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'Fairygodboss' founder tackles workplace inequality

By: Catherine Gorey,  A&S Communications
Sun, 09/23/2018

Georgene Huang ‘01 combines her passion for business with her drive to help generate gender equality in the workplace through Fairygodboss, an online,data-focused community of professional women evaluating companies’ employment practices.

“I always say it started because I had a bad day at work,” said Huang, who began her career as a managing director at Bloomberg Ventures and also ran the enterprise business sector at Dow Jones, about the inspiration behind her company. Following a leadership restructuring, Huang was suddenly laid off and thrown into the job search, two months pregnant.

She suddenly started a job hunt in an intensely competitive field, without access to  information related to gender-based policies that she needed to help guide her search. “I didn’t feel like I could ask questions about what the maternity leave policies were like at a company, if there were other women in managerial roles, and what the culture was like in terms of how flexible the workplace was,” she said.

Faced with her own struggle to make informed decisions, Huang was inspired to change the landscape of job searching for women.

“I thought to myself, there are 70 million women in the workforce and I really believe that this is stuff that shouldn't, and can’t be, kept a secret,” Huang said. “Companies can’t get away with not being accommodating to women.”

So she set out to create Fairygodboss, which aims to help women navigate the workplace by exposing often hard-to-find intel.

The website allows women to share their salary and bonus information, departments and titles, as well as their opinions regarding gender equality, maternity leave benefits and job satisfaction levels. Women also share whether they would recommend the company to other women and what they believe their employer could do to help retain them.

These reviews feature big-name companies like Apple, Deloitte, Dow Jones and more. The site has drawn interest from news outlets like The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Fortune and Forbes and was named a “Top HR Technology to Watch in 2017” by Recruiting Daily.

Huang said she focuses on utilizing data to ignite change and achieve her company’s social mission of improving women’s workplace experiences. “Gender equality in the workplace is a very complicated topic, and there are many different ways to go about tackling it,” she said. “One of the ways that we see being really important is this idea of positive peer pressure. We’re doing that by improving the transparency of these company policies.”

Understanding the importance of tackling new experiences has been crucial in Huang’s career development, and also guided her undergraduate academic experience as a student in Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Huang was originally a transfer student from a music conservatory, entering with intentions to major in philosophy and music. “After a couple months I realized that the reason I was at Cornell wasn’t for the music,” Huang said. “I ended up as an economics major simply by taking a lot of different courses and finding out what I was good at. I tried to really take advantage of all the opportunities Cornell had across many departments.”

Huang encourages the same mindset when asked what advice she would offer undergraduates. “I would advise students to not let that uncertainty about what you want to do be something that stresses you out,” Huang said. “I think it takes a little bit of trying out different jobs to find out what kind of roles may be suited best for you. I would encourage students to begin reaching out to people you’re interested in and asking them to coffee, even if you get rejected or ignored.  It’s a chance to expand your connections and build relationships. You’re never too young to start doing that.”

Georgene Huang ‘01