Inflation and The PINK Tax

As published on LinkedIn as part of the SheMoney newsletter.

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Inflation. It’s a word you’re likely hearing a lot these days. This is because inflation is currently running rampant, and it’s the driving force behind the recent increases in interest rates.  Inflation itself is a broad term, usually used to describe a decrease in the purchasing power of money as the prices of goods and services go up. In the United States, headline inflation rates reached almost 9% in May, which is the highest we have seen in a long time. That said, it feels even higher to me, especially when you fill up your tank with gas, go grocery shopping, or purchase your favorite mascara. If you can even find it that is. Bottom line is that stuff costs a lot more now than a year ago, and while it has always cost more to be a woman in this world, we are getting hit even harder during these times of high inflation. Don’t believe me? Then it’s time to talk about the pink tax.

The pink tax is a term that first came into use in a 1994 California Assembly Office of Research report that showed that 64% of stores charged more for similar products marketed towards women than to men. Shortly thereafter, California passed a law prohibiting retailers from discriminating against consumers according to their gender when it came to the pricing of similar products. Which was great. But predictably, the problem was far from over.

In the nearly 30 years since regulators began looking at this issue, examples abound in nearly every industry of how women pay more for goods throughout their lives than men. Studies have shown that items such as clothing, toys, hair care products, over the counter medication, and insurance all cost more on average if they are marketed towards women. Studies have also shown that overall, women are quoted more for services ranging from dry cleaning to auto repair. In the US, a woman can expect to spend 7% more on average than a man for similar products. Back in 1994, that equated to $1,351 more per year that women were having to spend because of the pink tax. Today, that number is likely much higher.

What’s even more egregious is that these numbers are only taking into account similar products that everyone uses. They don’t take into account the half a trillion dollar global beauty industry that mostly profits off of selling unrealistic beauty ideals to women (In this month’s ShePlace newsletter, which will be published later today, COO Madison Limansky offers her take on this issue). Sure, no one is making the average woman wear make-up, have their nails painted, or color their hair, but one cannot deny that dominant social norms say that women should. We live in a world where there is a lot more ‘shoulding’ on women than there is ‘shoulding’ on men. And all of that ‘shoulding’ is costing us gals a pretty penny.

And then there are goods and services that are not optional, like menstrual products. Yes, I’m going there. Time to talk about periods. Did you know that in addition to a baby formula shortage, there is a tampon shortage happening right now? I appreciated this headline from Time Magazine: The Great Tampon Shortage of 2022: The Supply Chain Problem No One is Talking About. So not only will the average woman spend nearly $20,000 over her lifetime on products related to menstruation, but currently you have to waste time and gas trying to find the damn things. I was going to talk about pantyhose next, but thank goodness we have more or less stopped with that ridiculousness.

So now you may be thinking, but aren’t women paid more in the workplace to cover all of these additional costs they have to bear? HA! Very funny Jacki. Actually, not funny at all, because the gender pay gap is well documented, and means that on average, women in the US make less over their lifetimes than men. I recently read about a class action settlement between Google and thousands of its female employees for, ya you guessed it, underpaying them relative to their male counterparts. Each plaintiff will receive a one time payment of about $5,500, despite the lawsuit finding that Google underpaid them about $16,794 per year on average. A one time payment for annual losses of $16,794? You can’t make this up.

So what can we do about it? For starters, I have been advocating for over a decade that purchasing power is one of the most underutilized tools for social change, and I believe that this is even more true today than ever before. Now more than ever we all need to be more mindful and intentional spenders. In times of high inflation, which is what we are in right now, spending more thoughtfully truly matters.

So here are a few tips on both avoiding the pink tax and saving money more generally. I also welcome you to add your tips in the comments section, because we could all use some help when it comes to saving money.

  1. Just buy less. Don’t get sucked in, as I so often do, to the mindset that you need the latest handbag, dress, lipstick shade, you name it. Try to be more discerning between the stuff you need and stuff you want, and hold yourself accountable to spending less. If you need help, enlist a friend and hold each other accountable together.  Madison loves the TrueBill app, though not female founded, for a budgeting tool. Of course I am going to advocate for Smartpurse for financial education and tools more generally.
  2. On essential goods, especially as it relates to big brands, try to buy from companies with a proven track record of gender equity. Equileap, with their annual global report and ranking, is a fantastic resource for knowing which brands to support. And in case you were wondering, the number one company surveyed for Equileap in 2022 is Mirvac in Australia with a score of 79% on the gender equality scale. That’s right. The number one company worldwide, according to their measurement tool, is 20% away from parity. In addition, Gender Fair, created by the formidable Amy Cross and her team, offers a great brand shopping guide. (see above)
  3. If you see blatant examples of the pink tax in action, take a minute to call it out to the management of the store. And of course, make a note of the brand and product and simply don’t buy it. I also encourage action on social media using #pinktax, #buycotts #IbuyGenderFair for brands that continue to practice the pink tax.
  4. Shop resale and consignment as much as possible. And don’t just make purchases. Take in items you are not using or wearing anymore and trade them for something new.
  5. Whenever possible buy local, buy from small businesses, and especially from women+ owners. The price tag may be more than shopping at a big box store, but you will have a direct impact in the community in which you live. This fall ShePlace, in partnership with SheMoney, will be launching a guide to shopping women+ owned in our home state of Utah. As part of this initiative we will be listening to the business owners in terms of what their needs are and doing what we can to help them thrive. Stay tuned.

