The Mom Project Launches $500K Fund to Help Businesses Hurt by COVID-19

April 30, 2020
the mom project coronavirus
The Mom Project team. | Photo: The Mom Project

A new mother was laid off three days before she was scheduled to return to work. The head of a VR startup for airplanes was forced to abandon the venture after flights went down.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak economic chaos on companies, and businesses layoff their employees, The Mom Project — a Chicago-based career services company for families — has launched the Stronger Together Fund, a $500,000 grant program that aims to help companies affected by the coronavirus.

The fund launched on April 29 and, in the day since, the company has received more than 100 grant applications from small- and medium-sized businesses. The Mom Project has already awarded 16 grants, which the company said resulted in jobs for 16 working moms. The business also launched free resume review and career coaching services, as well as updated its workplace analytics platform to give employers insight on how to support their newly remote workforce.

Founded in 2016, The Mom Project offers career services to approximately 250,000 individuals and helps more than 2,000 companies hire and support working families. Its work is more critical than ever as the coronavirus has disrupted the global economy.

“We very early on had anticipated that there were going to be a lot of layoffs, but I don’t think we anticipated that it would disproportionately impact women and moms,” said Colleen Curtis, head of community at The Mom Project.

“Our biggest concern is that this whole global pandemic will disproportionately put women back and sort of backtrack on some of the progress that we’ve made over the last five years,” Curtis continued. “And so we’re willing to invest in strategies and opportunities that will allow that to not happen.”

the mom project
The Mom Project team at an in-office event pre-pandemic. | Photo: The Mom Project

Some of the industries most impacted by the global pandemic have been travel, retail and hospitality, companies where women traditionally worked and have now been let go at a disproportionate rate. Approximately 60 percent of workers laid off because of coronavirus have been women, according to the United States Department of Labor. This trend exacerbates an existing problem for working families.

Curtis said women’s participation in the workforce has remained essentially flat since the ’90s. Pre-pandemic, 43 percent of women left the workforce after having children, according to the Harvard Business Review. Those now still working are questioning their careers — 14 percent of women are thinking of leaving their jobs because they’ve found conducting work calls while caring for children too challenging.

“If there has to be a choice made about who sacrifices their career, we will see more women sacrificing that,” Curtis said. “A lot of the inequities will be exposed through this, and the burden will then fall on women.”

Many have been laid off or voluntarily left their jobs. But the work landscape is changing, Curtis said.

A lot of the inequities will be exposed through this, and the burden will then fall on women.”

She noted that many companies are still hiring, particularly in the tech sector. The Mom Project has reported more than 300 percent growth in the number of remote jobs listed on its platform since February. The Stronger Together program aims to accelerate this growth, and promote hiring at family friendly businesses with less than 1,000 employees. Curtis named Equilibria, a healthtech company that recently raised $2 million in seed funding, and Avant, a fintech startup, as two examples of Chicago-based companies with model vacation, childcare and parental leave policies for families.

Curtis said she wasn’t sure how many businesses The Mom Project was aiming to fund, but that the size of grants ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

In addition to The Mom Project’s grant program, the company has also updated its WerkLabs platform to offer companies analytical insight on remote employee retention, loyalty and productivity. The Mom Project acquired the NYC startup in late March in an undisclosed deal.

“It’s been just an overwhelming response already of just what this can mean for the companies and also the women that obviously need these jobs,” Curtis said. “Our hope is that we can get some of those back on and potentially bring forward some of those hires so that we don’t have people sitting for months and months on end.”

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Chicago