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Meet Trailblazer Jennifer Henderson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Henderson.

Jennifer, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a professional mom with two small children, I experienced career stagnation and pregnancy discrimination when I disclosed both of my pregnancies. My employers simply didn’t know what to do with me, or women like me, to maintain career growth with pregnancy and young children. The penalty of motherhood that women incur to ‘choose’ between their career or staying at home with children is antiquated, short sided and shuts out an immense talent pool that is more educated, experienced and driven than ever before in history.

For the past two years, I have set out to bring parental leave into the 21st century. The emerging workforce has demanded that the workplace evolve to integrate work/life in a way never seen before in history. In addition, I spent 15 years in Corporate America as a manager and people leader. That experience taught me what the pain point and cost is to the employer by mismanaging this process. Turnover is one of the most costly expenses that businesses incur. Because we are working to change a process that has seen very little disruption historically, we are having to educate investors, clients and stakeholders on a ‘what if’ scenario which has proven harder than anticipated. That hasn’t deterred our mission and we will continue to advocate for progressive, respectful and smart parental leave management. The stories, testimonials, and letters of gratitude that we receive from pilot and beta users keeps us focused on the goal. The time is now to create a more inclusive and progressive workplace for parents. The labor market will continue to tighten and the employers who take a proactive and progressive approach to attract and retaining talent will end up on top.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We are about to open our first seed round of financing and for the past year, I’ve been continually pushed to demonstrate traction (i.e. customer, revenue) before we open that round. While I completely understand the desire to ‘de-risk’ our venture, there are a considerable amount of pre-revenue start-ups who receive funding when they demonstrate a compelling, exciting and innovative solution to a current problem, which we have done. There undoubtedly seems to be constantly moving off the finish line which has been both frustrating and motivating. We have been told ‘you’re too early for us to invest but keep us posted on your progress,’ more times than we can count. As for advice for women starting this entrepreneurial journey, the best advice I can give you is that if you’re not completely consumed by solving the problem you’re setting out to solve, think twice. The rollercoaster of entrepreneurship will make you want to give up more than any other venture you’ve likely been involved with. If you don’t have your ‘true north’ to get you back on the horse, you will likely be part of the start-up attrition statistic.

We’d love to hear more about Career Allies.
Career Allies is revolutionizing parental leave in the workplace. Through a web-based platform, our process guides employees and companies through a research-based, aptitude inclusive approach to retention, engagement, and effective transitions. Ensuring organizations reduce turnover, attract new workforce generations, support managers and sustain a respectful and effective process for parental leaves through an easy to use SaaS platform (TiLT- Talent in Leave Technology). Often a highly charged and anxiety-provoking process for all parties that company policies, procedures, and programs alone won’t fix. Our focus is to equip and bring all together, communicating in a sensitive yet forthright way to align expectations.

Everything that we do is built to support parents (women, men, same-sex couples) in the workplace. Women incur a 30-40% earning reduction across their lifetime if they opt out of the workforce for just 2 years to care for a child. Less than 10% of men who have paternity benefits offered to them feel comfortable using the entirety of that benefit due to fear of stigma, career dedication question, and promotion deterioration. That penalty of parenthood has driven my involvement in not only this company but serving on the board of Chai for Charity, a women-focused worldwide giving funnel and I’ve served as a mentor for ACP, American Corporate Partners, to help veteran spouses transition to the workforce.

We are different from other solution because of our operating thesis- we believe the most productive work/life integration must happen with a manager and employee collaboration. This is what our solution crafts for all key stakeholders. By being tech-enabled, we can scale and remain low cost.

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
I have found the entrepreneurial community incredibly collaborative and supportive. In my local area and elsewhere in the country/world, fellow entrepreneurs take cold LinkedIn messages, reply emails and phone calls at far greater rates than my prior experience in corporate America. Finding a mentor in this ecosystem is not hard if you value people’s time by being prepared, responsive tenacious. I’ve had hundreds of coffee dates and video calls over the past two years building relationships and being a sponge. In practical terms, cast your net wide- as for a lot of calls, meetings in the beginning. Listen 5x more than you talk in those meetings. Be prepared by knowing the background and expertise of who you’re meeting with and always follow-up with a genuine thank you.

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