For the better part of a decade, Los Angeles–based Michelle Feiner freelanced as a media consultant, where she spent most of her time filling in for maternity leaves. “Not only were the new moms incredibly appreciative, so were their coworkers who don’t have to take on that added workload,” says Feiner, who launched the talent-matching company Emissaries in 2015 to help businesses find qualified freelancers to sub in for expectant parents.
“Similar businesses in Europe and Australia have been around for years, but because our country’s maternity leave policy is inferior, so are the related support systems,” Feiner says. (The US is the only industrialized country in the world without paid maternity-leave laws.) “Supporting and thereby normalizing improved parental leave policies was the catalyst for me to create Emissaries.”
The first recruiting company of its kind in the US, Emissaries thoroughly vets freelancers and independent contractors from a multitude of industries in major markets. Companies then pay a monthly subscription to search the database and hire temporary talent. The opportunity for new parents to have adequate time at home bonding with their new baby, while having the confidence that their work at the office is being handled by a pro, can’t be overstated, says Feiner, who just had her first child, a daughter, in December 2016. “You know the saying ‘It takes a village’? It’s imperative that working moms build their village—at home and at work.”
“There’s a misconception that pregnant women and moms aren’t committed to and passionate about their careers, which I’m aiming to dispel via the social campaign and platform #PregnantBosses. We want to change cultural perceptions and prevent pregnancy discrimination by showing women who are excelling in their roles even during times of personal transition. Becoming a parent requires adjustments, but it doesn’t have to derail your long-term professional goals.”
“I get more business from women who are negotiating their leave than from HR helping them navigate through the change. You’d think with all the press and research around the benefits of paid and supported family leave, more HR departments would guide their employees, not vice versa. So if you’re pregnant, planning your leave and taking the initiative to ask for a longer leave, temp coverage, a flexible schedule or whatever it is that you need, don’t think you’re alone. Even better, you’re paving the path for the next generation of parents at your company.”
“Can someone ‘have it all’? Sure, why not? What does ‘all’ mean anyway? It implies that someone who chooses to stay single or chooses to be at home with their children or chooses to have no children is somehow incomplete. I’m a believer that there’s no-one-size-fits-all recipe for life, success and happiness: #DoYou.”