general employment trends, and the recruitment industry, have been going. We’ve seen unprecedented job losses, hiring freezes, a push for remote working all suddenly become the norm. All of that has had a mixed impact on The Mom Project.

In some ways, it plays into what the startup has been building all along: currently some two-thirds of all jobs posted and that people are looking to do are focused on fixed-term projects, rather than permanent positions, and so as companies slow down their normal recruiting, it leaves a space for the kind of work that people who need more flexible schedules may be able to do. That’s at the same time that the companies themselves may be reducing headcount overall for all kinds of work, however.

Another big theme of the last several months has been the big shift to inclusiveness when it comes to racial diversity, and that too has direct relevance in the female workforce, Robinson noted. “Sixty percent of the job losses in the pandemic have been women, and the statistics have been even worse for women of color,” she said. “It’s like a canary in the coalmine.”

While The Mom Project doesn’t have any tools today to surface candidates that meet more diverse profiles, Robinson said that they are considering it and how to approach that in a way that works.

Meanwhile, The Mom Project is also trying to do more to speak to the other side of its marketplace and the struggles they are having. It’s launched a $500,000 fund, distributing grants specifically to small businesses that are its customers (that is, hiring via The Mom Project) the are finding it especially tough right now. (And indeed, many have pointed to the especially hard hit that SMBs are taking at the moment.)

All of this is to say that there remains a huge market opportunity here and there is an argument to be made that companies that good at identifying clever ways of targeting gaps, and executing on that well, are strong candidates for identifying and filling other gaps in the future, one reason why investors are knocking.

“There is a material disconnect between senior female talent and executive roles at major corporations, not for lack of interest, however the difficulty to institutionalize in large enterprise. The Mom Project’s platform enables corporates to source, onboard and manage variable labor at the highest skill level, a function historically which has been offline and manual for FTEs and even more so difficult for flexible employees,” said Jack Leeney, founding partner at 7GC, in an emailed interview. “In our diligence, the value add to senior HR managers of an analytic platform which enables the oversight of a variable work force was the single most important factor to integrating The Mom Project initially and at scale. There is no other growth company, digital first HR company or large scale talent agency that is addressing the female exec population with an enterprise grade digital solution.”

Social networking app for women, Peanut, is rolling out video chat

Mobile social networking app for women, Peanut, is expanding into video chat to help better support its users amid the coronavirus outbreak. The company, which began its life with a focus on motherhood, has evolved over the years to reach women looking to discuss a range of topics — including pregnancy, marriage, parenthood, and even menopause.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Peanut reported a 30% rise in user engagement and 40% growth in content consumption. It also grew its user base from 1 million in December 2019 to 1.6 million as of April 2020. On top of this growth, Peanut closed its $12 million Series A mid-pandemic, a testament to its increasing traction.

The app had originally offered a Tinder-like matching experience to connect its users with new friends — an idea that came about thanks to founder and CEO Michelle Kennedy’s background as the former deputy CEO at dating app Badoo and an inaugural board member at Bumble. Like many dating apps, this feature involved swiping on user profiles to get a “match.” Before the pandemic, many women would connect with nearby users on a one-on-one basis in order to make friends or find playdates for their kids, for example.

But following the coronavirus government lockdowns and social distancing recommendations, Peanut users have been clamoring for a way to virtually connect, the company says.

Since the lockdown, requests from users for video chatting capabilities increased by 700%, notes Peanut. Users also posted links to other video broadcasts 400% more than usual. To meet this growing demand, the app is now rolling out video chat so women can connect face-to-face and grow their relationships, even if they’re not yet able to spend time in person.

The company believes the new feature will provide a way for women to expand their virtual support network at a time where many are facing isolation and uncertainty about the future, which could otherwise negatively impact their mental health. Through video chat, moms can arrange to have their kids participate in a virtual playdate or they can just chat about life, their daily struggles, and more. Thye can also join a virtual happy hour via their phone — a popular lockdown activity these days.

To use the new feature, women will first connect with each other on a one-on-one basis, which allows them to message each other directly. From this screen, users could already share text chats, photos, and GIFs. But now, they can tap a new button to initiate a video call instead.

The video chat feature itself is powered by an undisclosed third-party.

Peanut says it’s now working on group video chat, another feature users want.

Peanut’s video chat features officially roll out on June 18, 2020 for all users.

 

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Women's-Summit

Thousands of women from around the world flocked to the United Nations to promote gender equality and better business practices. The event, hosted by the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a partnership of UN Women and the UN Global Compact, drew business leaders, government officials – and a few men.

Also on hand was presumed presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who opened the event at the UN after addressing questions about why she used her personal email account when she was secretary of state.

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