The pink tax is yet another reason, on a long list of reasons, why financial knowledge and engagement matters so much. While we cannot control the prices of most goods or services that we consume, our decisions to buy less, buy a substitute product, or buy from a different provider really do matter over the long term. Our individual actions eventually become collective actions that affect the bottom lines of all sizes of businesses. So I’ll say it again. Our consumer purchasing power is the most underused tool for social change that we have. But it won’t be easy. Can it sometimes feel like it doesn’t matter? Yes. Is it often a hassle to do things differently or take the time to stage a protest when faced with blatant sexism? Yes. And conversely, is it worth it to thank and acknowledge the businesses that do seem to care? Yes. It all adds up.

As for inflation, only time will tell if these new prices are more permanent or more transitory. That being said, given the recent and ongoing supply driven shocks to the economy, it feels to me like we are in for a high priced summer. With that in mind, I once again welcome your tips on how YOU are coping with higher prices.

Cheers.

*At ShePlace, we utilize women+ to welcome and include all self identifying women, including cis and transgender women, as well as non-binary and gender fluid individuals. Be sure to follow us @sheplace on LinkedIn and @TheShePlace on instagram.

What If Women Invented Venture Capital?

A cartoon image of four women in a hot air balloon
Original drawing by Liza Donnelly in collaboration with Jacki Zehner for SheMoney.

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

On April 25th, 2019, I found myself in an extraordinary situation. And I mean that quite literally. I was hundreds of feet in the air, sailing over the California landscape in a hot air balloon at a truly ridiculously early hour in the morning. I don’t know if you have ever been in a hot air balloon, but I am here to tell you that it is an incredible experience. And it was about to get even more memorable. I was about to get an elevator pitch, or in this case, a hot air balloon pitch, for a new technology company called Translator, Inc. I had met the Founder and CEO, Natalie Egan, the day before, and we had had an instant connection. We had both been invited to a remarkable, 5-diamond, all expenses paid gathering of women+ founders and investors, curated by the team at Bumble Fund, and hosted by Whitney Wolfe Herd and Serena Williams. According to Whitney, the weekend was designed to reimagine the world of venture capital “as if women had invented it”. A meet-up where great things could happen–– and indeed they did. One of the activities on offer was this balloon ride, and it felt like it was ‘meant to be’ when Natalie and I both jumped into the limo at 6am to head to the launch site in Napa Valley.

By the time we had climbed to a few hundred feet up in the air with two other potential investors, I had already heard a little about Natalie and Translator. And for context, she was one of only a handful of founders invited to attend this gathering. The selection process, according to Natalie, was both generous and rigorous, with a focus on women of color and women+ from more traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups who were all solving for big, real-world problems. So it was not surprising that Natalie had been selected as a transgender woman focused on solving for an urgent need: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and workplace culture. The vision for her company was in part inspired by her journey from presenting to the world as a cisgender ‘tech bro’ founder, to navigating the start-up world as a woman facing both misogyny and transphobia on a regular basis. I recently caught up with Natalie to talk about Translator, and also more generally about women+ navigating the world of venture capital fundraising, the investor/founder relationship, and the power of sisterhood.

Jacki Zehner: Natalie, I know how I ended up in that hot air balloon, but can you share how you ended up there?

Natalie Egan: It all started in 2018 when I was speaking on a panel for Salesforce at an event called Dreamforce. I happened to be sitting next to Sarah Jones Simmer, who at the time was the COO of the dating site Bumble. We started talking, and she asked me if I used Bumble. I decided to be honest and said no, because at the time, I didn’t think that Bumble was particularly good for trans women as a dating site. Sarah was genuinely interested in hearing my thoughts, and as a fun side note, I ended up doing some consulting work for Bumble, helping to make the platform more inclusive, which was super cool!

