Recognizing the value that parents bring to the workforce

May 17, 2021

Chris catches up with Priya Rathod--Senior Segment Manager at Indeed, and mother of two.

Chris and Priya, discuss ways that the workforce can become more friendly to parents and caregivers, and how Priya’s passion for helping parents and caregivers at work resulted in her pitching for a new segment at Indeed.

- Hello everyone, I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed and welcome to the next episode of Here to Help. This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today is May 10th, we are on day 433 of global work from home. Today also happens to be our 50th episode of Here to Help and we set out initially to share our experiences with others, with the hope of being helpful as they too navigated these same challenges. And over time, these conversations have really evolved into a view of Indeed through the lens of individual stories. You know, who we are as a whole, what drives us, how we work. This is an amalgam of thousands of individual stories and experiences. And the 49 stories we've explored over the past 14 months have given me personally a new and deeper understanding of who we really are, and I hope you all have gotten something out of it as well. This weekend in the US, we celebrated Mother's Day and for many of us it provided a moment to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 and in particular the impact that its had on parents and caregivers, and especially on moms. So, to explore these issues today, I am delighted to be joined by Priya Rathod, a senior segment manager at Indeed and also community engagement and events lead in our parents and caregivers inclusion resource group, or IRG. Priya, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thank you for having me Chris. So excited to be here.

- Well, we always start off these conversations with a simple question of, how are you doing today, right now? And I'll just add to that. How was your Mother's Day?

- It was wonderful. I got to sleep in until 8:30, which is unheard of, and so I am feeling very refreshed and ready to go. I had a wonderful day with my husband and three kids and some extended family so, it was a lovely day and now I am excited to start mother's Monday talking to you.

- Fantastic, well, you, I know in our conversation before you've had two children before and then had another child during COVID. Can you talk a little bit about the experience of having a baby during COVID and how that was different than your experiences with your first two children?

- Yeah, absolutely. I think there were two driving forces. I think the first was fear. Fear and uncertainty. I think that there wasn't a lot of data and there still isn't a ton of data around how COVID affected your unborn child, pregnant women, not to mention my other two kids, my husband, our extended family. So, I think there was there's definitely an element of fear and uncertainty with this pregnancy that I didn't have with the other two. And then I think the second thing was my workload was magnified and I not only like many moms and parents in the country during COVID, I was now working full time at Indeed but I was also homeschooling my kids and being a full-time, you know, parent and caregiver 24 hours a day. And we had no external childcare so it was definitely a lot. And, some people know, some people don't know but when I was about six and a half months pregnant my husband did get COVID. And I remember the conversation, I remember standing outside with our masks on, standing over six feet of part while he told me that he had been exposed. And from that moment to three and a half weeks later when he finally tested negative, I was by myself doing all of this. And so, I think that it was one of those moments where I felt like I was doing a lot of things but doing none of them well. And so it was a unique pregnancy for sure. A lot of different elements played into it.

- Yeah, thank you for sharing that experience. So, as I kind of said in the start, you know, we're a collection of all these different stories and your story is a really powerful one and it's probably not unique in a whole lot of ways. Can you talk a little bit about what you have observed as the impact on the working moms from the pandemic?

