Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a day to recognize the achievement of women in our lives, acknowledge that gender bias still exists, and take action to forge women’s equality.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, so we reached out to a few of our female founder clients. Their quotes will be featured in our firm’s #WomenLeadersWeLove social media campaign, including our interview with Cherie Hoeger, CEO and cofounder of a period care product line and brand, Saalt.
As a CEO in an industry that was considered taboo only years ago, Cherie is breaking down barriers and challenging those who have yet to accept that women have a seat at the table and are here to stay.
We asked Cherie a series of questions that we hope will empower other founders in following their dreams and continuing to #BreakTheBias.
What is something you are proud of as a woman in leadership?
The effort I’m most proud of in my leadership is directing our company’s social impact mission to end period poverty globally. Since Saalt’s launch in 2018, we’ve donated over 30,000 period cups and underwear in 35 countries to provide long-term, sustainable solutions that keep girls in school and allow women to provide for their families with dignity. But we haven’t stopped there. We also help fund educational scholarships for girls and employment opportunities for women to maximize our efforts to change the world by empowering individuals. Growing up, I always dreamed of making a tangible impact to improve the world, and it’s been so fulfilling to make that dream a reality by embracing the B Corp model of using our business as a source for good through our 2% give-back mission.
How can others help #BreakTheBias of stereotypes and discrimination?
As a female founder, I’ve unfortunately experienced gender bias in both subtle and non-subtle ways—from introducing myself as CEO yet having the conversation and eye contact directed solely to male teammates in the room, or being treated aggressively by colleagues in former workplaces. When gender bias occurs, it’s so important to address it in the moment with directness, but also with the positive intent to help others see blind spots and improve.
How can we help #BreakTheBias?
Speak up. Challenge the status quo. Be bold. Propose radical change and solutions.
Working in the category of women’s period care also comes with additional stigmas and stereotypes. When I tell people what I do, there’s always that initial awkwardness because, as a society, we’ve been taught to keep conversations around periods hush-hush. It’s up to us as females to set the tone of the conversation. Our comfort level talking about periods gives permission to male colleagues and people of all gender identities to also feel comfortable. Every time I pitch to bankers, attorneys, retail buyers, or just people passing by our event booth, the conversations quickly turn from uncomfortable to meaningful and engaging when I talk about periods on a human level and share our impact mission to keep young girls in school with safe, long-term period care. By simply talking about periods in a tone that carries no shock or shame, you can create a shift in the societal mindset that spurs awareness and progress. After all, the menstrual cycle is responsible for perpetuating the human race. I think that deserves some kudos, not censorship!
How can women support other women in their organizations?
As a female entrepreneur and mother of five daughters, it’s so important that we support the women in our organizations and the females we influence in our lives. Don’t ever be afraid to set the vision for your business and families from the vital perspective of the strong woman that you are! We have such power as female leaders to break barriers and empower the women we lead. Part of that means not being afraid to discuss the real needs of women, and especially mothers, in the workplace. The challenges women face in a traditionally patriarchal business structure are real, and for too long women’s needs in the workplace have been allowed to just be brushed aside. Take childcare, for example, which disproportionately affects women and is one of the primary causes of the gender pay gap—and it’s even wider for women of color. The high cost of childcare is one of the number one barriers for mothers who want to work. Because our team at Saalt is made up of 80% females—many who are mothers of young children—we decided to address the need head-on by offering a free, in-office preschool five days per week with three preschool teachers. We dedicate nearly 10% of our office space to the preschool, and it’s been worth every penny. The result is high employee buy-in that is a win-win for both our company and team. Our working mothers (and fathers!) are so grateful for the added benefit because it gives them a chance to further their careers while still enjoying interaction with their children throughout the day in a positive learning environment. Let’s not wait for the world to catch up to addressing women’s progress. We as women can take the lead on finding tangible, creative solutions in the workplace that ditch antiquated work models and support working women.
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