CEO and Pregnant: Piazza’s Pooja Sankar and Yapp’s Maria Seidman
This year’s Fortune 500 list has more women on it than ever before: 18.
It’s a small number, but it’s progress. Still, as the ranks of women leading companies grow, there’s something you very rarely see: A pregnant CEO.
Pooja Sankar and Maria Seidman are both first-time founders and CEOs of young, venture-capital-backed tech start-ups. And they’re both pregnant and due this summer. Talk about doing it all.
Sankar runs Piazza, a discussion platform for college courses. Founded in 2009, it has 100,000 users and recently raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners.
Meanwhile, Seidman started Yapp last year as a mobile-app-creation tool for nontechnical users. Still in private beta, it raised seed funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
The two women have a lot in common. Both raised funding for their companies before they got pregnant, and both have entrepreneurial husbands and support from family and other childcare resources.
Neither is anticipating taking much of a maternity leave.
Pregnancy is obviously a highly personal experience, and also a taboo conversation topic in the workplace. It’s something I don’t know a ton about, so I waded into my questions carefully — but both Sankar and Seidman were open and generous in our interviews (see the video below).
They told me their pregnancies have helped set the tone within their small companies for a culture that incorporates some degree of family, balance and delegation. But they’re also working their butts off.
Seidman, who’s already mom to a four-year-old, said it’s not uncommon for her to put her kid to bed at 8 pm and work till 3 am. And Sankar noted that two days into her marriage, she attended a conference that was crucial for her company — with henna from the wedding all over her hands and legs.
There aren’t many past examples of pregnant tech CEOs out there. Two are Jessica Herrin of Stella & Dot and Jessica Jackley of Kiva and ProFounder — whose own investor posted an essay online on the topic “A pregnant founder/CEO is going to fail her company.”
“I haven’t felt discriminated against, but I have no idea what people really think,” Seidman said of her pregnancy. She said she tries to be nonjudgmental of everyone else’s life and child-rearing choices. When a man recently approached her at an event to volunteer himself as a new CEO for Yapp, she shrugged it off.
She added, “Were there days that I was so nauseous and exhausted that I wanted to lie under the desk? Yeah. But I’m committed to the product.”
Sankar and Seidman both graciously sat for video interviews about being pregnant CEOs. Here they are: