Allison Robinson (shown here at home with her two children—Henry, 4, and Asher, 6) founded the Mom Project to match working mothers with companies in need of their dormant talent. Photograph by Gesi Schilling
The Mom Project is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business honoree. With the second annual Best in Business awards, Inc. recognizes companies that have had a superlative impact on their industries, their communities, the environment, and society as a whole.
It's no coincidence that the Mom Project is exactly as old as Allison Robinson's firstborn son: She launched the Chicago-based platform for upskilling and connecting mothers with companies that want to hire them while on maternity leave with him, in 2015. "I read that over 40 percent of skilled American women leave the workforce after having children," says Robinson, who'd been a product strategist at Procter & Gamble. "Sleep deprived, I decided to tackle this problem ... I saw this big opportunity to build a company that could unlock the potential of moms and the economy by helping them find work."
She calculates that the work translates into $300 million in economic opportunity over the past three years, by way of job placements and pay increases following Mom Project training. The core jobs women tend to find through the Mom Project, which Robinson is quick to point out is more of a platform than a job board, include HR, finance, administrative, and product-design roles. They range from freelance projects to full-time positions.
The companies benefit from working with the Mom Project beyond finding talent. "We're sitting on data for half a million women," says Robinson. "We can understand and help dictate to companies what types of flexibility they should be offering in these roles to be most attractive to moms." She adds that the Mom Project's main goal, in this respect, is to help companies build empathy; helping them understand what it means to become a parent. "We're making them realize it doesn't mean that these people are any less committed to their career."
But there's more. After the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the Mom Project set up a scholarship program called RISE to provide free technology training to moms and women of color. Robinson says the initiative has helped more than 2,000 women into tech certifications and jobs at companies like IBM and Deloitte, toward a goal of 10,000 women. "It's a way for us to use the success of the core business to invest in the next generation of diverse talent," says Robinson.
Business has been brisk. Tight labor conditions and the shift to remote work have made hiring moms more appealing, but that's only after the pandemic put more than a million of them out of work. "It is hard to wrap your head around the idea of being let go from a job not because your performance lacked but because you're a mother," says RISE grad Tiffany Kelly. She now works for People, Inc., a nonprofit health and human services agency, a position she found while she was going through the RISE training.
Of course working mothers need job opportunities and career advancement. But some changes are bigger than corporate America, says Robinson, pointing to the fact that it costs $15,888 for basic-quality infant care, according to the Center for American Progress. To that end, Robinson has been working with policymakers to help promote pro-family initiatives like paid leave and child care affordability. "It has been an absolutely devastating period for women," she says, "and moms in particular."
Good thing, then, that Robinson is about to go on maternity leave again, with her third child. Judging by her track record, that time should lead to a bounty of impactful ideas upon her return.