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Flex-Work, Life and Motherhood, with Manon DeFelice

Flex-Work, Life and Motherhood, with Manon DeFelice

Episode 45: Flex-Work, Life and Motherhood, with Manon DeFelice

Manon DeFelice is the Founder and CEO of Inkwell, a company dedicated to connect senior level women with flexible job opportunities. Her career path has been non-traditional to say the least. She started off right after college designing compensation packages for the top executives in large businesses. She went to law school, worked with the Manhattan DA office with the sex crime unit, and after graduating while pregnant, she had an offer from a large law firm rescinded and decided to go to work for the NYC Mayor’s office to work on human trafficking and the commercial exploitation of children. In this episode, Manon shares her career journey, how it shaped her both in her family life as a mother and as an executive, and how she negotiated her first job offer.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Rachel Griesinger: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, conversations with women, changing the face of business. And now your host, Kristy Wallace.

00:12 Maricella Herrera: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, this is Maricella Herrera. I never kick these off, but Kristy is not here with me today. She is, however, online. So Kristy, where are you?

00:27 Kristy Wallace: I am home today, in Brooklyn, with two very sick little kids.

00:35 MH: [chuckle] They've been a little sickly lately, haven't they?

00:39 KW: Yeah, it's been a rough winter for us, and I promise all of our listeners this was not planned, but it's somewhat appropriate timing because of the guest we have this week, who's Manon DeFelice. And Manon talks a lot about flex work and work/life balance. And that's a big part of what we offer at Ellevate, and part of what makes it so that I can do my job everyday, which is this ability to prioritize family, at times like today when I've got two really sick little kids who I wanna be home with. But I'm able to continue working and contributing to the team and have a unbelievably supportive team during that time. And I'm not stressed about it, which is key.

01:28 MH: Well that's important, you're not stressed. Did you know, though, I actually was listening... For those of you who don't know, we pre-record most of the interviews and then do the intros after. And I was listening today to your interview, Kristy, with Manon, and your kids were sick that time too.

01:48 KW: Oh God. This honestly has been the worst winter for us, it's... I don't know. I'm not trying to get everyone's pity, but if you wanna feel sorry for me, please do, [chuckle] 'cause we've been having a rough winter. And my husband's great and we have a support network, we've got a fantastic child care as well so we block and tackle, but today just so happened we have one healthy child and two not healthy children, so we're trying to keep them separated. And I somehow drew the short straw and have the two sick kids.

02:20 MH: Well Katharine and I are in one of the small little phone booths, or what I like to call, "the closet", so we're really happy you are not here spreading the germs. So thank you for that.

02:32 KW: Yes, I am heading out to California this week, actually, on Wednesday. I'm going out to the launch of our Orange County chapter and will be spending many many hours on a flight in a very short turnaround time. So it's possible you're gonna hear of outbreaks of this virus that I'm a passive carrier for all throughout the United States.

02:57 MH: Patient zero.

02:58 KW: That would be me.

03:01 MH: Cool, so I do have some stats and polls to share with everyone today. As Kristy said, Manon is the founder and CEO of Inkwell, so she helps executives find flexible work. And one of the things we asked our members is if a company's maternity leave policy affect their decision to work for them. I think we've already shared this info but I think these are the oldies but goodies; 56% of the community said, yes, it absolute would affect their decision to work for a company, whether they had a maternity leave policy or not. 26% said it would depend on if it would affect them directly. And 18% said "No", which I found a little surprising.

03:49 KW: I don't know, I guess it depends on if you're past... You know what, it's interesting, 'cause I was gonna say it depends on if you are past child... You're not thinking of having more children or you're not not thinking of having children now, and maybe that's not a priority but I think a company's maternity leave policy is just one aspect, but a very important aspect of the overall culture of a company and the value that they place on their employees and the steps that they take to create a work environment that supports the whole employee including their role as parent, their role as caregiver, and their role as an individual.

04:29 MH: Absolutely, I completely agree with that. It's something we were talking about earlier today.

04:34 KW: We were.

04:35 MH: Actually. But I think it is important. I'm not planning on having kids anytime soon, nor do I have kids now, but I think, and maybe it's because I work here, that it's something I would absolutely think about.

04:49 KW: Well, you can always take one of my children, if you ever wanted to test it out.

