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How These 3 Female CEOs Are Driving Workplace Change and Equality for Working Mothers

Studies show that 42% of working moms admit burnout. Here's how CEOs are bringing women back to the workforce.

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In August, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, and according to Women in the Workplace, women are more burned out now than they were a year ago. In the past year, 1 in 3 women considered leaving the workforce, and the same study noted that 42% of women admitted that they are almost always burned out.

While working women, and especially mothers, have voiced and written about how to better empower women in the workforce, activists and CEOs Lisa Curtis, Virginia Klausmeier and Emily Stone teamed up to celebrate working moms, and most importantly, to compel employers to step it up to help drive systemic change. 

Related: Work-Life Balance Is Simple. To Succeed at Work, Get a Life.

Driving workplace change and equality for working mothers

The Unreasonable Group awarded a grant to Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of moringa-based superfood company Kuli Kuli Foods. Curtis and her team are using the funds to drive workplace change and equality for working mothers. In addition to sharing their own pandemic stories about parenting while running their companies, the three CEOs invited working mothers to apply for 50 Pandemic SuperMom Awards. By filling out a three-minute awards application, women were entered to win a total of $10,000 in cash, a year of free chocolate and luxury gift baskets filled with products from supporting female-founded or -led companies. 

Curtis is no stranger to the world of social good and driving change: She has served in the Peace Corps, written political briefings for President Barack Obama, served as a United Nations Environment Programme Advisor and has held multiple impact-leadership positions. “I had a baby in September of 2020 and for me, it was a self-realization that we need to change our mentality from having people on from 9-5 to having people on to when they are most productive,” Curtis explains in a video about how this led her to immediately change her company culture to offer a permanently flexible policy and “never require people to come in Monday to Friday from 9-5 again, making it possible for people to balance work and life.” Her goal is to encourage other CEOs to do the same and realize that ultimately, this will lead to more productive workplaces. 

Related: 4 Ways Working Moms Can Fight the '3 p.m. Disadvantage' at Work

Virginia Klausmeier is the CEO and founder of Sylvatex, Inc, a company that utilizes bio-based, non-toxic nanochemistry to create affordable high-performance solutions that reduce the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In simpler terms, Sylvatex makes batteries out of plants and seeks to expand these renewable-energy solutions to applications ranging from fragrances to fuel. A mother of two young children, Klausmeier also is vocal and active about driving workplace change. First, she shares her story of managing work and life and how she has adjusted company policies to allow for more human connection, transparency and flexibility. When lockdown began, Klausmeier moved back to her hometown to be closer to her parents and have family support in order to better lead her growing company and retain employees. She admits that she never really spoke about family or motherhood with employees, partners and investors because she “didn’t want people to think it would impact my performance.” Klausmeier explains, “I realized that we are humans first, then employees and that flexibility and empathy is necessary if we want to work as efficiently as possible, retain our teams and most important, reduce the burnout.”  She adds, “I intend to be part of the movement that helps women evolve and shape what the ‘Working Woman 3.0’ will look like.” 

Emily Stone, founder and CEO of Uncommon Cacao, ethically sources cacao globally for chocolate makers and stands behind farmer prosperity, having become the first transparent-trade cacao supply-chain company. Stone travels globally to meet with and educate cacao farmers and is a new mother to an almost 1-year-old. While it is difficult for her business to cover additional employee benefits, Stone chose to offer paid family leave for her company and has been an activist for this directly with Congress members so that more CEOs will offer paid family leave and flexibility.  Stone and her team produced a video to share her personal “Pandemic SuperMom Story” and discuss how she immediately adopted the new company value of "balance." Stone explains, “Play and rest counterbalance grit and courage, and it’s crucial to prioritize what’s most important in both work and life and establish boundaries for these priorities. For my company, flexibility and remote work win, and I’ve noticed happier and less burnt-out employees, from women and families in the cacao supply chain.” 

Solidifying the progress made and celebrating those who deserve it 

Together with the grant from the Unreasonable Group and support from social-impact working-mother groups such as HeyMamaEntreprenistaThe UpsideTotem Women and Hustle Like a Mom, Curtis, Klausmeier and Stone are doing everything possible to ensure that the progress we have made with workplace equality does not rewind. In January of 2022, they will share trends and learnings from the campaign with other CEOs and employers. At the same time, the Pandemic SuperMom campaign will celebrate working parents who rarely get the recognition they deserve with cash and gift awards to help brighten spirits and alleviate stress. And there will, of course, be chocolate. 

Related: Embrace the Chaos: Navigating the C-suite as a Working Mom

Elisette Carlson

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Elisette Carlson is the Founder of SMACK! Media, a Boutique Branding, Digital, Marketing and Public Relation(ship)s® Agency that helps brands achieve relevance and win in the health, wellness and nutrition markets. She puts ultimate value on personal relationships, teamwork and authenticity.