This story was written by Elisa Cool, Contently’s VP of Sales and the founder of Ladies @ Contently.
The unofficial version of Ladies@Contently was founded almost a year ago today, in March of 2014, when we were barely 30 employees strong. It actually started as an email group created by our own co-founder Dave Goldberg. The catalyst? Contently had expanded its offices to a full floor and that meant we had an opportunity for gender-based bathrooms instead of uni-sex. There were a fair amount of chats on who went where (literally) and I suppose Dave had gotten tired of typing out all eight of the women’s names in the emails discussing the matter.
This catalyst allowed for great hilarity. It also shed more light on a bigger issue. We now had almost three dozen employees and only eight of them were women. This was an issue raised by Contently’s board, but it became really evident as the companies floor plan (and org chart) grew. We started investigating similar size and stage companies and realized that while our numbers left something to be desired, we were well ahead of a number of our peers when it came to having a gender-neutral culture. The start-up tech business has earned a reputation for being less than female employee friendly—and unfortunately that reputation is unfortunately well-deserved. Contently was a true exception to the norm in its having created a great place for all its employees to work, including women.
Our founders realized we had not only built something great and unique but also worth protecting. They tapped me (the single female executive at the time) to “do something.” They were self aware enough to realize that if something did start to take a turn in the wrong direction, that the majority of the female employee base would naturally feel uncomfortable sharing it with an all-male leadership team.
Our first “Women Only” meeting was held on March 24, 2014 and was comprised of the first eight female hires. We set out to set goals and a mission for our new organization and we dubbed ourselves Ladies@Contently thanks to Dave’s original email. Here’s the initial invite:
“The purpose of these monthly meetings is to be an open forum for any whims & wishes as well as any gripes, concerns or other issues the women at Contently may be faced with. The goal? That Contently remains a place where all employees feel comfortable regardless of gender, background, etc.”
That objective (and the company as a whole) has since evolved to cover much more. Over the past year Ladies@Contently has attended industry events and hosted those of our own. Ladies@Contently also played a role in recruitment—making certain that a least one female employee is at every recruitment event and interviews every potential new hire (male or female). We help set and manage company benchmarks for employee satisfaction. And we have fun, with outings like brunches, outdoor movies, workout classes, and. of course, cocktails.
As the company approaches 100 employees, we realized it was time to make Ladies@Contently official. We elected our first board of representatives this month, with women from every department—sales and marketing, product, finance, and content included. The board exists with the purpose of not only maintaining what we’ve built but extending it outside the walls of Contently. We want to make sure the ladies of Contently have everything they need to succeed in the world of tech. Here’s our new mission statement:
“Contently strives to be an outstanding place to work for all hires. Ladies@Contently exists to ensure this remains the case by giving each woman that works at Contently an open forum and network of peers dedicated to this cause.
Contently recognizes it is in an industry known for its mistreatment and misrepresentation of women. The tech sector is known for its general shortage of female hires and lack of female executives. As such Ladies@Contently was founded to bridge the female employees at Contently with the larger start-up and technology communities, to not just lead by example, but to reach through to other women and in doing so to raise the bar for all women across the start-up and tech communities.”
These days over 30 percent of our employees are women, and while that’s still way too low, it’s 1.5x better than the industry standard. We hope Ladies@Contently can help us do even better—and in that spirit, we’ll also be hosting events open to all women, not just those who work at Contently. We’ve come a long way from unisex bathrooms. Stay tuned!