04:54 MH: I'll take B.

04:55 KW: Yeah.


04:57 KW: He's right next to me. Do you wanna go stay at Maricella's house for a while?

05:03 Benjamin: Why?


05:06 KW: Why? B do you wanna be on the... Come here, do you wanna be on the podcast.

05:11 Benjamin: No!

05:12 KW: Alright, he's mad, he was trying to gun for a play date earlier, because he was feeling better and I did not allow that.

05:19 MH: Yeah, no. I know the feeling Benjamin, I know the feeling.

05:22 KW: Alright, we digress.

05:24 MH: We digress. I do have another poll here we can share. As you were saying about how maternity leave policies can reflect how the overall culture within a company, the next poll data I had, was if you feel that you have a say in your company's policies and culture as it pertains to women and working families. It's kinda sad.

05:47 KW: This is one of our favorite... This is one of my favorite polls.

05:50 MH: Yeah, I know, it's very interesting. And 29% of our members say they don't, there's no way that they have a say in their company's policies as it pertains to women and working families. 23% say they don't think so. 20% say, "Yes somewhat," so it's kind of evenly split there. 14% say, "Yes absolutely." And 12% say, "Yes, it's my company." So it's around a third say, "No way," and the rest are kind of evenly split.

06:20 KW: I think this is very interesting because there's a lot of research that shows how important the engagement of senior leadership is in driving change and diversity and equality within a company. But then you have this workforce that feels that they don't have a say in those policies and so there's almost that disconnect, whereby if you have senior leaders and they're really engaging the workforce and listening to them and understanding what the needs and the values and priorities are, then you can start to create that path towards change and towards equality. But oftentimes, as we're hearing, employees feel like they're disengaged from that conversation.

07:00 MH: And how do you think companies can do that though? Can get more more of their employees involved? I know here we're a small company and we are kind of very open to the conversations with you and with Sallie on what we think is what we should be doing or moving forward but in companies that are bigger than ours for example.

07:19 KW: Well, I mean there's... I have a few ideas about that. One is creating a safe place to have these conversations, creating many opportunities to talk about policies and procedures at every step within a company. Also I wrote an article a few months ago around an employee Executive Board. And the premise of it is that you have company executive boards, boards of directors, they're really focused on the business and the business operations, the financials, the legal and cybersecurity and many aspects of that and then you have the senior leadership who are also thinking about more of the business and financials. Yet we know that the work force from lack of employee turnover to employee engagement has such a huge impact on the bottom line of an organization and how if you have a committed employee team that really has the power to drive change and make the decisions and influence in your leadership, you'll be able to start to see that impact within your organization.

08:37 MH: Yeah that's right. I love that article and it's on the Ellevate website, if you guys want to check it out. Shameless plug. [laughter] But we digress. We will go on to the interview with Manon, and if you wanna hear more of Kristy's thoughts, we'll turn the tables on her one of these days on the podcast and do a little interview and have you as a guest.

08:57 KW: Yes, I cannot wait. Maricella's going to be interviewing me on a future podcast. We also have a great line-up of guests coming up, so I would love it if you could subscribe to the podcast, rate it, review it and tell your friends. And we are nearing our one-year anniversary. We still have a few weeks to go but we've got some exciting things planned around that including some live events. So keep an ear out for that and we promise we'll share the details once they're finalized.

09:27 MH: Absolutely, now go back to your sick kids.

09:30 KW: I will. Yeah.

09:32 MH: Thanks.

09:32 KW: Fun times.

09:33 MH: And now let's get to our interview with Manon DeFelice.


09:49 KW: I'm joined with a fantastic woman who I've known for over a year now, Manon. Manon, hello, welcome.

09:57 Manon DeFelice: Hi, thanks so much for having me.

10:00 KW: So Manon is the founder and CEO of Inkwell and we're gonna get to that in a minute, how you founded the company and what you've learned from that. But first I would love for you to share a little bit about your background 'cause this feeds a good bit into where you are today.

10:13 MD: Yes, well it's been a weird road and it's actually... I went to one of your events at the White House and it was the first time that my career track finally made sense to me, so I thank you for that. I out of undergrad, I did executive compensation consulting for a couple of years at what was then called Towers Perrin and I was designing compensation packages for the top five executives at Fortune 500 companies.

