We Can All Do So Much More Than We Think We Can Do with Romy Newman
I am so excited to have with me today, Romy Newman. She is the co-founder and president of Fairy God Boss. Yes, you heard me right, Fairy God Boss. I love it. A business with a mission to improve the workplace for women everywhere. Before venturing into the crazy world of entrepreneurship, Romy ran digital advertising sales and operations at the Wall Street Journal, and also worked in marketing at Google and Estee Lauder.
Wow, Romy you have an amazing background! Romy is a frequent speaker and contributor to Fortune, Huffington Post and Inc. She’s also a proud mom of two, wife to a very supportive husband, a devoted Yogi and a crossword puzzle lover. Romy is highly motivated to bring better performance and productivity to our companies and our country by making the workplace work better for women. Romy, you are a woman after my own heart in so many ways. So excited to have you here today, fairy god boss! So how did you come up with that name and the concept?
So, my co-founder and I both used to be executives at the Wall Street Journal. And unfortunately, one day there was a terrible management shake-up, and my co-founder was unexpectedly fired. And when that happened, no one knew it. But she was two months pregnant. No one knew there was no discrimination at play.
But my co-founder quickly realized she was going to have to embark on a job search, basically, while visibly pregnant. And so it became extremely important for her to be able to do research about different companies, and how they treated women, how they treated working mothers, she wanted to know where this were these the kinds of companies where she would still have real opportunities to advance and excel, even as a mother and a woman.
She wanted to know were these kind of companies were, that she could leave at 530 to make it home in time to relieve her nanny. She wants to know what the maternity leave policies were for the company. But she couldn’t find that information anywhere online. She was doing her job search, she was trying to get answers to these questions, she could not find that information. So, she had this idea to build the ultimate resource.
And that would provide this kind of information to women who are job seekers, and then even beyond women who are just engaged in their career, providing the resource for career-minded women. That was the evolution of the product. In terms of the name, we always knew that we wanted a name that was a little bit whimsical and a little bit fun. And this idea that we wanted to really bring together women to help other women.
And so the idea behind our name is that every woman in our community is a fairy god boss, because just by participating in our community, she is helping other women advance in the workplace.
Oh my gosh, I love that so much. Romy. Thank you and your co-founder for doing this for women everywhere. It is so needed.
Thank you. Yes, we’ve definitely found great traction, and we got a pretty loyal user base. And we’ve evolved because we started out to just provide information to women who are on the job search. But what we quickly realized is that women have a lot of what we call hard to ask questions about careers that are not just about job transition or job search.
It could be about a particular situation I feel like I’m having trouble having my getting my boss to identify my achievements or I feel like I’m overwhelmed with work and my boss isn’t helping me manage it, or I want to ask for a raise and how should I do it? I feel like I was spoken over in a meeting. So, we have this robust, anonymous community where our participants can engage, ask and answer questions, and come together around career.
Wow, that is amazing. And is it for both women who are employees, and women who are business owners, is at every level all across the borders?
Yes, 100%, because a lot of our corporate partners are the largest enterprises in the country, we’re really lucky to count among our customers, Apple and Goldman Sachs and Microsoft, IBM. And so, a lot of our membership comes from within those organizations as well.
That’s fabulous. I want to ask you about one of the things that really stood out to me in your bio, which is you mentioned that you want to bring better performance and productivity to our companies, which I totally get, and our country by making the workplace better. Tell me about making it better for our country?
Well, this is just founded in the concept that I firmly believe that better decisions are made by diverse groups of decision makers. And so, when there is more diversity within a company, many research studies show that there’s better financial performance, better decision making, more innovation. And I think we’re in a place right now, where we see a lot of companies, corporations, kind of taking the leadership stance on topics and areas that our government doesn’t. An example of that would be maternity leave.
As you probably know, we are the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have a federally mandated maternity leave program. So, what you see is that a lot of companies, fortunately, do fill in the blank and kind of set the standard or raise the bar around paid leave. But so by positioning more women in leadership roles in corporations, hopefully it can continue to sort of influence our country, toward more gender, equal policies, programs and culture.
And, and, you know, one thing I would say, or add to that is I think “Lean In” is a controversially received book these days. But I always kind of go back to the opening chapter of it, which was that Sheryl Sandberg was working at Google. And she was on the executive team, and she became pregnant. And she realized that there was no special parking for pregnant women. And she was having to haul herself all the way from the farthest reaches of the parking lot to get to the office.