- Well, I think that, you know, no one, no one in the world can now doubt a mom's ability to multitask. I think that definitely came out of the pandemic. But I think there were some positive and some very clear negative effects so I think when we talk about the positive effects I think it has normalized in a lot of ways, kids coming in and out of Zoom calls. And the fact that you are a parent and a mom and you are also a full-time employee and that's okay, I think that prior to COVID I was terrified that my kids would come in during conference calls or Zoom calls. I mean, I would resort to locking my study door. I would resort to bribes of candy, like anything I could do so that they wouldn't come in the room and I think a benefit of COVID is we now know that kids are going to come in and it won't affect your ability to do your job. I think another big positive is there's been this kind of, from an individual household perspective as well as from a societal perspective, there's been this awakening around how much moms do, how much parents do. I've had countless conversations with my friends where they say, "My husband finally knows all the work that I do beyond my full-time job." And so, and I think from a society standpoint we are starting to have the conversations around why that is, and how we change that. And so, I definitely think that was a positive as well. And personally, my husband has always been helpful and extremely supportive of my career, but I think COVID, because of COVID he had to step up in a very real and meaningful way and I think he absolutely did that. And I think that now, instead of me taking the girls to school every morning, he takes the girls to school every morning and it's become, like it's deepened their bond. It's become a ritual they do together. They pick what music, they pick when they're going to leave. If they behave, they get Starbucks on Friday. By Starbucks I don't mean caffeine. Like I'm not caffeinating my children, they get a cookie and an egg white bite because you have to have protein. But, you know, it's really deepened their bond so I think there are some positives to come out of it. You know, we, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the heavy stuff which is that, as progressive as we think we are as a country, COVID has really caused us to look at the antiquated gender norms we have in this country. And those gender norms include women taking care of, you know, parental responsibilities, the bulk of parental responsibilities, house management, and with COVID and the lack of school and external childcare, many women had to make the decision, many moms between staying in the workforce and taking care of their children. And so as a lot of us know over 2 million, close to 2.3 million women left the workforce during COVID and we have the lowest labor participation rate for women since 1988. So, there were some very real negative effects to working women and I think it also highlighted things like gender pay disparity, right? So if you're in a household where, you know, one of you needs to leave to take care of the kids and you're earning less, or the mom is earning less, it's just a natural result that you would then, the mom would then be the one to leave the workforce. And so I think that this pandemic will have some negative effects on working moms for years to come because when we're not present in the labor force, we're not getting promoted, we're not, you know, we're not present in leadership which I think not only affects the bottom line but culture as well. So, speaking of that Chris, I know that you have had many conversations with working moms during COVID. What has stood out to you most about the conversations you've had with them?

- Yeah, I think you actually hit on so many of the points that, one of the things that is really clear and, you know, we talk a lot within our discussions around inclusion about intersectionality. And so, there are a number of issues that have been really clear that have affected parents and caregivers, and then separately, there are issues that impact women and so when we talk about moms, moms are that they, you know, the intersection of being a parent and being a woman. And there's a unique set of challenges there. I mean, look, it's always been tough being a parent, forget all of the other stuff, forget the pandemic. Being a parent has a significant number of challenges. Being a working parent has a number of challenges on top of that. When you throw in the pandemic and then what you talked about in terms of the, the really kind of hardened agenda norms that we have in our society when it comes to these new issues of concern for health, of having to be a teacher at the same time, the challenges of just the lack of separation between you and your kids. I know my kids are older now, they're 23 and 26, but you know, just having that break of being able to go to work and having a little quiet, that was gone, right? And, you know, you and I talked about this last week when we were prepping here. Somebody said at Indeed early on in the pandemic that it doesn't feel like we're working from home. It feels like we're living at work. And living at work with little kids is like something that no one has ever had to deal with before. But, the other thing that's really clear so when we look at that intersection between being a parent and caregiver, being a woman and then being part of the workforce here is that sense of judgment that has been, you know, so pervasive in terms of culturally what we think that other people might be thinking about us at any point in time. And working mothers that has been just a foundation of that experience for as long as mothers have been, have been working. And at the same time, dealing with the, you know, judgment that people have for themselves. And so you've, you've got really a unique set of challenges that have come together to make this I think probably one of the most challenging times for working moms at any point in history. And at the same time, I think the most inspiring thing for me I think is that how front and center that discussion has been. So, rather than being something that I think people are dealing with completely on their own and having to shoulder without any recognition, the exposure that we have every day through the rectangles on the Zoom screen to what's going on in everyone's life individually I think has raised a new set of awareness to these challenges. And so my hope is through that that there might be some lasting changes in terms of people's understanding and empathy and other things that can come out of it. But, it certainly has been an interesting and challenging time. Well, let me, let me ask you then 'cause where we are right now in the world as a whole and certainly in the US where we're maybe a little farther ahead than some other places with starting to look at what it would look like for us to come back to the office. Can you talk some, about some of the fears that you think moms are experiencing right now when they think about returning to the workforce, you know, after having a child and especially in the world right now?