10:40 KW: So that's gotta be interesting because you're right out of undergrad, probably making very little compensation, and designing executive compensation packages.

10:48 MD: Yes and I was negotiating Country Club doom memberships and all different kind of crazy perks for these people. And one of them actually happened to be a friend of mine's father so that was super weird. [chuckle] And I... As important as that was, I felt like I wasn't really making the world a better place. I guess that's...

11:09 KW: Can I ask, did you ever negotiate compensation for a woman?

11:14 MD: Wow, not... And I can't say no, but not that I recall.

11:20 KW: Yeah.

11:20 MD: Yeah. So after the first year, I went to the Global Consulting Group and then we did more of global comp packages for people that were moving around a lot. And so from Towers Perrin, I went to law school and when I was in law school, I studied Criminal Law. And I worked at the Brooklyn DA's office in the gun part and then the Manhattan district attorney's office in the Sex Crimes Unit. And I actually graduated law school pregnant and so unlike a lot of my peers, when I took my first job out of law school, I needed to figure out maternity leave.

12:01 MD: One of my offers actually was withdrawn when they found out that I was pregnant. It happens still and even though it was a law firm and they had all the legal consequences to that, they still reneged the offer. So I ended up going to the New York City's Mayor's office and I worked with my old boss from the Manhattan DA's office and I worked on human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

12:28 KW: So a quick question, but I love your story and I thought I wanted to be a lawyer for years. So I admire you.

12:36 MD: You would have been a great lawyer.


12:39 KW: All of my dreams were based on Blue Bloods and Law and Order and TV.

12:44 MD: Exactly, mine too. Well that's why I did Criminal Law, exactly.

12:47 KW: I am a TV crime show junkie. I would also be a medical examiner or a crime scene technician if it wasn't the fact that I can't stand blood and gore and guts, but I think it's super cool. But going from a larger, more corporate environment like Towers Perrin to working in government, in the city, that must have been a huge shift. And I know you had law school in between there but it's very different.

13:16 MD: Yeah, it is different. But it's hard to explain. You hear people say, "Oh, government's corrupt," or, "This is bad." All of these stories and I really felt that everyday I was in a room with people that were dedicating their careers and working as hard as anybody that's making millions of dollars on Wall Street for very little money and really trying to solve problems. And so I had a very great experience working at the mayor's office and at the prosecutor's office and I really felt that everyone was there with great intentions and just really helping. And I'm sure that wasn't true. I'm sure that's a little naïve but that was really how I felt about that work.

14:03 KW: How deeply were you affected by the work?

14:07 MD: So, at the Manhattan DA's office when I was in the sex crimes unit, I didn't deal with children, I dealt with adults that were victims of sexual assault. And when I went over to the mayor's office and I worked on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, that was definitely harder dealing with kids. We dealt a lot with under age prostitution, run away youth that had been pimped in different situations. That was definitely harder. One of the hardest cases where we did a shaken baby conference and I was pregnant with a baby, and so hearing about how people that were responsible for taking care of kids while the kid's parents were at work were shaking babies. That was definitely a tough conference to sit through.

15:00 MD: And we definitely, in training, saw images. I now have three kids, I have a nine year old, a six year old and a two year old. And when I look at my six year old boy I'm very scared about things that can happen to him that I heard happened to kids, and so it's definitely something that's kind of constant in my consciousness. Kids going over to sleep overs, relatives coming. You're always thinking about it, it's definitely... But the same as watching SVU would.

15:31 KW: No, but I think that's what's so interesting about it is watching all of the crime shows. Every night I'm convinced someone's trying to climb in my window to steal my baby and I literally, I'm constantly checking on them. And I know statistically that's not the case but once you're exposed to certain realities it's just something you can't unsee, like you said.

15:57 MD: Yeah, absolutely. And it's more even that you realize that those random acts of violence are less likely. It's more like people you know. So your best family friends are more likely to victimize your children than the stranger on the street.

16:13 KW: So your oldest is nine?

16:14 MD: She'll be nine on Friday, I can't believe it.

16:18 KW: We've talked a little bit with our guests in the past about your kids in social media, phones and technology, particularly given your background. What are any tips for our listeners?