And she thought, Oh, it would make so much sense to have special reserved parking for pregnant women, so they don’t have to walk so far. And I love that anecdote. I love that story. Because it just it explains why we need more diverse representation all the time in all reaches, companies and government. It’s not because anybody didn’t care about pregnant women, or how far they had to walk. It wasn’t top of mind for anyone, it wasn’t raised as a concern. And until you have somebody who’s having that experience in those leadership roles, the change doesn’t pop.
Oh, my gosh, that is so powerful. Thank you for doing that for our country, for the women and companies and every person being so inclusive and what you’re talking about, because I 100% agree with you. I have seen it in my own business, that it has grown stronger, faster, the more diverse I become. So, thank you so much for that. So, can we talk a little bit about you personally, and what your journey was, as a mom, as an employee at a top executive, and then into the entrepreneur world?
I’ve been really fortunate to work at some incredible companies like Estee Lauder, and Google, and then most recently at the Wall Street Journal, and I had an incredible experience there. I was there for seven years, and I connected with that company and that product and that organization, just like a hand in a glove. I loved the people I worked with, I loved going to work every day. I was really proud of the work we did in terms of robust and objective journalism.
I think in my head, I always thought I could be a CEO one day, I’m just going to keep working my way up the ladder. And then hopefully, I will become the CEO. And then I had a baby. And even when I was pregnant, I thought, Oh, nothing will change, I’ll still be a CEO. And then, almost immediately after I had my son, I thought, Oh my gosh, I’m not going to be a CEO. Because I will never be able to give everything to a job and be the kind of Mother I feel I need to be at the same time. At least for the next, you know, 20 years.
And it isn’t because I don’t think it’s possible. And I still have those ambitions and coming around and doing it now. I see it’s possible, but it isn’t possible based on the inflexibility that corporations demand. So, this already going back 10 years, I think the world has changed a lot. But I knew, for example, that I was not going to always be able to get to work by nine. And when you’re a leader in a culture where being at work by nine is required, and you can’t get there by nine, how can you make that work? So, I started to kind of realize I was going to take a less conventional track and I tried to make it work for a while.
And I have to say I had my daughter soon after. And the company was so extraordinary to me, that they actually eventually let me go down to three days a week and keep my senior level executive role, which is really unprecedented. I felt amazing. It was so incredible. And I’m so deeply grateful to them.
And I actually look back, one of my deepest regrets is that I didn’t do a better job making that work. I think I ended up feeling just utterly conflicted living that way. Because I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job at work. And then I still felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job at home. And so I wish I had lowered my own standards for myself, taking a deep breath and made it work. Because I think there would have been a tremendous amount of value in showing the universe that a woman can thrive and excel in an executive role three days a week, and what that would have meant and shown the world.
But I mean, women still have that conflict all the time.
Yes. But I wish I could have shown the world that you that you could put women in executive roles on a reduced schedule, and it would have a great outcome. And I think that would have been a game changer. And instead I kind of showed that it didn’t work. And I wish that hadn’t been the case.
Romy, what would you tell women now who are having that same conflict of I’m not happy when I’m at work, because I’m thinking about my kids. I’m not happy when I’m with my kids, because I’m thinking about work. And I don’t feel like I’m giving my best to either one. What would you tell them?
I think it is an incredibly difficult balance to strike. I think that there’s a lot of value. And I think there’s no wrong decision, by the way. And I think everybody has a right for them. And everyone’s situation is different. Everybody has different support outside the workplace, everyone has, maybe a spouse or a partner who can give more or less, or maybe they’re a single mother with all those things are on a range, right?
Or maybe they have a family close by that can help. So, what you have in terms of infrastructure, so greatly can impact your ability to deliver at work. There’s just a huge range, right? But I think that ultimately, if you can find work that you love, and that really gets you going, it will make it worthwhile. I think usually the real problem there is that you’re not loving the work enough. Because if you love the work enough, it will take your mind off kind of that feeling of guilt. And then you will bring that positivity home with you.
And I think there’s a real benefit. There’s a lot that your children will benefit from by seeing you work. As an example. I think during this whole COVID phase, my kids have been home with me watching me work, and now my son wants to start a business. And so yeah, it’s incredible. I think there’s real benefit to what your kids absorb when they see you work. And whether you’re doing what you love to do, or you’re not doing what you love to do, your kids are noticing that you are a role model for your children.
Whichever thing you’re doing, however you’re doing it. So, I always say do what you love, so that you can be a great role model for your children because we want your children to do what they love. And also, especially now that we’re in the middle of this crazy difficult world of COVID and home distance learning and crazy responsibilities.
