After nine years at Google, Phoebe Elder quit in July to stay home with her two kids. Relieved to get off the hamster wheel of juggling a demanding job and family time, Elder also feared losing the independence of having her own paycheck and the notoriously tough task of returning to work after a career break.
The Mom Project, a new Chicago-based start-up, aims to help women like Elder keep a foot in the door while fulfilling companies’ project-based needs.
“I’m not looking to fully return to the workforce at this moment, but I would love the opportunity to do something to stay relevant,” said Elder, 34, a suburban Chicago resident who has signed up to be part of the Mom Project’s talent network after the company found her on LinkedIn.
The Mom Project, which launched in April, is a digital marketplace connecting those taking career breaks with companies that need educated and experienced people for temporary projects, permanent posts or to fill in when an employee goes on maternity leave — dubbed a “maternityship,” said Allison Robinson, founder and CEO.
Robinson started the company during her own maternity leave from Procter & Gamble, where she works in enterprise sales and marketing strategy. She was struck by a statistic she read in Harvard Business Review that showed 43 percent of highly skilled women with children voluntarily leave their jobs, and connected that with broader trends of businesses desiring a flexible workforce that they can bring in and out as they need.
In addition, as more companies roll out generous parental-leave policies in an effort to attract and retain talented employees, they must figure out how to cover that gap.
“This is helping to engender the rise of a more independent workforce,” Robinson said.
The Mom Project is now in talks with companies, including some major corporations, to get them to sign on. The company will operate similarly to Airbnb, finding job opportunities, handling terms of employment and processing payments.