16:30 MD: So we've been very closed on all that stuff. I don't know if it's maybe because of my background or... I never put those two together but my kids have never had iPads. They've never... At restaurants or airplanes, I don't give them iPads, I just haven't. I think it's probably harder now for me to do that with, going forward with the two year old since I have a nine year old. And she'll start to use it with school and stuff like that but because we didn't have any reason to give it to them, we just didn't. Definitely, I think our kids are being raised in a very different environment with social media and Instagram and all that. If you think about when we were kids if we got in a fight with... Maybe you're three girls, your best friends. You get into a fight with one of them, you might prank call the other one and start a little phone chain. But now girls can blast horrible things out to thousands of people without thinking twice and so that's definitely a different environment.

17:29 MD: I think that obviously you have to really be vigilant about teaching your kids that whoever... And I have au pairs which are kind of like... And I go through this with them, and they're like, "When you're on a computer in a chat room and you're talking to someone that may say that they're an au pair in another city and they wanna meet up, they could be someone completely different from who you think they are." And so being really careful about what information you put out there obviously is really important and not knowing who anybody you're talking to is actually who they say they are.

17:58 KW: Yeah.

18:00 MD: Internet pornography. [chuckle] I'm very kind of against because of the stuff that... Even not that I'm against pornography in general but once you're on the internet and you start clicking you don't know what you're gonna get and you may click into something that is an underage child or something like that.

18:15 KW: So when you're in airports and restaurants what do you give your children? Because mine are attached to iPads. [chuckle] And I'm open to any ideas.

18:25 MD: Yeah, I mean I don't know. They just never had them so I guess it's coloring and... When we fly on airplanes and there's a TV on the plane, like a JetBlue plane, of course I let them watch it. It's not like I'm anti-TV, we just never gave them the iPad. So at restaurants we make them either participate or color or whatever. I'll pull some like a random thing out of my purse and it becomes a toy, right? So I'm still distracting them with something.

18:52 KW: You're like "Sugar packets, Yay! Woohoo!"

18:53 MD: Yeah. Exactly, totally. [laughter] Like, "Pour this into glasses of water." I don't know we just come up with other games.

18:58 KW: "Watch it dissolve, science. We're learning science at dinner kids."


19:02 MD: Totally, anything that you can do. But yeah, it's probably more work.

19:06 KW: So you'd mentioned you were pregnant when you graduated law school and you have an interesting story about how you negotiated your start date, right?

19:16 MD: Yes. So actually I had the offer that you... Kind of my dream job, was the one that was reneged, I guess is the term for it, when I was pregnant. The way they got around it was they said they would defer it to the following year. And so what I did is I actually started at the mayor's office as an intern. When you graduate law school in the spring then you study for the bar exam, right? So I took the bar exam pregnant, when I was done with the bar exam, I then went to the mayor's office as an intern and I did that three days a week. And so I interned there three days a week throughout the last couple months of my pregnancy. And then when I went in to have the baby, I was in the hospital and they called me and they said that they wanted me to come back and run this grant after the baby was born. So I didn't actually have an offer to come back for a paid job until I went... Until I had the baby. And so then they gave me a few months off. And then I came back and worked when I had the baby, yeah. So I'm very, very grateful to the woman that gave me that opportunity, for sure.

20:32 KW: It's interesting I've always... And I've talked about this on the podcast before, but I also have three, as you know. And with my first, I took time off right when I had him. I was so burnt out from working, it was like I cannot imagine doing this with more responsibility. My second, I was at a company that did not have paid benefits, it was a really small start-up company so I got some time off but not paid. And then my third was at Ellevate, which was something very different. And we have paid maternity leave and it is just, no one calls you, no one talks to you because they really respect your time off and three very different experiences. And of course by the third I had had the hang of it. So I'm like, "I'm so bored everyone. All she's doing is sleeping." [laughter] I used to come into the office for meetings and they'd be like, "Please go home." And I'm like, "No, I'm bored, I miss you." But it's interesting and I know that for many women as we talk about negotiating leave, negotiating terms, managing through the different stages of our lives. What tips do you have?