- Yes, that's a great question. I think consistent and dependable childcare is by far number one. I think that, you know, I experienced that when I returned to work. Indeed was my foray back into the workforce as it, from being a mom, and I remember very distinctly I was on the agency side of the business and I had a client, an agency in Tuscaloosa and my husband was traveling that week. So, I was going to do a day trip and I was going to take a 6:00 a.m. flight, get there and go to my meetings, come back. And I was on the way back to the airport to come home and I got a text from our evening babysitter that she could no longer make it. And, you know, I was frantic, kind of trying to, you know, text people and call people. And so I was able to work it out but that 20 or 30 minutes was very, very stressful for me. And I think that moms think about that when they're going back to work, that they will have to manage that portion of their kid's life. And so consistent and dependable childcare is key. I think also there's fear around how their gaps in resumes will be perceived. And so, I think that we need to look at this like, they didn't just take time off, they made a career change, right? They decided to be a mom and that is a very viable job and a very difficult job, and now they are deciding to reenter the professional workforce. And so, I have had countless conversations with women where that is a big fear. Like, how do I position this on my resume? Do I address this gap? How do I address this gap? And so we talked through like, what are the transferable skills that you have because you do have some very viable transferable skills. And so, I think that is a major, major fear for moms. And I think you touched on a key one Chris, that, really, how am I going to be perceived when I go back in the workforce? Is my dedication going to be questioned? Is my productivity going to be questioned? And so I think that is a fear for moms. And also I think as much as we don't want it to be, mom guilt is real. It is very real. And so there is this fear that if I'm working and my husband's working and who's really there for the kids when they need us? And so, as you and I discussed in prep I could go on and on and on and on about this but I think, as I think about it holistically those are the main things that pop out to me about why they're fearful.

- So, there are a number of industries and specialties within those industries that are generally viewed as being female dominated or more suitable for women versus male dominated. Is there a way to help women feel supported to consider a broader range of opportunities?

- Yes, I think there are a lot of things that employers can do. I think that there are, you can start with our job descriptions, right? I think that be calling out your desire to hire moms or parents returning to the workforce is, is such a relief for moms to see, right? Like, they know they're welcome. They know that all those things we talked about being, you know, when you're fearful about getting back into the workforce, they know that they're desired in those roles. And I think that's extremely important. I think you need to also live and breathe it in your branding, I think we talk about our, you know, Indeed company pages. I think wherever your branding lives, if that's something that's a priority for you talk about it. You know, the other thing I think is important is as a lot of the data shows that as women return to the workforce, both after having children but also after COVID, employers are going to have to take an active role in re-skilling and up-skilling these women in order to make sure that they end up in the workforce. So, things like what Indeed's doing with luminary and goodwill to give out, you know, 150 fellowships to women. The returnships that companies do when, as a company when you call that out, I think women know and moms know that there is a place for me. And I think they want to feel that, that there is a place for me. I think having, you know, parental friendly benefits, I think mom friendly benefits but also parent-friendly benefits are going to help a mom pursue a job because we talked, I think we talked a little bit about this. It's less about the type of job, it's more about, does this job fit in with my, also with my role as a mom? And so, and I think the more we do that, and I think we'll talk about this a little bit later. But the more we do that the more we make a better world for all parents and the, and we start to try to reverse some of those gender norms, you know? And so, I think those are things that are going to be important to moms as they reenter the workforce. Yeah, it makes me think that, you know, you have again worked with a lot of women and moms in the workforce and so you know firsthand what they bring to teams and Indeed. And what are some of the unique attributes that you've observed that they bring to not only teams but kind of Indeed as a whole?

- Yeah, you know, I think when we talk about, as I did before about this intersectionality and we talked about inclusion. Excuse me. You know, one of the things that we always say at Indeed is that talent is universal but opportunity is not. And so we want to try to create opportunity where there's typically bias and barriers. But, I think it's actually a little more nuanced than that because it's not just the talent, is universal people that have to deal with challenges and barriers, end up developing additional skills and capabilities to navigate those challenges and barriers which in many cases makes them more effective. I think then people that don't have to face challenges and barriers. And I've seen that in so many different parts of my life, but I think this is one in particular, you know, when you look at people who have to deal with additional challenges, the two key capabilities that they develop are resilience and empathy. And so, you know, you talked about this earlier before in terms of some of the things that you and other working moms have had to deal with. And it's managing time and complexity and resourcefulness, dealing with different types of personalities. Kids are certainly good training for that. Some of the people who, when I look around at Indeed, who are the people who I think are the most effective in terms of just how much they get done, they're almost all moms. And, and so there's that resourcefulness but the other piece is the empathy. And I think that working, you know, a workforce is a community and being any part of any working community, one of the most incredibly valuable characteristics is the ability to see beyond the surface. To understand that everyone has more to them than just what you're seeing in terms of what they're saying or what they're doing. And facing the kind of challenges that working moms especially during COVID have had to deal with, I think it, a natural empathy is something that just comes from that which makes the ability to collaborate and work in a complex environment with a variety of different people or just something that you're possibly just more well adapted to and suited to than others. And so, those are some of the things that I've seen firsthand and I think we're going to see a lot more of that as the next couple of years start to unfold. One thing I guess I'd love to do is just to shift gears a little bit to talk about you and your experience at Indeed. You have a really interesting journey here from where you started to coming to pitch at the Indeed incubator which is our, essentially our internal venture capital model for funding new ideas and you came in and pitched the idea to myself and some of the other executives. And that ended up leading to your current work on the segmentation team. Can you talk a little bit about your experience there?