It’s actually just so incredible that we’re having, we’re in self-care mode and that we’re really taking care of ourselves. And I think often we equate self-care with, like taking time off work, or whatever it is, but the reality, you know, doing yoga, but the reality is work. If you love work, it can be your self-care.
You know what, Romy? I have never thought about it like that. I love that. Because the other day, I was thinking, somebody said, What are you gonna do for fun this weekend? And I thought, What am I going to do for fun? I thought, What do I like anymore? And then I realized, I have fun at work, right? More fun at work than almost anything I do.
And if you don’t worry if you’re not in a job that kind of like gets your juices going, go find one.
Yes. So, Romy, for those people, because I was one of them. Fortunately, a long time ago now, but I was very much one of them who was not happy at work. And I didn’t think I had another option. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I didn’t believe it was possible. And I know there are a lot of people out there like that now. What’s your advice for them?
I have to credit this advice to my co-founder, Georgene, who has just taught me that we can all do so much more than we think we can do. And I think especially because I came up in sort of more traditional corporate background, I thought, okay, these are the skills I have, right, I do strategy, I do marketing, I do finance, I have degrees in those things. That’s what I do. And when we started the business, we needed to do all kinds of other things. We needed to do SEO, and PR, we needed to write content.
And I remember thinking, well, I can’t do those things. I’ve never been trained to do those things. I’ve never done those things. And specifically the one where we had to start writing content, I thought, Oh, I just came from the Wall Street Journal. And the people who wrote the content, they’re the kinds of people that win Pulitzer Prizes. Like I can’t just write, I did not go to journalism school. And she taught me, I might not win a Pulitzer Prize.
But I can do so much more than my narrow definition of myself in the future, we all can. And the only way we can learn that is to try. In a different analogy, I failed high school gym, and I went on to run three marathons and I did it by putting one foot in front of the other, we can all do so much more. And the world always wants to kind of limit what they think we can do. But we don’t need to help them by creating our own limitations.
Yeah, I love that. Don’t create your own limitations because the world is always going to try to keep you small. Any other tips for people who are looking at you now? And, Romy has at all. She worked at Google and Estee Lauder, and at Wall Street Journal.
Yeah, I mean, again, I think it’s all about getting really smart and savvy about how you’re presenting yourself and positioning yourself. And by that I mean, I’m a salesperson, right? I become a salesperson later in my career. So, what is your unique selling proposition? Right?
I excel at project management, and databasing and social media, pick three. And let me give you some specific examples of how I do that. And that’s how I will add value to it. I think it’s so much less about what’s on your resume, so much more about how you have to be your own publicist, you have to go to work crafting an excellent, well packaged story about the value you bring. And that’s what’s going to get you there. And it has to be really tangible and really well thought out.
I love that. Any tips on how to have that unique selling proposition? People are like, I’m not unique.
Of course, everyone is. But I think it’s about looking back and figuring out what are your proudest moments? What are the contributions you’ve made you’re most proud of, and they can be anything, right? But that can help you identify where the thread of your story can go and find a friend and a friend can definitely help you with this.
I definitely recommend workshopping this with someone else. But what are what were the things you’ve done that you’ve liked? What were the things you’ve done that you feel you’ve made real impact with and build a story around those?
About four years ago, I met a woman named Kate and she came to me and she said, somebody told me to talk to you. I don’t really think you can help me. Because I have been a stay at home mom for 15 years. All I’ve done and she went on to list, things that I could never accomplish, like homeschooling three children, you know, managing her household. And volunteering and doing managing of volunteer stuff. And playing the bagpipe.
In that case, I think it’s about networking. And it doesn’t have to be connections that you don’t know. Who do you know, through your community, through your school? And you have to get really aggressive about networking, and get that unique selling proposition story out and take people coffee and say, Look, I’ve been out of the workplace. But here’s the thing, here’s what I’m really good at. I’m good at raising money, because I can show you that because I worked on three auctions, I’m good at project management, because I homeschool, whatever it is, these are things I’m really good at, I really want to get back into work.
And what I would say is just take that person out to lunch and say, well, who would you recommend I talk to. Is there someone you’d recommend and ask them for five introductions and you’re just gonna go have 100 coffees. And I mentioned this earlier, but the day the world became clear to me was the day I really switched into sales, because they did not start my career in sales, I moved into sales at 35. And what that taught me was don’t take rejection personally, we all take rejection so personally, and it is the worst kind of deterrent.