21:53 MD: Oh gosh. Well, the lawyer in me would definitely say, "Know your rights," right? After I left, I left the mayor's office when I was pregnant with my second and ended up becoming the executive director of a non-profit and then I became pregnant with my second very soon after I took that job. And in that role I had to... I was the only employee and I was having a baby, and so I didn't get a maternity leave or anything. But negotiating what I needed to get in order to make that job work for me is one of the reasons why I subsequently... I'm doing what I'm doing now.

22:41 MD: But really there's the Family Medical Leave Act that you can figure out what rights you have. Sometimes it's dependent on how long you've been at a company or the size of the company, things like that, but also on the back end once the baby is born in terms of breastfeeding rights and things like that to really educate yourself and figure out what... It's hard to know what you're gonna need before you have the baby but then, if you do decide to breastfeed, really advocating for that space. At the mayor's office I had to get a breastfeeding room and when I was at the non-profit there wasn't a space for me to do it and so then it became, well then I have to work from home.

23:27 MD: There has to be some sort of accommodation for this. So really being vocal about that. And sometimes you'll find female advocates for you within the organization and sometimes you'll be surprised it won't be the females, it'll be the males that will be supportive of you. But you really need to find someone in a senior position or if you do have an HR person to help you navigate through that.

23:51 KW: That's great advice and that's very important advice to speak up for what it is that you need or that you want, then making sure you have, particularly people in power, that are advocating for you.

24:03 MD: Absolutely. And there may be... I remember at my non-profit, there wasn't a space, but the office next door was willing to rent out a room at $50 a day, or something like that. But then it's like, well, doesn't make sense for us to be spending that kind of money or would it make more sense for me to just stay home and do it? And so those kinds of trade offs. If you can come up with a plan, and if you can tie it to the bottom line and a budget, in some way, that's always helpful.

24:33 KW: Yeah, absolutely. I'm so embarrassed to even say this right now. But I, with my third, and by that point... Sorry, if this offends anyone, but everyone had to see my boobs, I've nursed through three kids. And we were at a co-working space, and they didn't have dedicated nursing room. Which Eileen Carey, who is a founder of Glassbreakers, penned an op-ed about this and it was met with a lot of great responses and a lot of backlash because she really talked about the culture of companies that focus more on the ping pong tables and the beer, and not on the lactation rooms, and other resources that working parents may need. But anyway, so I with my third, just did it at my desk, in an office that I shared with other people. It wasn't a private office, it wasn't...

25:24 MD: You pumped?

25:25 KW: Yeah.


25:26 MD: That's so awesome.

25:27 KW: I just threw on a cape, and I pumped. Of course I thought about it. I wasn't happy about it. But it was just like...

25:36 MD: Yeah, you just did it.

25:37 KW: This is something I need to do. I'm not embarrassed about it, I'm creating food for my baby.

25:43 MD: Good for you.

25:44 KW: But I think about what you did, and particularly having that conversation, and raising awareness, and changing policy. And that's something that now I'm embarrassed to say I should have done that. I should have fought harder with the co-working space to create change, because women in our organization became pregnant after me. And they shouldn't have had to have any indecision about, "Where should I nurse?" And at that point we had come up with better solutions but I should've driven that, and I should've been that voice. And so I love your advice.

26:22 MD: Well, I don't think you should be so hard on yourself, because it was... You made it work for you, and what you did was okay. You felt comfortable doing it and it was fine for you to do that. So, people in leadership need to be conscious of that as well, that the voices from below can affect them at the top as well.

26:42 KW: Yeah. Absolutely. So, how did you get to where you are today? Tell us about Inkwell. 'Cause everything we've been talking about, I swear folks, leads to this.


26:51 MD: I think it leads to it somehow. But yes, one of the discussions at this non-profit was, the office space that I had been renting in the city was $7,000 a month. And one of the board members had provided that office space. And I was commuting in from the city. And I was trying to breastfeed, and there was no breastfeeding space. And I said, "Well, why should we spend an extra $50 a day for me to have this lactation room? I'm the only employee, why am I coming in from Connecticut to sit in a $7,000 office space by myself? Why don't we become virtual, and let me use that $7,000 to start hiring contractors and part-time people." And the board, eventually after some change in control, [chuckle] agreed. And I was given that $7,000 a month as the first spending money for the foundation. And my first hire was actually my old boss from the mayor's office, who had moved to Washington DC. And one of the rules at the mayors office, if you leave the city, you can't work for the city anymore. So she had moved to DC, and had two small kids with her, and she was looking for something 20 hours a week.