A photo of a place card saying Bumble Fund, leaning against a vase of flowers.At Dreamforce, Sarah also told me about the Bumble Fund and encouraged me to apply, which I did. However, I didn’t think anything would come of it because I had been let down so many times in the past by funds that say they want diverse deal flow and diverse representation of founders, but for some reason they would never write a check. But this time I did get funded, which was amazing, and I was also invited to the Bumble Fund Summit, which ended up being one of the coolest and most validating experiences of my life. I had been to countless events like this prior to my transition, and they were mostly incredibly toxic tech bro spaces. White men pitching white men while they pound their chests (and later pound beers). The Bumble Fund Summit was a complete reinvention of this, and it was a glimpse into what it would be like if venture capital was actually run by women. I found out pretty quickly that the answer was that it would be like nothing I’d ever experienced before. There were no “gotcha” moments, and no one was trying to take advantage of anyone else. Quite the opposite, as everyone was genuinely interested in helping each other. The entire summit was highly curated, and it was designed to allow us all to get to know one another better so that we could launch our businesses and make the world a better place, in addition to getting good returns. I met so many powerful women at that event, and you were one of the first.

JZ: We met on the first day at the pool and very quickly fell into an intense conversation.

NE: Yes! We had a deep connection that first day by that beautiful pool. I told you that I have a dream to change the world through technology; to use it to spread empathy and understanding.

JZ: And I remember feeling like I was already committed, but I did not let you know that. We had a few more days to figure things out.

NE: The next day was the morning of the hot air balloon ride. I had signed up for the activity to push myself outside of my comfort zone and conquer a fear by trying a new experience. But I was still scared, and even more so when I showed up and it was just me, you, Arielle Zuckerberg, and Nathalie Molina Niño going for the ride.

JZ: So basically you and three potential investors.

NE: Exactly. But not just regular investors. Badass women-changing-the-world type investors. And I was the only founder. On the inside I was freaking out. Where were the other founders so I could hide?? And talk about imposter syndrome! I was so nervous. Will they accept me as a woman?? Or will they just pretend to accept me because they have to? I was just trying to stay cool on the outside, and then at about cruising altitude, Arielle turns to me and says, “Okay Natalie, give us your hot air balloon pitch!”

A photo of four women in a hot air balloon, smiling at the camera.I was completely taken off guard and unprepared. There was no countdown clock. No pitch deck. No intimidating men staring blankly at me who see risk no matter what I say or what I have accomplished. I thought gosh, how should I do this? And then I had my moment, I just decided to tell my story. I started at the beginning. I told you all about my childhood, growing up with two older brothers and a very conservative and successful father, who all instilled masculine principles of discipline and character in me any chance they could. I talked about the shame of hiding who I was my whole life, the damage it caused, and the people I inadvertently hurt along the way. And then of course I spoke to the challenges I’ve faced as a transgender woman in the startup world, and my post-transition discovery that the white male if-you-work-hard-you-will-get-what-you-want type of tenacity that I was taught growing up doesn’t automatically equal outcomes if you come from a marginalized background. And finally, I laid out my vision for Translator to address all these problems. Both where we were and where we were headed.

When I finished, you immediately said, “I want to be a part of this!”, but to be honest, I didn’t believe you. I didn’t believe it would happen. But you were all in, right from the start. You committed without looking at a business plan or doing due diligence. It was incredible.

JZ: I can’t responsibly say that I encourage that kind of investment style. I had previously invested in other companies focusing on workplace culture, so I knew and loved the space.  But I’ve always aimed to be a heart-first investor, and that was definitely what happened here.

NE: Which is exactly what was so extraordinary about your investment. I think that taps into what Translator is all about. Leading from the heart with empathy, specifically in our professional spaces. The past two years have shown us that what people want from their workplaces has never been more important. Globally, voluntary (avoidable) employee turnover is costing employers $3 trillion every year. In order for this economy to be successful we need more people working not less, so it’s critical that we are able to both attract and retain talent. But if you don’t understand your employees, how can you possibly retain them or get them to refer you to their friends and family? You can’t! But you can solve this problem through active employee engagement and culture change. Translator gives companies the tools to facilitate these difficult conversations in the workspace and the data to back it all up. I believe that overall, companies want their managers to have more empathy, and I believe technology can make this happen by helping your employees to feel seen and heard. It’s the little things that make the difference between inclusion and exclusion, and Translator helps you to identify these opportunities and make things better for your employees.

JZ:  I know it has been a journey for you and you have faced  a lot of challenges. It was another year before I saw you again in person. Can you talk a little bit about where you were at that point?

NE: It was not great. We met in New York, and both myself and Translator were going through a particularly rough transition as I had just separated from my co-founder. You asked me how everything was going, and I remember being so scared to tell you the truth. But I also didn’t want to lie. I wanted to be authentic, and so I decided to just be me and be honest with how much I was struggling. But I also immediately regretted it. I thought I had made a huge mistake, and I was terrified that I had scared you off.

JZ: I will admit that I was overwhelmed, but I never doubted you or your vision. I only doubted myself and whether or not I could be the investor you needed. I always want to be a helpful investor, and I was worried that you and Translator needed more help than I could give at the time.

NE: It’s still so amazing and affirming to hear you say that. Thank you for being you.

