5 minutes with Zabeen Mirza, founder of Jobs.Mom
Mothers are an omnipresent part of the work ecosystem, but it hasn't always been that way. It took two world wars and the invention of birth control for women to be able to fully enter employment as freely as their male peers. Yet, some moms still face discrimination, from patronisation to harassment to exclusion.
Whilst international laws differ on what employment rights a working woman has whilst pregnant - one thing remains true: women want to work. The balancing act of family and career is a choice to be made by each individual woman, not generalisations made by superiors.
One mom has had enough - and has set about supporting other women and mothers. Zabeen Mirza, a quadrilingual mother of three, has studied and worked across the world, building up a catalogue of experiences and ideas. When she became pregnant with her first child, she expected to take maternity leave and then carry on working, but at six months into her pregnancy, she was told by her employer that they could no longer afford to keep her and Zabeen was let go.
Zabeen set up Jobs.Mom to help working mothers find jobs and for employees to find them. The website also contains resources to encourage and support women at any stage of their career or motherhood journey.
Helen Adams met up virtually with Zabeen to discuss pumping breast milk, the 2007 financial crisis and tips for moms who are looking to re-enter the workforce.
1. Hi Zabeen! Can you tell us about yourself?
“I was born and raised in New York. I live here, with my three children and my husband.
“I worked in Wall Street in finance - it was very, very cut throat, very dog-eat-dog, when I joined, I was the youngest woman and only woman of colour. There’s this saying: “You cannot be what you cannot see.” If you don’t have role models, you think that maybe it’s something you cannot do. There was a level that my colleagues could not always understand.
“After years in finance, I moved into management and media consultancy - then the crash happened. One evening it was happy hour, the next morning, pink slips. They crumbled over night. It was a very dark time and it had a ripple effect.
“I was invited to the Middle East for an 8 month tour, I said sure! Then, the Arab Spring happened and I was evacuated to Dubai from Egypt. I was meant to be there for 8 months, that turned into 8 years, where I worked in branding innovation.”
“Back in New York, I was a professional negotiator, then Covid-19 hit and I was let go. But this is not unique to Covid-19, it has exposed the depths of the cracks. I said I would be the last woman that this happens to - in Dubai, in the USA, in the UK… anywhere. It is a great injustice to mothers who are raising the future generation.”
2. Tell us about Jobs.Mom
“Ever since being let go during my first pregnancy, I have thought about setting up Jobs.Mom. My story is not unique, women everywhere are dealing with this. It was my longest pregnancy - getting Jobs.Mom going.”
“At Jobs.Mom we offer support, we read through resumes and offer advice for women who are thinking: “What do I do on day one? How do I deal with conflict?” We offer useful, practical, applicable advice. Every article on our website is a one to five minute read maximum - job-hunting moms don’t have the time to read Grapes of Wrath.
“Furthermore, we have identified ten core skills in order to succeed in a post-Covid-19 landscape. We have created ten modules, which take ten hours. We upskill and reskill.
“Women in the workplace are less likely to ask for help or demand credit and we end up burning out. Jobs.Mom are teaching women to be self-advocates. We also share what employers are doing, for example, if they give maternity leave.”
3. What feedback have you received?
“We have had an incredible response, we have had an outpouring of support - this is a critical need we are filling. If a woman wants to work there must be a place for her. Businesses say: “We do want to hire mothers, but we don’t know where to find them,” - so we advertise jobs.”
4. How has the pandemic impacted your personal work/life balance?
“My husband and I both work from home, with three kids, from eight months to 6 years old. I think Covid-19 has humanised people. A dog barking, kids crying in the background of a video call... I made the decision to not apologise for that.”
5. Do you feel working Moms are discriminated against?
“With my first child, at six months into my pregnancy, I was told: “We cannot really afford to pay you maternity leave.” But I was bringing in the business. They said: “The business is struggling…” and I knew it was not.
“We talk about diversity, equity and inclusivity from a moral point of view, but if everybody is exactly the same in your business, you have no innovation and you cannot solve problems. Gay people, black people, people who are disabled... Moms. Through diversity, you are going to have such a rich mix.
“Men have to understand why women have a different perspective. People have different needs. Equity is when you recognise differences and give people the necessary support that they need. Mothers and women need a little bit of support at work. So I can pump.”
6. Can you give us an example of a microaggression moms face?
“I have been excluded from projects. They say: “I want to make sure you can focus on your kids.” Why should you be telling me how I should focus on my family? In interviews, I am asked “Do you have kids?” I don’t owe you an answer. My professional life has no bearing on my job.”
7. What plans does Jobs.Mom have for the future?
“We look forward to growing.”
8. What advice do you have for working moms or moms-to-be who are job hunting?
“Be deliberate and targeted. Have a plan and use social media: find people and ask them about their work culture. Don’t be afraid to interview interviewers in the way that they are interviewing you. Stick at it and don’t take things personally, you will get rejected. Stay at it and of course, use Jobs.Mom.”
9. What would you tell an employer who is hesitant about employing such women?
“You are putting your company at a distinct disadvantage. You are losing mom’s skills - listening, communicating - and their talent. You are making a bad business decision.”
Moms are not just moms - they are individuals, with experiences, degrees, accomplishments, contacts, knowledge, patience, creativity and more - for every mom who wants to work, there should be a place for her.
To hire a mom or find a job, to reskill or find support, head to Jobs.Mom