It’s what keeps us from trying new things, because we’re so afraid of getting rejected. But instead, we have to look at everything in terms of numbers, right? So, if you ask 100 people for coffee and expect 10 of them to say yes, what a win. So, don’t expect it. Don’t ask 10 people coffee, expect 10 people to say yes, ask 10 and then you feel good. And when people say no, it’s not about you, it isn’t whatever it is. And same thing for applying for jobs. If you are not applying to 100 jobs, you’re not going to get one, right.
Like everything has to be done a huge fault you. And so sometimes, we apply for one job, and we don’t get it and we feel like oh, I’m not worthwhile. I can’t get this job. But really, there were probably 100 other applicants that job and it is all just a law of numbers. And I’m now going to shout out my stepmother who’s an incredible lady who took 15 years off, to stay home with her kids and has incredible kids. And now just got back to become the CFO of a company.
I love it!
Yeah. And she is just really exciting. She networked and hustled and took on projects until she was able to get herself there. And so it’s possible. It’s really possible!
Well, I have good news for you that Kate is doing quite well. I dug a little bit deeper and found out that before she became a mom, she was an engineer. And I asked her what she liked about that. And she really loved problem solving and putting things together and planning it all out. And she tried a couple of different things. And she discovered she absolutely loves building websites. So, she taught herself how to do that. And now she has an incredibly thriving company doing that.
See? And so if you asked her whatever year ago, can you build a website? She was probably like, I can’t.
Oh, yeah. She just had to learn it.
And she’s loving it. And she feels so good about everything in life. You her son, she’s got four children that are wonderful. And her son is decided to also become a business owner himself.
I love it. What a great story.
Don’t you love those stories? And we have so many of them, which is great. But if you don’t try, if you don’t put yourself out there, like you’re suggesting, if you don’t accept that you’re going to get nose and yeses. And that’s okay. You’re not going to ever be able to see how big you can be. How much of an impact you can have on this world.
Right. And no is not a value judgment on you. Like they’re telling no to everybody. Only one person can get that job. Right.
That’s right. Well, I know many, many PhDs who struggle just as much as people with no degree to get work.
So, any tips on how to sell yourself? And oh, let me start with this. Any tips on how to and you kind of started with us already, but a little bit more on how to stop feeling like, I can’t market myself. I can’t sell myself. I’m an introvert.
Well, so my tip on that is, what if you were trying to market or sell your best friend? What would you do if you’re trying to get your best friend a job? How would you talk about them, you should talk about yourself and maybe practice that first. Tell your mirror why you would want your best friend to have a job, right? Now substitute yourself for your best friend. And if you cannot talk about yourself in the same glowing terms you talked about your best friend, you’d have to practically can.
And I know that this feels uncomfortable, especially for people who are introverts. But practice makes perfect. And just same conversation we’ve been having you think you can’t, of course, you can just practice. And then it’s like a muscle. It’s like everything else. The more you do it, the better you get, like public speaking, all the things that are intimidating, the more you do it, the better you get.
Start by practicing your story. And then you just practice it in the mirror. And then I recommend a huge proponent of this, get a group of ladies together for a cocktail night. And then you practice with each other. You have to practice out loud and just practice out loud until it feels really fluent and comfortable.
And right now, you could do it via zoom and you can have virtual happy hours right now. Yes, you can have fun. and record it. Oh, man, I’m stealing this idea and record it and play it back. Because when you hear yourself you’ll it’ll be cringe worthy, but then you find ways to improve.
And when you’re having fun, and you’re getting a little bit looser, even if you don’t drink cocktails, you can get a little bit looser with your girlfriends. Ah, thank you so much. I love that, I may steal it. So, let’s talk a little bit more about your business Fairy God Boss. Tell me more about what people can gain by becoming part of that.
First of all, I should say it’s free to join. I’d love anyone who wants to come join our community. And when you join, you benefit from getting we have an amazing editorial team. Now I don’t write the articles anymore. We have an amazing editorial team much better than I am. And we publish editorial content every day.
We also have this amazing community group where women are asking and answering these hard questions. And if you have a question that you’re not sure how a situation you don’t know how to handle or something that you want to know, great place to ask that question. But even if you don’t, our community is really appreciative of people come and help answer their questions. And a lot of people, I talked to a lot of women, women I talked to say, I really am passionate about helping women in the workplace.
But I don’t have much time to give I’m very busy. This is you can log on, and help answer a few questions that women have. And that’s a great way to give back in like five minutes or less. You can also leave an anonymous review about your company your experience at work that will help benefit other women who are thinking about working there. And if you are a job seeker, we have an enormous resource or 150,000 jobs, companies that are hiring us very top boss to recruit talented women.
Oh, that’s amazing. Is it FairyGodBoss.com?