JZ: I had a hard think about it, and I realized that there was more than one way to be a helpful investor. So I made a connection for you, and that connection helped you redo your investment pitch and deck. I paid out of my own pocket for it, and that felt like to me, the most important way I could help. I remember you being a little apprehensive about it, but you agreed.

NE: And it ended up being a gift like nothing that had ever happened to me before. I’ve come to realize that I still have so much trauma from my previous life, where people only did things for others because they wanted something in return. There’s always a price, which was why I was apprehensive, and yet you just gave me this gift. A gift that fundamentally changed the game and allowed Translator to get back on track and in the driver’s seat. It was one of the first times I truly experienced the bond of pure sisterhood, and it was profound.

JZ: I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear that. Thank you. You and I have talked about this, and we both believe that what the world needs right now is not just words, but actions to support one another.

You’ve now founded two companies; one presenting as a cisgender man and one as a transgender woman. Have these two experiences changed what you’re looking for in investors?

NE:  With my prior company, I relied heavily on the old boys network, and it was almost easy because I “looked” like everyone else. However, with Translator, I went back to the usual investors and it was a complete waste of time. It was also an incredibly harsh wake up call, and it completely changed what I now look for in investors. I want to work with investors who are driven by both returns and a mission, and more importantly, I want to work with people who share the same values as me. But this new focus also came with a lot of hangups, because I never wanted to be someone’s charity case. I wanted people to invest because they believed they would get returns, and that just wasn’t happening with my old networks.

So I went looking for new networks. I joined Start Out, Out in Tech, and NGLCC, three incredible networks who helped me to find the right investors who took me and Translator seriously. More importantly, it helped me to see that when you find the right investors, it’s never charity. My old network taking meetings with me because they felt like they “had to” and not because they believed in me? That was the charity.

JZ: Given your experiences, how can investors be more welcoming and open to founders from marginalized backgrounds? What do you think it will take for the VC world to properly and at critical mass be more inclusive?

NE: Venture Capital as a whole is incredibly antiquated and archaic, and so there are so many things about it that need to change. But the most important thing is taking away all of the unconscious bias that prevents so many people from getting in the door in the first place. On this front, there is this incredible fund out of Covington, KY called Connetic Ventures. They have created an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot to do all of the initial screening of the applications, and they have an open portal that anyone with an internet connection can access and apply to. The AI advises the partners on which companies to fund, thereby removing the unconscious bias in the selection process. As a result, their portfolio consists of 72% non-straight-white-male founders to date! Which is extraordinary and much more representative of the real world.

But there’s so much more that can be done beyond removing bias. VC needs to be more serious about funding first time entrepreneurs, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. We need funds to seed this first generation of founders, maybe with smaller checks, but we have to be willing to let them try and fail in order to create a second generation of founders who have failed and learned from that experience. Investors also need to be more willing to provide honest and constructive feedback, because if they don’t, the founder can’t learn and grow. Investors shouldn’t just ignore founders if it’s a “no”. That is borderline evil to me. And finally, the way founders are funded needs to be addressed as well, because it often has to be by unanimous vote. All you need is for one partner to have a “feeling” that is really just unconscious bias, and it’s game over for that founder. Maybe we don’t need an unanimous vote for marginalized founders.

JZ:  Right on Natalie. This is exactly why I have spent so much time identifying and funding first time, early-stage fund managers who are women+ and BIPOC, as they are more likely to identify and invest in those founders. Is there something you would like to end on?

NE: Yes thank you! When I do talks or interviews, I always end with my three principles, and I like to share them as hashtags:

  1. #representationmatters – A diversity of perspectives, whether it’s VCs, founders, boards, panels, teams, whatever; a diverse representation of different lived experiences and perspectives is good business. Period. It de-risks decision making, it shows people the possibilities of what they can be, and it helps draw good talent. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it, so yeah, representation really matters.
  2. #languagematters – I believe that everything happens through language, because there are many different types of language: written language, spoken language, body language, coding language, etc. And if everything happens through language, then our language is important, and we have to be careful with what we say, how we say it, and how we act. The difference between inclusion and exclusion is very subtle, so we have to do the work.
  3. #allyshipmatters – Saying you are an ally is easy. Being one is much harder. And you really can’t call yourself an ally. Ask yourself if others would call you an ally. Pro tip: chances are you are stronger in one area of allyship than others, so continuously audit your allyship footprint to ask yourself where you can improve and then do the work!

JZ: I love those principles. Heck the heck yes! I have recently taken a hard look in the mirror and asked myself, am I working on myself enough? Am I truly living the values I espouse? Am I willing to accept feedback that is hard? Willing to call out others and risk fracturing relationships in the hopes that we can grow together? The answers are yes, but I am a work in progress. In my book, people with exceptional levels of power and privilege, which of course includes large amounts of financial resources, have a responsibility to do more and do better.

