4min readBusiness 15 May 2019
When Jill Koziol was expecting her first child, she didn't see motherhood depicted in a modern, authentic, and inspiring way—and so she decided to rebrand what it means to be "Motherly."
Before having children I had an illustrious career in consulting advising senior government officials and impacting strategy as the highest level. I was confident in who I was and the value I brought to my profession. When I met someone new they always asked what I did as my career and I was proud to share my work. But, that all changed when I became a mother. While I continued to work, I found that the world no longer saw me as an accomplished professional—before anything I was a mom. Now I was asked what my husband did as his profession, not me.
I felt lost, like I was missing a core piece of my identity and had been put in a box that just didn't fit. Why was it that society saw the characteristics of motherhood as nurturing, loving, and caring, without acknowledging that women who are mothers can also be ambitious, driven, and confident? These attributes appeared to be viewed as contradictory but that didn't align with my truth.
It took randomly crossing paths with another mom, Liz Tenety, through the Stanford Graduate School of Business community. Liz and I got to know one another as working mothers but even then our lives didn't intersect much. We were just too busy raising our young children and putting our husbands through business school to get to know each other that well.
Incidentally, Liz and I had lived parallel lives for nearly a decade—though we had never met. We both attended Georgetown (Liz as an undergrad, me for grad school), worked in DC (me in strategy management consulting for defense and intelligence agencies, Liz in journalism at the Washington Post), and both married Naval Academy graduates—and lived as Navy wives while our spouses deployed abroad.
It wasn't until 2015 after Liz attended a mother's symposium on finding your authentic self that our worlds truly connected. On a cold NYC day in March Liz called me to chat about some ideas she had for a business to address the fact that motherhood was consistently portrayed in an outdated manner in media. She was not looking for a co-founder on that call but what she said resonated deeply with me as both a millennial mom and a woman—and a partnership was born.
The more we talked the more Liz and I realized that the issue wasn't simply a media issue, but a systemic issue that cut across content, community, and commerce. We also quickly recognized that this white space existed not just for us—but for our entire generation.
Research shows that millennial women are the first generation where women are more educated than men. They are also the first digitally-native generation to become parents. This generation of hopeful, accomplished, and discerning women was arriving to motherhood wanting to embrace this most incredible transformation of their lives—but found themselves disappointed with the outdated offerings from media outlets and consumer products.
That's where Motherly came in.
From across the country, with Liz in California and me in NYC, we launched Motherly's "alpha" within six weeks of our first conversation and spent the next six months leveraging a design-thinking, user-driven approach, gathering data from thousands of women to understand what their pain points were in the micro-moments of motherhood. Through those interviews, we realized that creating a community around woman-centered, expert-driven, non–judgmental content was a way to connect with and inspire women.
Today, nearly four years since that first conversation, Motherly has emerged as the voice of the millennial mom and is a lifestyle parenting brand redefining motherhood on behalf of a new generation of mothers. We provide our 30M+ community of mamas with the encouragement, support, and inspiration to meet her real life, real mama needs reminding her that motherhood is an opportunity to nurture—not lose—her true sense of self.
We are proud to be two female founders building a business for women, by women and creating a next-generation employer where parents can thrive. But all of this success hasn't been without its challenges. Our growth has been organic simply because we weren't able to raise the capital needed to fund marketing campaigns. Looking back, all of those "no's" from venture capitalists the first three years were a blessing. We were forced to be scrappy and it taught us grit and resilience. And our team owns our success in a profound way—we've earned our audience's loyalty, mama by mama. In business, money can hide a lot of problems and in its absence one must address each problem head on. We did all the hard things, which in the end were the right things.
In addition to the stereotypical challenges we faced from investors as female founders who also happen to be mothers, we both faced deeply personal struggles in Motherly's first years. Liz, now pregnant with her fourth child, has endured hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe nausea, through two pregnancies. And three short months after our formal launch in December 2015, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an incurable neurological disease. Thanks to amazing doctors and cutting edge medical treatments, I'm blessed in that it's unlikely I will ever fully develop MS. And, as everyone at TeamMotherly can attest, my disease hasn't slowed me down at all.
Though it all we've had each other's backs and we've had an amazing village in our staff, TeamMotherly. We've also had a deep passion and conviction driving our every decision that women and mothers deserve better—we exist to change the world on her behalf. And, we've got this, together.
Portions of the article are excerpts from the intro of This is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices.
5 Min Read
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.