Entrepreneur Anna Fuller recently described the acronym of ‘FWP’ that she said has become well-known in female founder circles. It stands for “Fundraising While Pregnant”, a special category requiring advice in startup land.
If you thought that in 2023 the idea of approaching investors while pregnant wouldn’t inspire bias or be an issue, you’re sadly mistaken.
Just as you might be mistaken for believing a CEO could breastfeed her baby while running a team meeting and sharing an image about it, without receiving a barrage of misogynistic comments. Maybe it’s time for another acronym: ‘LMB’, Leading While breastfeeding.
Despite a massive revolution in how we work that should have made things much easier for pregnant women and new mothers to continue their work – where they can and have the support available – these same mothers still face vitriolic feedback that is as exhausting as dealing with a newborn.
The CEO who posted the photo is Lisa Conn, who leads the venture-backed tech startup Gatheround, helping organisations to build better team culture.
Conn left to take parental leave in December 2022, when she was CFO of the startup, and returned to work in March 2023 as a new mother and fresh CEO of the company.
She announced the new role on LinkedIn – which is often standard on starting a new role. But then she did something a little different: posted a photo of herself at her desk, breastfeeding her 12-week-old baby while leading a team meeting online.
Why? Because she had never come across a breastfeeding, postpartum CEO before, and she knew what seeing such representation could have done for her career earlier.
The post went viral, with millions of impressions and thousands of comments and reactions.
And the vast majority of the response was positive. The inbound requests for demos of Gatherhound’s platform tripled in response, and the volume of unprompted job applications skyrocketed overnight.
But while Conn said most responses were “extraordinary,” she unfortunately experienced plenty of detractors, many of whom showed “deep and chilling misogyny” veiled as concern for the baby. “If I were a male CEO, no one would ask who was taking care of the baby while I worked,” Conn wrote about the feedback the post received, last week for Fortune.
Anna Fuller, who wrote about how she closed her latest fundraising round for Halo, two weeks before she was to give birth, described how there are very few tips out there on “how to fundraise while pregnant,” despite the deluge of freely available material on pretty much every other aspect of approaching investors. She then went through each of the four main areas that founders have about Fundraising While Pregnant (FWP) including timing, disclosure, bias and logistics. The guide is comprehensive and worth a read for anyone who is FWP or may potentially be doing so in the future. But it also highlights the challenges so many pregnant founders still face, likely contributing then to the tiny numbers of such women founders receiving investment.