Thank you so much Natalie! I can’t wait to see where you and Translator go next.

NE: Thank you Jacki for the opportunity to represent today in this article. To all of our readers, if you want to continue the conversation you can find me on Instagram and LinkedIn, or you can email me directly at natalie@translator.company.

The Price of Motherhood: My Goldman Sachs Story

Original drawing by Liza Donnelly in collaboration with Jacki Zehner for SheMoney.

Originally published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

The year was 1996 and I had just been made a Partner at Goldman Sachs in New York City. My husband, Greg, was made a Partner that year as well, making us the first Goldman couple to make partner at the same time. I also became the first female trader and youngest woman to achieve this milestone. To the best of my knowledge, I still hold that record 25 years later. I was 32 at the time, and among my partner class, only two of us were women. For additional context, prior to 1996, only nine women had been made a Partner since Goldman’s founding in 1869.* And here is another kicker. I was expecting my first child when I got that life-changing call about my promotion.

As any parent knows, the decision to have children is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. And it’s not just one decision. It’s a series of seemingly never ending decisions. When to start trying. Do you want more than one child. How many children. When to start trying again. And maybe, again after that. The implications on all aspects of your life are vast, and at this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, we know that captain obvious.” But do we really? Can any of us look back at the decision to become a parent and say, “I had it all figured out.” I think not. And I think this is especially true for women who are also aspiring to have a meaningful career. At the very least, I know this was true for me.

I married my husband, Greg, in 1995, just days after turning 31. Before we got married, we had a lot of talks about what our married life might be like. What we both wanted. We both wanted to have kids (he wanted five, I wanted two), and we both wanted to have meaningful careers. At the time of our engagement, we were both Vice-Presidents at Goldman Sachs, with similar jobs, similar responsibilities, similar work hours, and similar paychecks, which, given that we worked in the financial services as traders, were substantial. However, we had both had modest upbringings, and, well, we were both cheap, to put it bluntly. We were taught that a penny saved was a penny earned, and to try to never have any debt if you could help it. On money issues we were, and remain 26 years later, very much aligned.

After we tied the knot, which, by the way, is a term that I hate, we decided pretty quickly that we should start trying to get pregnant. Although I could not do a simple Google search back then, there were still plenty of resources that told me all about how fertility does drop off with age, and one never knows how long it might take to get pregnant. For me, however, it did not take very long. I vividly remember the two of us reading that pregnancy stick test and immediately thinking, “Heck Yes!!!!” This was then followed very shortly after by a “Heck No!!!!” In all honesty, I had expected it to take some time to get pregnant, but it didn’t. And in that moment, all I could think was HECK YES we were having a baby. But HECK NO it was a partner making year.

Goldman operates on a two year cycle of making partners, and I immediately felt the fear that if I told my manager I was pregnant, that would be the end of any chance I may have had of being made partner. I was barely pregnant, and yet my future suddenly felt immediately different. Out of my control. More vulnerable. And no amount of talking it through prepared me for that feeling. Whether or not someone gets a promotion is almost always subjective, and it is always a ledger game of pros and cons; you vs another person. Now, at the top of my ledger, was PREGNANT FEMALE. And I can guarantee there was no man who had SOON TO BE FATHER on his ledger. For the next few months while my pregnancy was taking hold, and therefore no one knew yet, I struggled with the paradox of feeling both joy and dread.

Luckily, I was not someone who had a lot of morning sickness. I was able to keep my pregnancy a secret until I got through the first trimester where the risk of miscarriage was the highest. But that did not make any of it easy. At the time, Greg was managing the emerging markets trading desk, while I was at the fixed-rate mortgage pass-through desk. My work days would start around 7am when I would arrive at the trading desk at 85 Broad Street, and for the next ten (ish) hours, I would be buying and selling mortgage backed securities on behalf of the firm. I worked alongside amazing traders, salespeople, and clients, and my days were spent processing market-driving news and information and establishing positions to reflect them. It was a very stressful job, but it was also one that I loved very much. And I should note that when I say alongside, I literally mean alongside. Trading floors contain rows upon rows of desks where traders sit at an arm’s length away from each other. It is a very intimate type of job, and you all know each other’s business. As I approached the end of my first trimester, I knew that my time keeping my pregnancy a secret was short-lived.

I should note at this point that I don’t remember any other woman in close proximity to me and/or of a similar seniority being pregnant. In other words, there were virtually no role models for how to be pregnant while being a trader at Goldman Sachs. There were, of course, women at the firm who did have children, many of them salespeople, but at the time it was still very much the exception, not the norm.

Greg and I had a lot of talks before we disclosed the news and prior to the announcement of who would be made partner that year. We had a plan for what would happen if he made partner and I didn’t, and vice versa, because financially speaking, it would have made sense to prioritize the career of the one who made it. However, we really didn’t talk about what would happen if we both made partner, because we thought it was such a long shot. And yet that is exactly what happened. We both got that life-changing call.

