What. A. Year. Anyone else ready for a bit of a break? As we get to the end of 2020 I look back and seriously wonder: How did we even make it this far?! Yay us! It was intense. It was crazy. And it was especially hard on the many working mothers, who had to juggle jobs, homeschooling and overall COVID-19 craziness without completely… well… losing it. 

We all know the stats and have referenced them here on this blog many times before. COVID-19 has taken a toll on working women. Funding for female founders is at an all-time low, more than 2 million women have left the workforce since February or are considering going part-time because of COVID-19. The percentage of women working is the lowest it has been since 1988. And all while burnout cases are on the rise among working mothers. When things got rough online communities were often our lifelines. For help, support and sometimes to simply blow-off some steam and share our frustrations (or joy) with those who understand. One of the communities that has been a safe haven for many working mothers this year is HeyMama, a network that connects women who are growing both careers and families. 

The HeyMama community has been around since 2014 and today supports and connects more than 3000 paying members. Co-founder & CEO Katya Libin describes the platform as a “motherhood village, where women can go, show up as their full selves, get help and encouragement pursuing their goals.” And these goals are as diverse as the members of the HeyMama community. Big groups on the platform today are dedicated to new moms, marketing, careers in finance, entrepreneurship or single parenthood to name just a few. Connection and collaboration are core to the experience and happen through these groups, forums but also in hosted and member-led events on a wide array of topics.

The trend towards an unbundling of Facebook (Think Facebook Groups. But not on Facebook.) already started way before COVID-19 hit as evidenced by HeyMama’s January 2020 $2M seed financing. Other notable rounds in similar spaces included Revel’s $2.7M seed round, Elpha’s $1.3M seed round and Peanut’s recent $12M Series A. Revel is a community for women 50+, Elpha position themselves as the go-to community for women in tech and UK-based Peanut connects mothers based on their location and interests. Communities provide real value to their members and make for good business as they add-on high value services, experiences or products.

While our need for connection has remained unchanged this year, the way we network and meet has evolved into a new normal. And many of these changes are here to stay. It is not surprising that the value of these online communities has skyrocketed over the past months as well. Collectively we got used to our social lives happening online in Zoom calls or in online communities and we also learned how important a sense of belonging and “not being alone” is in moments of isolation and overwhelm of which there were plenty over this past year.

Unsurprisingly this trend to seek support in online communities also doesn’t remain unnoticed by employers, who are starting to understand the value of networks like HeyMama as a way to better support working mothers. Libin notes that “companies are starting to invest more heavily in supporting parents, offering free memberships through corporate partnerships.” A large portion of the workforce are parents or are looking to start families and today many are at a breaking point. What’s needed are proven strategies that help parents and especially mothers at work, in their personal growth, with parenthood overall. When women leave their jobs, it affects the bottom line of companies. It is more expensive to rehire than to retain, and research shows that companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions simply perform better.

Without doubt online communities like HeyMama will continue to be a lifeline for many in 2021 and while we expect further growth of the already existing ones, there is still room and need for more, especially in women’s health. We will be watching as companies like AskDiem, Health in Her Hue or also Modern Fertility with their Slack group dedicated to fertility expand their reach and offerings and can’t wait to see who else will be facilitating connection, leading tribes & movements in 2021 and beyond. We’ll be joining and watching for sure!

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