28:09 MD: And we needed someone amazing to help us draft some legislation, and she was in DC, she was willing to do it. We paid her a very, very reasonable rate, and her 20 hours a week was better than probably most people's full-time work. And when we needed to have meetings with members of congress, she was right there, and would come to them. And it was amazing opportunity for her to stay current and do really interesting ground breaking legal work. And it was great for us. And so, I kind of created this little army of senior women, that were looking for interesting high level work, on a flexible basis. And so that's how I ran that non-profit for the next four/five years. And when I had my third baby... I love building things, and the non-profit was going, and self running, and my role had become more of a fundraising role than starting programs. And so I left to start Inkwell. And so what we do at Inkwell is we connect... We started primarily with senior level women that were looking for flexible jobs, and we match them with opportunities.

29:21 MD: So we started with really non-profits, and start-ups. It was something that I was doing organically anyway, since I was either matching people to my non-profit, or to others. When I was living out in Connecticut, a lot of my peers were not working, and they were all looking for things to do on the side, and so I just started matching people, sort of like a networker, matchmaker type person. And it just really made sense to me, and I felt like there was this gap, no one was doing it, and someone had to start harnessing this untapped workforce of talent. And so that was two years ago.

29:58 MD: Since then, we do still focus on women but not just moms. We also work with any type of candidate that is really looking for flexibility and so that's all types of caretakers, retirees, people with disabilities, military spouses, anyone that really just needs or prioritizes, rather, flexibility over maybe compensation. Because what we do is we make that flexibility part of the compensation package, as an incentive for companies to use this workforce. And so, the idea is that if you work from home one day a week, you'll make a little bit less than someone that works five days in the office but that trade off matters more to you. And so, if flexibility does matter more to you than the cash component of the compensation, I think this goes back to my time at Towers Perrin when I was designing the compensation packages.

30:54 MD: If you look at the pie chart of compensation, one slice of pie will be cash, one will be equity, one will be bonus. And so if the candidate is prioritizing flexibility, make that part of the pie chart, reduce the cash component for the company; It's a win-win for both parties.

31:12 KW: So I think a lot about flexibility for myself and for the people of Ellevate. We're a small team but a mighty team. I'm always impressed by the dedication, and the hard work, and the passion, and the resilience of the women and men of Ellevate. And part of that really just goes to how you view your workforce, seeing them as a huge asset in the company, not just the delivery of the product, the creators, the innovators, the public-facing...

31:48 MD: Your people are everything.

31:50 KW: And so when, one of the employees had a child and wanted to work from home one day a week, absolutely. When someone decided she needed to move away from New York to help with her grandmother, absolutely. We have people who work remotely, work different hours, bring pets to work. Even me, personally, we had a time last week. I was up in the middle of the night with two kids puking, and the next night it was someone else getting sick, and just not having to stress about the fact that, "Okay, I can work from home, or I can take the day off because my kids are sick." It goes such a long way to making you feel like you're in a company that cares about you as an individual, and thus you really care about making that company the best it can be.

32:38 MD: Absolutely. And so, if you have someone who is choosing between a sick child and their job, the sick child wins, right? And to the detriment of the company really and so, people quit their jobs because they maybe wanna take a music class on Tuesday mornings, and that's just ridiculous to me. It's like you're stopping, say we live to be... And I don't mean to say it's ridiculous to me in a derogatory way to that individual. I'm saying it's ridiculous that companies allow that to happen. So if we live to be a 100 years old, God willing, and then you stop your career for 10 years because you can't juggle all of it, because a company's not being flexible enough for you, that future loss of income, and that future loss of career, and the brain-drain, and that kind of... How those companies then lose their senior level women is just... It's so bad for the economy.

33:38 MD: It's so bad for the companies and it just doesn't make any sense. And so, with the way technology is today where you really can work from anywhere, everyone's working 24/7 anyway, to insist on FaceTime and office hour time, it doesn't seem to make sense anymore, and the companies that continue to do that are going to lose their senior talent. And it's not just their women, it's men as well. And it's gonna be millennials too, who are now all asking for flexibility and prioritizing that work/life balance. So really, companies need to start adapting to accommodate for that.