So there I was, a new Partner at Goldman Sachs, and becoming more and more visibly pregnant in front of row after row after row of predominantly men. Thankfully, it was pretty much business as usual. Except, of course, for the trips to see clients, which went down, and the trips to the bathroom, which went up. Dramatically. In some ways, the pressure was off. I had made partner. But in other ways, the pressure was even more intense, because I wanted to prove that the firm’s faith in me was not misplaced.

I think this is a good time to mention that I was not a cute little baby bump kind of pregnant woman. I was a “Holy smokes! How can you have such a huge belly?!” kind of pregnant woman. I had been a competitive bodybuilder in my youth, stayed in great shape through my 20s despite my crazy work hours, and yet I still gained 60 pounds over the course of the pregnancy. And it wasn’t just about that number. I don’t think we talk enough about what it is really like to grow a baby, even now. Especially what it is like to do so alongside other people, in my case mostly men, in a professional setting. Day after day of feeling what you are feeling, which is often weird and uncomfortable, and having people endlessly comment on it, touch you, make it either the biggest deal or no deal at all, and everything in between. Yes, it takes a lot of physical energy to make a baby. But there’s also the emotional energy you need to ride the ups and downs of doing so while carrying on like business as usual and having sights on a long and successful career. For some, sure, easy peasy. For others, not so much. I was in the not so much end of the spectrum. I have always been one to journal, and my gosh did I have a lot to say back then. I filled random notebooks full of my fears and doubts, while also capturing the firsts. The first time I felt the baby move. The first time he had hiccups, which was, by the way, while I was doing a presentation to a client.

As the day of my expected delivery drew closer, so did my level of anxiety. Prior to getting pregnant, I barely took a week’s vacation at a time most years, let alone a maternity leave. I was scared. There was no ‘how to’ manual, barely any guidance of any kind from anyone that I can remember. That said, I was so unbelievably supported by the amazing guys on my desk. I was two weeks past due when I finally delivered by emergency c-section, and I worked, or I should say waddled, almost right up to my delivery day. Side note. One of my biggest pet peeves to this day is when people say things like, “Oh, you poor thing. You did not deliver ‘naturally’.” Yes, I was a woman who “failed to progress” and had to have my baby cut out of my stomach while I was strapped down like Jesus on the cross vomiting over my shoulder because I reacted badly to the anesthesia. Think about that language for a moment. Failure to progress. I had a failed natural delivery. It makes my blood boil. But in the end, I delivered my beautiful, big, and healthy child.

Maternity leave ended up being awesome. Minus the whole having to recover from major abdominal surgery while trying to tend to a newborn part of it. My amazing team was doing an incredible job at work, and back then you couldn’t trade from home so it was a real maternity leave. Greg, of course, barely took a day off, as paternity leave was not a thing back then, and likely still isn’t. I loved my time with my child, and I was a newly made Partner of one of the world’s most prestigious investment banks. I still had a lot to prove at work, let alone as a new mom.

When my maternity leave was up, I went back to work, and Greg and I had to figure out how to manage it all. What has always been true for us is the fact that we were always in it together. And what was so unusual about us as a couple was that the economics of our jobs were virtually identical at that point. We both had the same financial ownership of the firm, and we were both, at that time, very committed to having long term careers. That said, wow, did it get hard, and fast. And I say that with full acknowledgement of the extraordinarily privileged position we were in.

We hired a full-time nanny who traveled an hour by train each way to take care of our child for basically 10 hours a day, five days a week. Greg and I worked out a schedule where one of us would try to be home by 6pm on any given day, while the other could work as long as needed, which often included work related dinners. We became masters of scheduling. Like any new parents, we were sleep deprived. And like any working parents, we tried to make the most of every minute we were at home with our son, all the while feeling like it was never enough.

Our nanny was amazing, but sometimes life happened and she was late arriving or had to leave early or was sick or her child was sick, and we, Greg and I, were left scrambling. We did not have any family close by who could help with childcare at that time, and there was no back-up plan other than for us to miss work ourselves. And then there was work travel, both expected and unexpected, especially for Greg as he traded emerging market securities. We would have to take trips to South America, Europe, you name it, and it was beyond exhausting. It did not take long for us to realize that it was not sustainable. We could not be the parents we wanted to be, nor could we be the professionals we were expected to be. We were both struggling. It has no wonder that the vast majority of partners at Goldman were men with stay at home wives.

I remember one day Greg sharing this story with me. He was leaving work at around 6pm and one of the other Partners he reported to stopped him to ask “where the hell he was going?”. Greg responded that it was his turn to relieve the nanny at a reasonable hour, at which point the Partner said to him, “I don’t see my kids, so what makes you think you can see yours?” Greg and I talked about it and it felt like a breaking point. Something had to change.

