A Site Where Women Can Review Their Employers' Female-Friendliness

Fairygodboss's anonymous reports point to a recipe for job satisfaction.

Romy Newman and Georgene Huang, co-founders of "Yelp for maternity leave benefits" website Fairygodboss. (Cosmina Paparita / Fairygodboss)

Corporate websites can do a good job indicating the way companies want themselves to be seen, but it can be tough to get trustworthy firsthand information about their workplace culture. Glassdoor has patched up a good portion of this information gap, but there’s still a shortfall of intel for women who are curious about how female-friendly a prospective employer is.

Providing that intel is the goal of Fairygodboss, a site that has been called “Yelp for maternity leave benefits.” On it, women write anonymous reviews of their employers, sharing information about whether the company has a generous maternity-leave policy or values work-life balance. It’s becoming a valuable resource for lots of women, especially those who are mothers or plan to be.

The idea for Fairygodboss occurred to one of its founders, Georgene Huang, when she was job hunting a few years ago while two months pregnant. Huang was looking for companies that were friendly to women and wouldn’t “mommy-track” her career, but she found little in the way of helpful information online. Huang, along with her former colleague Romy Newman, started Fairygodboss in March of last year, and since then the site has collected over 19,000 reviews on over 7,000 employers. The majority of the site’s reviewers are American workers, and, site-wide, the median age range is 25 to 34 and the median salary range is $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

Recently, Huang and Newman analyzed the site’s reviews in order to identify the top five factors that correlated with women’s satisfaction in the workplace. Some of the results were not exactly surprising, but it’s useful to have some numbers demonstrating the impact of family-friendly policies. Fairygodboss’s dataset, which used a five-point scale to measure job satisfaction, indicated that women were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with workplaces that had long and inflexible hours. On the other end of the spectrum, women with jobs that promoted work-life balance generally reported high levels of satisfaction.

Newman, one of the co-founders of Fairygodboss, notes that the longer maternity leave a female employee took, the more satisfied she was with her job—a finding Newman said she hadn’t seen recorded before. “It’s particularly interesting because so many companies are considering expanding [maternity-leave benefits] past 12 weeks,” she says.

The percentage of women who rate their job satisfaction as a 1 on a 5-point scale increases as the duration of their leave decreases. Meanwhile, the percentage who rate their job satisfaction at 5 goes up as leave duration increases.

Another conclusion from Fairygodboss’s data was that women who reported that female employees were treated equally were much more satisfied at work. So were women who said that management teams weren’t composed mostly of men. Newman explains that this is probably about the perception of fairness and opportunity: If there aren’t women in management, it’s harder for junior workers to imagine getting promoted or having a long and prosperous career at a particular company.

“Women often leave organizations because of negative work-climate issues like a lack of advancement opportunities or excessive hours,” says Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Studies and a member of the site’s advisory board. “What Fairygodboss found is in line with research showing that women are drawn to and stay with companies that provide them with growth opportunities and family-friendly environments. Companies with gender-balanced management teams and cultures that support flexible work send a strong signal to women that they are welcome.”

"There’s a lot of debate over whether gender-diversity programs or considerations are really worth pursuing,” says Newman. “Does it really return to your bottom line? And I think what that statistic says is yes.”