34:16 KW: So in your role, I feel like you have an insider perspective on negotiation. And you are in the middle and you're advising women and men on negotiating for their packages, but do you see a difference between how women and men approach it, and the things that they ask for?

34:41 MD: So, I would say this: That if a woman has to leave at 4:00 to pick up a kid from school, that becomes a very big issue in their head and they might try to hide it, or all day they'll be stressed about that event or for whatever reason. And whereas the guys, they go play golf on Friday, they don't think twice about it. So, I think the fact that the guys... If a guy takes a long lunch or does something else, it doesn't even occur to them that they're having a flexible schedule or something. But women, we're like, "Oh, we have to take care of our kid all of a sudden," that becomes a bad thing, right? So I see that kind of difference between men and women a lot.

35:24 KW: And we feel guilty for it?

35:26 MD: You feel guilty for it, but yet you're doing something completely selfless. And maybe the guy is doing something that's more for his benefit so... But I think being open about it, I know women that block time in their calendars, and make up things in their calendars so their assistants don't know that they're spending time with their kids or whatever. And I think that we just all have to be more vocal about what's going on, and know you can't do it all. Like, yes, your kids get sick. Yes, you have to go do these things. Kids have dance recitals, you can go to them, right? So...

36:01 KW: Sure.

36:01 MD: You don't need to say that it's a doctor's appointment. You can say it's a... So I think that within the office we should be more open about our work/life balance. In terms of negotiating, I had this woman call me from Google who was saying, "I'm working a 100 hours a week, I'm pregnant. I can't do it, I'm quitting, what do you have for me?" And I was like, "Well that's great for me, Inkwell, I'd love to work with you. But have you asked Google? Have you gone and talked to them about this before you just go and quit?" And then she said, "No." And I said, "Well, go do that first." Right? So I think that sometimes employees assume that their employers won't be flexible and won't be accommodating. And definitely before you quit or make any big changes, I think that you should go and try to approach your manager or your HR.

36:54 MD: And my advice to people when they wanna do that is really to be very prepared and, again, if you can bring it down to the bottom line for people. Come up with a clear proposal, a clear ask, "I wanna work from home on Fridays," or, "I want to leave at 3:00 on Wednesdays," or, "I wanna come in the office at 11:00 on Thursdays," or whatever it is that you need. Be really clear about it. If you're asking for a big flex opportunity, I would offer a reduction in compensation for that period, as a way to kind of... If you can take that cut, if you're going from a five day work week to a four day work week, you should adjust your compensation accordingly. And then you won't feel guilty about it as much, 'cause you're making less and then if people in the office are like, "Why does she get to leave on Friday?" And she's like, "Well, she doesn't get paid for Fridays, right?" So however... If you can come in with some sort of bottom line ask, I say to do it as a trial, like, "Let's try this for three months."

37:56 MD: Let's set clear goals and targets during that period, clear check-in points and if something isn't working, you'll re-negotiate it. I say that not only to protect the employer who wants to make sure that things are getting done, but also to protect you because at the end of the three months, you don't want someone to come and say, "Well this isn't working. We can't do it anymore." And you say, "Well, why isn't it working? I've made every single goal that we had set, right?"

38:20 MD: And I think that, obviously step one is to be a really great employee, right? That they want to accommodate and to keep just like you said that you did for yours. So if you're a great employee and you work really hard, your employer would be foolish to not try to accommodate you because the expense of hiring a recruiter, bringing someone new in, training them, getting them up to speed. Those expenses are real and very high and so if you can retain your people and create loyalty and... It's very valuable to the company.

39:01 KW: So, what's the mission of Inkwell? What are you out there to do?

39:05 MD: I'm out to change the world, right? [chuckle] I didn't start Inkwell to start a staffing and recruiting company, I really started it to change the way... Change the traditional workforce. And I feel that there are so many people that are left on the sidelines, be it caretakers or women or people with disabilities or retirees. All of those people can offer so much.

39:33 KW: Great. Well thanks so much for joining us today.

39:35 MD: Thank you so much for having me. Thanks for supporting flexibility.

39:38 KW: Yay!


39:41 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out! Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review, also don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website,, that's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller. She rocks. And to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.


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