We talked and talked about what change we could possibly make. Should one of us leave the firm? Neither of us was ready to do so, and it was clear at that point that the firm would go public, likely in the near future. To leave prior to that happening would have been absolutely stupid from a financial point of view. But there were also no guarantees about if and when that would happen. In the end, we decided that just having one day a week more with our child was an option worth asking for. At the time, we didn’t know of any senior professional, let alone a Partner, who had a formal, flexible work arrangement. We thought it would be more likely, and more socially acceptable, for me, as a woman, to ask for the accommodation. I asked for it, somewhat surprisingly got it, and my partner share was reduced accordingly. Having a four day work week instead of a five made a huge difference, and it felt, at least for a while, to be sustainable.

The following year Goldman went public, and as two of the 221 Partners of the firm, it was an absolutely mind blowing experience from a financial point of view. Like any Initial Public Offering, shares are allocated according to the percentage interest that each person holds. In my case, my share was 80% of what it otherwise would have been because of my reduced schedule. I have done the math in terms of what that one day a week for just over a year cost me from a financial perspective, and it was a lot. An unimaginable amount. But we both knew that this would likely be the case when we made that decision and we did it anyway. For us, it was the price of being the type of parents we wanted to be. The alternative would have likely been one of us leaving or having a breakdown, so we felt it was worth it.

Again, I want to stress that I am very aware of the extraordinary and privileged circumstances I am describing. I know that my story of being a mother on Wall Street, especially at that time, was far from the norm, nor do all mothers receive nearly the same level of support that I did, if any at all. But here’s the thing. How many working couples, regardless of where they’re working or how much they’re making, find themselves in a similar position? How many couples find themselves trying to figure out how to be responsible, loving partners and parents in these modern times? Whether it’s struggling to make ends meet day to day, struggling to save and buy a home for their children, saving for their college funds, or wondering how much is enough when the bank account looks solid but that account balance came at the price of countless missed ball games, dance recitals, and birthdays due to work commitments. I would bet that there are very few full-time working parents out there that have not seriously discussed the financial implications of one of them reducing their schedule, leaving work, and measuring that against the cost and workability of child-care options. And what about the parents who must do it on their own as single parents? For them the option is likely not at option to stop working and the job of finding and managing child care solutions falls on a single set of shoulders.

It would be years later, in 2004, that I would read a very long and intense article in The Atlantic, How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement by Caitlin Flanagan, which, being a finance major and not a woman’s studies major, was both enlightening and troubling to say the least. As I sat down to write this piece I went searching for it, because that is how much it has stuck with me all these years. I wish I could summarize all 30 pages of that article for you, but I can’t. Consider reading it. But I will say that it is the title that has stuck with me the most. It spoke to how much professional, working class women depended on other working women, domestic help and nannies, to support their lives and ‘liberation’. Though our time with full-time nannies was short-lived as Greg left Goldman when our second child was born in 2000, Ms Flanagan’s attack on privileged white women for not fully valuing domestic laborers felt personal, despite how well we paid and treated our help. It is currently estimated that nearly 500,000 people, mainly female, work in the childcare profession in the United States, and sadly so many of them do not have access to benefits of any kind, and many find their way in to that work as their only option given challenging life circumstances. Fast forward a few more years and I would meet the incredible Ai-jen Poo, President of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, whose mission is to support and organize nannies, housecleaners and home care workers. All of this helped me to see that I would never be free, achieve anything close to equality on a personal level, if I did not do more to help and support other women on their journey as well. It helped me to see that the personal is truly political, and as a woman with substantial resources, it was on me to try to change the systems that didn’t, and still do not, support working mothers, domestic workers, and women more generally.

For working mothers, parents, life often feels like a game of dodgeball. You spend your days maneuvering around the curveballs of managing child-care while navigating a corporate career, pursuing an entrepreneurial venture, managing a small business, or just holding down a job, while trying to achieve financial and professional stability and achievement. These are struggles that show up in any income and wealth bracket, but certainly most acutely for younger and lower income families and single parent households. Especially for single mothers.

I remember thinking when I was a new mom, and I believe it is still true now, that mothers are the giant dumping ground for mostly useless advice and conflicting messages. We are told that there is no more important job in the world than being a mother, and yet the lack of policies and practices that support motherhood, from paid maternity leave to affordable childcare options, makes it clear that motherhood is not valued at all. The pressure to raise ‘great kids’ falls disproportionately on the shoulders of mothers, and mothers are both celebrated and shamed for their choices when they attempt to prioritize the well-being of their children over their own, or vice versa. There should be a book that is called, No Way to Win: Motherhood in America.

That said, there are more than a few books that get at the heart of this problem. Books like The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts (2007), which sounds the alarm about the financial risk women take when they leave the workforce once they start a family. There’s Forget “Having It All”: How America Messed Up Motherhood–And How to Fix It by Amy Westervelt (2018), who astutely notes that while the US may claim to revere motherhood, we treat mothers like crap. There is also  The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued by Anne Crittenden (2010), which describes how mothers are systematically disadvantaged by society, especially single mothers and/or mothers of color. And finally, a new addition to this esteemed list, Ambitious Like a Mother: Why Prioritizing Your Career is Good For Your Kids by Lara Bazelon (2022), which pulls at the seemingly timeless threads of the many ways our culture makes it all so darn hard to be a mom and have a secure financial situation. And beyond the books there are countless reports that present research on the costs of not valuing motherhood and what policies and practices that, if in place, would lead to significant social and economic gains. Taken together what is presented is a rather dark picture of the many realities of modern motherhood.

There is no denying that having a child is expensive, and the more every prospective parent acknowledges it and plans for it, the better. It is estimated that it currently costs about $233,610 to raise a child in the US through to the age of 17, meaning this number doesn’t include the cost of sending your child to college. It also doesn’t account for the fact that due to skyrocketing living costs, children are moving out much later in life than previous generations, with about 50% of Millennials having returned home at least once by the time they’re 27. But the financial implications of having children are much bigger than the actual costs you are likely to include. There’s the gender wage gap to consider, meaning that mothers have to work longer and harder to provide for their children. And then there’s the infuriating statistic that overall, a woman’s income decreases by 4% once they become a mother, whereas a man’s income increases by 6% when he becomes a father.

But all of those stats don’t come close to telling the full story. It is no secret that on average, women of color and/or single mothers have it so much harder. Nearly 80% of single parent households are run by single mothers, and nearly a third of them live in poverty. Black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. And being a mother is the single greatest predictor of bankruptcy and poverty in the US. Now imagine the emotional, physical, and psychological toll that all of these issues (and so many more) take on a day-to-day basis. No wonder more and more women are looking at motherhood and saying, “No thanks”.

I think we can all agree that a child, our child, our children, are priceless. Having children has been one of the single greatest joys of my life, so I would never want to discourage anyone from having children of their own. Maybe next year, in honor of Mother’s Day, I will write a perky piece where I only tell you the upbeat stuff about being a mom. But that is not this piece. This is SheMoney and my goal with this newsletter is to share my personal experiences, advice from experts, and facts. Lots of facts. Yes I chose to be a mom, and I feel strongly that being a mother should not be seen as the be-all and end-all for being a woman. Further, if you choose to become a mom you should have your eyes wide open about the implications. What I hope for, and will work for, is greater awareness around the potential financial costs of motherhood, as well as for better policies and practices to support mothers and families. It cannot be denied that there are huge costs and consequences of having a child, especially for women. Financial costs, yes, but also less tangible and potentially more insidious costs. My story is from my experience in America, as are most of the resources and data cited, a country which ranks 28th in terms of work-life balance. As I hit publish on this article I am sitting in a hotel room in Copenhagen, Denmark, a country which ranks the highest . Walking around this beautiful city today I can see and feel the difference.

When I sat down to write this special Mother’s Day edition of the newsletter I had no idea I was going to share my story in the way that I did above, including a full belly pregnancy photo. It’s just what fell onto the page. What writing this has helped me to realize is that I have rarely been asked about my journey as a mom, except in the most superficial ways, and I have barely asked others. Looking back, I wish I was more forthcoming about my challenges, and I can only hope that today’s new parents are more free to do so. What I see amongst many of my friends and work colleagues who have babies and younger children is a greater sharing of responsibilities with their partners, less gendered expectations of who does what, more willingness to change careers when things are not working, and more realistic expectations of what is possible. Words like ‘work-life balance’ and ‘having it all’ are starting to be replaced with phrases like ‘juggling act’ and ‘making it work’, which are steps in the right direction. We have so much work to do to change the narrative and we can all play a role in doing so. And, as an investor, I also know that there are more and more companies sprouting up every day that are bringing innovative solutions to the many, many, many challenges faced by working parents today.   And, it is up to all of us to champion for, and vote for, better policies that more fully support families.

In closing, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms reading this right now. And if you are not a mom, you likely know a few, so why not send them a little extra love on May8th. I am lucky enough to have an extraordinary mother named Rose to whom I could not be more grateful. My mom worked outside the home to support our family and I always felt loved, valued, and supported. She really did ‘do it all’ and somehow made it look easy, even though I am quite sure it was not. I was raised to believe that I not only could I have a career and be a mom, but should, while respecting that my choices might not be other women’s choices. She raised me to be a woman that supports other women, and I’ve done my best to make her proud. I also have to give a shout out to all the amazing women and moms that have been there to love and support me on my mothering journey. You know who you are, and I love you. We are in this, together.

*This information is based on my memory, and has not been verified by anyone at Goldman Sachs.