And when they go there, they’re going to be able to see how to sign up for free.
And Romy, I will tell you that I have not done this in the past. But you have so motivated me. I love your mission so much. And I’m actually going to go there, sign up and do some giving back myself.
I love it. Thank you for it. I think our audience would really benefit from your advice and appreciate it. Thank you.
Thank you. And you mentioned that people can leave information about companies they work for anonymously. So good, bad. And all the way in between?
Yes, there’s actually a 15-question survey. It’s quite nuanced about your experience there.
Oh, good. Okay. Because it’s kind of hard to you know, when I think about that, I have such mixed feelings. All some good, some bad, some in between.
Yes, exactly. Yeah.
So that’s good. I love that. It’s nuanced. And if it’s something that is difficult to talk about, so for example, sexual harassment, and they want some advice on that, is this a place they could get some support with that?
100% and that is another really important point is that are there there’s the ability to always participate in our community anonymously. And I think that is a core differentiator for us compared to any of the other platforms out there. You can always be an anonymous member of the Fairy God Boss community.
And I am in a lot of communities and I have reviewed a lot of communities and I have never seen one that’s anonymous before. So that is truly unique.
Yeah, when we were doing the initial research to launch, we realized it was really going to be an essential component of what would help women, it was what women needed, we knew that women had these questions and concerns and the one of the hardest things was to put their identity next to it that.
You know, if I’d had a community like yours, back in 1996, when my boss told me that I would never be promoted again. Because like you, I wanted to just keep climbing that ladder. And I got stopped at one point for a couple of years. And I asked why, why am I not getting promoted? And he said, You laugh and smile too much.
Oh, no. That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear it.
So, if I had had a place like yours to go to and get advice, I would have known how to handle that. I didn’t know how to handle it. It devastated me. I was 40.
That is so Inappropriate. Isn’t it? Let me tell you what the world needs is people who laugh and smile more!
Yeah, well, I’m really lucky that I had the courage to do something about it. I didn’t really want to quit the company. But I took him at his word that that was really how people viewed me and that I wouldn’t go anywhere else. So I quit. And at 40 started my own business and I’m really glad that I did. In hindsight, I was never one of those people who thought I can’t wait to be my own boss. How about you? Did you ever have that drive to start your own business?
Definitely. But I think for a couple reasons. Number one is I just like the business like gets me going, right? I love operating. I love strategy. I love learning about how businesses work. And so for that reason alone, but also, I wanted it to be at the top, not just because I wanted to like run things or be the boss or Excel. But because I like the span of it.
I like to be involved in all the different parts. I’d like to be involved in marketing and product and technology and finance. And it’s hard to do that if you’re not at the very top. So, that was what was really driving me to want to have my own business.
So, do you have another couple of minutes? Because I’ve just thought of something else I really want to ask you.
Yeah, sure, absolutely.
Okay, so you’ve got a lot going on Romy, I am so impressed with you. Thank you so much for spending this time with me. And here’s my question for you. What do you see coming? What’s your prediction for the future? Now, if you don’t want to answer it, you don’t have to. But I think that you probably have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. And I think you probably agree with me that things are have shifted a lot very quickly due to COVID. So, what do you think’s gonna happen?
I mean, this is the year right, where the things we thought would never come came. And what I will tell you is that, I don’t know if I can predict the future. But I can tell you that I’m really, really pleased to see that these terrible incidences of racial injustice that have been brought to the forefront and the protests that are happening have really come to corporate. And we are seeing real change in the workplace. We’re seeing real accountability. We’re seeing a prioritization of diversity in a way we’ve never seen before. And I think that is going to continue. So that is the prediction I can give you.
That is exciting.
I think things, I can’t weigh in on because I don’t know where to vote is things like some people think we’re going to go much more remote working and companies are not going to go back in person. I’m not sure that that’s true. I think we will see companies returning in person. So, I just think those very hard to predict the future.
And it’s so interesting, because today I also interviewed someone who said everything is going to go digital from now on. I am going to tell everybody everything’s going to go digital. And I’m like, I don’t think anybody can really predict the future. But my personal hope is that number one, just like you’re seeing now that diversity continues and increases and number two, that we get to have a hybrid
I hope that, too.
Okay good. Those who want to and need to be in person at work can do That and those who want to be remote can do that.
Thank you. I appreciate it now. So, thank you so much for taking this time with me, Kathy.
Yeah, we’re going to include FairyGodBoss.com in the show notes. I’m going to personally go sign up right now. And recommend I recommend everybody do so.
Thank you, Kathy, great to talk to you.