Katia Beauchamp has been helping run Birchbox, a multimillion-dollar beauty subscription company, for nearly a decade while also balancing building her family.
And if there's one thing she's learned, even before having her own four children, it's that mothers make great employees. When Beauchamp and her partner, Hayley Barna, launched Birchbox in 2010, the startup wanted standout talent.
"We wanted to work with the best people. We wanted people who related to our product, and that was women who were having big careers, but who were willing to take a chance with us," Beauchamp said during a recent webinar as part of U.S. Bank's Women & Wealth Summit.
The co-founders didn't see being a parent as a drawback. "We don't think it's actually a disability that you had a child," Beauchamp says.
It should be a universal reality that when you find talented mothers in the workforce, you celebrate them, "not treat it as an inconvenience at your organization," Beauchamp says.
But unfortunately in the U.S., women do face discrimination and retribution in the workplace when becoming mothers. There has been a rising number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent decades, according to the Center for American Progress. In fact, many women are still scared to tell their employer about pregnancies, fearing retribution.
Women also experience a significant income loss after having a child. During the 12 weeks after they give birth, earnings fall by an average of $1,861, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau published this summer. While most women's incomes do bounce back, it is not enough to return them to the earning path they were on before having children.
"There are a lot of branding issues in general around being a woman and around feminism. We're playing defense on these narratives," Beauchamp says. Many times, women feel that they need to prove that they're still valuable employees, that they still have energy. And maternity leave is discussed in the same terms as "disability time off," she adds.
"There's so much we should be doing to change the narrative," she says. Instead of talking about work responsibilities in terms of what working mothers can still can do, both women and employers should focus on what being a parent actually brings to the table.
Beauchamp knows firsthand how much effort parents put in and believes that work ethic can translate well into your career. "The best lesson I learned in becoming a mom is how hard it is, what strength of character, the amount of resilience, the amount of ambition you have to have to take it on," she says.
She doesn't sugar-coat the reality of being a parent: "I would be lying if it didn't come with exhaustion sometimes. And absolutely, there's moments when it doesn't work, when you can't have it all," she says.
Yet as a mother, you recognize those for what they are: hard moments, days, weeks or even years — and that they pass, Beauchamp says.
Becoming a mother is "one of the most transformative, jarring, difficult things that can happen," Beauchamp says, adding that it's similar in many ways to starting a company. "It felt like entrepreneurship prepared me to be a stronger mother. And then it felt like motherhood was giving me perspective that was just so needed and so useful as an entrepreneur."