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Taking the Lead Episode 1: The Pain Point

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Welcome to a very special month of Note to Self.

For the next four weeks, we're telling the story of two Brooklyn women, Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker, who have an idea (a tech idea) to help harried working mothers who still want to rise up in their professional ranks.

Why? Because of numbers like these:

  • 4.2 percent of S&P 500 companies have female CEOs 
  • 43 percent of highly-skilled women with children leave their jobs voluntarily at some point in their careers
  • The U.S. is the only developing country that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act gives workers a maximum of 12 weeks off unpaid per year
  • Almost 70 percent of mothers and over 90 percent of fathers are in the workforce
  • Caregiving is projected to be the largest occupation in the U.S. by 2020
  • Only 7 percent of U.S. startups that received at least $20 million in funding have founders who are women 

Being a working parent can take its toll. Between school lunches, conference calls, soccer practices, quarterly reviews, sleepovers, and PowerPoint presentations, many of you told us that maintaining your sanity, succeeding professionally, and being a present parent feels nearly impossible.

Here's what some of you said:

I am a freelancer and because of that don’t have paid maternity leave. Thanks, America. We ended up in this situation where I could only really take the day I gave birth off. - Amy I am a full time high school English teacher and I have two young sons. Last year, my younger son was sick. He had some sort of fever so he couldn’t go into preschool, and my husband had a meeting at work so he couldn’t take him in, and I couldn’t get a sub on short notice. So he came into school with me. And everything worked fine for a little while and suddenly I heard “mommy” said in the tone that all moms know is not a good sign. And it was followed by the sound of my poor child vomiting everywhere. - Serena I was schlepping a breast pump into an old bathroom of a building I used to work in that was not remotely accommodated for nursing moms. And I had an extension cord coming out of the bathroom into the stall with my laptop while I was on a conference call and pumping and staying on mute and sending out an evite for a girls night reunion at my house. - Rebecca My daughter was about three or four and she was sick and had to stay home from school, but I didn’t have anyone to stay with her. So I took her to work with me. I was working in an office with cubicles, so I sort of stuffed her under my desk at the bottom of the cubicle where a couple of pairs of shoes and a lot of wires and my hard-drive were, and I kept her under the desk for the whole day. - Julia

Even though we live in progressive times, some mothers still find themselves doing the heavy lifting at home. Enter Rachael and Leslie, who team up to create Need/Done, a service they think will help working mothers conquer their to-do list and concentrate on their professional ambitions. Think of it as the working mom’s command center.

This week, Rachael and Leslie leave their families behind in a snowstorm to visit Silicon Valley, meet the competition, and find out whether two Brooklyn moms have a shot at VC funding. We also talk to Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of The Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All" and the book "Unfinished Business," about why there's still resistance to gender parity at the top of many corporations. 

As part of this series, we're creating a list of stellar content (books, podcasts, etc.) to help anyone trying to stay sane as a working parent. To kick things off, Manoush started a list of things that she's heard and read that have stuck with her. And we want to grow that list by hearing from you, so please share your resources for work/life balance with us in the comments section or by emailing 

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