- Sure, I would love to. So, five and a half years ago I was a mom trying to return to the workforce. And so, I had, you know, I was doing some part-time work but I really wanted to reenter your full-time and the reason I wanted to, there were multiple reasons I wanted to reenter full-time. I think the first was, you know, we talk about this kind of underlying fear, but I did have a lot of fear that the longer I stayed out of the workforce, the more difficult it would be for me to get back in. And so, I just kind of felt this pressure to get back in. And it was also echoed by my family. I grew up, my father was in, you know, both immigrant parents. My father was an engineer, went into supply chain. My mother did her double master's in elementary and special education while working full time while we were little and my father was traveling. I don't know how she did that, but I come from a family that was, and my sister's one of the only female chief revenue officers nationally. Very much the sentiment I was hearing from them was like tick-tock Priya. Like, get back in because if you don't you may never be able to. And so, I went through all the things that moms go through when they're trying to get back in, right? How do I position this on my resume? What if people don't see in me what I know I bring to the table and what if I can't, I don't have those skills anymore and just spoiler alert, I absolutely did. You know, I came back in and it was like, I picked up where I left off but I had that fear. And so, I remember I also was looking for companies that had, you know, parental friendly benefits like some flexibility. I had a husband who worked a lot and traveled a lot and I had a friend who said, "Why don't you consider Indeed? You know, they're growing and you are going to be, you're going to work really hard but you're also going to have flexibility and as a sales rep you're going to be remote." And so, I joined Indeed, Indeed was my foray back into the workforce. I found my home here, I very much feel at home here. Three years into sales at Indeed I was having these conversations I talk about, right? Like women wanting to reenter, how can they reenter? And I kind of had this aha moment. I work at a company that helps people get jobs. Like we should have a voice in this conversation. And so, I started doing the research and it made me even more passionate and also was a little disheartening when you think about, you know, the motherhood penalty and, you know, kind of all the women that are exiting. And so I decided to pitch this idea to the incubator of a platform for women returning to the workforce. And so pitched it to you and some other senior executives, made it to the final round. And the feedback I received was we love this idea, we think it belongs with this newly created segments team and we should capitalize on the depth and breadth of Indeed in our reach, you know. And so after I processed my disappointment and it, I did have to process it, it took me a good couple of days. I called my sister and she is very much a tough love person. She's not the person you call when you want someone to say, oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. She's the person you call when you want to kick in you're behind, and that is exactly what she did. She said, so, okay, you got this directive, what are you going to do about it? How much do you care about this? Reach out to this team. And so, with the support of my incubator, Coach Courtney Tulang, she knew Jaan Shuar who ran the team at the time, reached out to him and to his credit, he immediately assigned a segment manager to it. I started doing this work while I was doing my sales job. My director was very supportive, Cherie Newing who's a marketing genius joined and volunteered her time and we were this three woman team trying to just get things done and follow this process. And so we got to the, to the point of a landing page and kind of stalled a little bit. I went, I got pregnant, COVID hit, all of these things happened when on maternity leave and came back and and Matthew Clark who runs the segmentation team had kind of kept this parents and caregivers segment alive. And so we talked, I interviewed for an open senior segment manager position and now I am on the segmentation team. And for me that was like, like a job that came down from the heavens. Like, I have always had this feeling of like, how can I be more of service? How can I do work that's more of service? And in this role being closer to the job seeker and underserved audiences, I very much feel like I am. So, very long story for you Chris but that's how I ended up here.

- Well, it's a great story. For me for a couple of reasons one is, I always like to say I want everyone's next job to be at Indeed, and you're a perfect example of that, but also it's just a great story for me of innovation because you got this idea out there but the point was that actually within our core platform we could help a whole lot more people we thought then by changing our core product, then just building something off to the side. But since you mentioned it several times, the segmentation team I'd imagine most people at Indeed and certainly those outside don't know exactly what that is. Can you explain a little bit about what the segmentation team does and to help understand how focusing on parents and caregivers within that could help so many millions of people?

- Yeah, absolutely and thanks for asking that. I think that, so the segmentation team I think at Indeed we're out there to help, you know, all people get a job. And so, at segmentation what we try to do is make the experiences whether they're for a particular occupational segment like a nurse or a truck driver, or a particular psychographic demographic segment like parents and caregivers returning to the workforce, veterans, veterans spouses, et cetera. We want to make the experience make sense for them so we're trying to influence product changes that help those audiences. And I'll give you an example of that. You know, when COVID hit last March, you know, people were looking for more remote jobs and that ended up becoming a demographic psychographic segment. And so the team helped influence a change where, you know, when you look for jobs on the search engine results page there's a dropdown for whether the job is remote or temporarily remote due to COVID. So, I think what we're trying to do is make sure the experience makes sense for particular occupational demographic psychographic segments.

- That's great. So, we keep talking about this offer for quite a bit of time but as we're, as we're winding down on time I want to get to really just your thoughts and your vision for the future about, what would a better world of work look like for women?

- Yeah, so, my older daughter has this book she loves called 'If I Built a School' by, his name is Chris Van Dusen, but it's really about from a kid's point of view if they were to build a school. And so, I was thinking about that book because if I was building a better world of work for women there's so many things that go into that. And I've, first is something I've experienced at Indeed, in the job seeker org, and that is calendar transparency. I think that what has been so comforting to me is that both men and women feel very comfortable. You know, our calendars are open, but putting things like school pickup, you know, kids' doctor's appointment, you know, kids event, family time. And I think that when we do that it gives everyone permission to put those things on their calendar but then to what you've said as well Chris, it helps to reverse these antiquated gender norms. Like, if a woman feels comfortable doing that and a father feels comfortable doing that or any parent and caregiver, then we work towards making caregiving a joint responsibility. And so, I think that is extremely important. I think also, you know, at childcare, childcare, childcare, if I've said it once, you know, I think that having that type of assistance whether it's from an employer perspective or, you know, through the American Family's Plan that's going on now, talking about, you know, universal preschool and quality childcare no matter what your income level it is, like, that is something women and parents want. You know, that helps them do their job and do it well. So, I think that's really important. And I think normalizing work-life flexibility, I think work-life balance and also flexibility that we've had, kind of had and not had during COVID but I think that if we normalize that for all employees, it helps everyone. It helps moms, it helps women, it helps parents, it helps everyone and I think that's really important. And then I think lastly, like as a society, we need to value caregiving, parenting and caregiving. Like, this is something that is hard work. It is something that helps our society continue as it does today. And so, for me those are four major things that would contribute to a better world of work for women.

- That's great. Well, so as a final question I always like to ask, what in this experience over the last 14 months has given you some reason to feel optimistic for the future?

- So, first is that I get to wake up every day and do work. Like I get to work as a senior segment manager and help psychographic demographic audiences. You know, parents returning to the workforce, veterans, social impact categories. I help the, I get to help these audiences return to the workforce or stay in the workforce. And to me that is just so exciting and it gives me so much hope on a daily basis. I think that, yes, COVID was hard on working women and working moms. But, you know, the other side of that coin is that there's never been a better time to be a woman. We have our first female vice president. We have 25% of Congress is made up of women. We have a historic high rate of female CEOs now. It's only 8%, we still have a long way to go, but, you know, it is a great time to be a woman. We're being represented at different levels and it gives me, gives me so much comfort and hope that my two daughters when they grow up and they're entering the workforce that they will feel limitless in terms of what they can do and what they can accomplish. So, those are the things that give me hope on a daily basis. And thank you for asking that.

- Well, Priya thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing your experiences and your aspirations, and really thank you for everything that you do for Indeed and for the world in terms of helping people get jobs.

- Thank you Chris and thank you for leading a company with such great leadership and empathy, and allowing the rest of us to do the same.