Why a former SoftBank partner is tackling mid-career drop-off for working mothers

June 1, 2022, 1:22 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Jill Biden gets candid, the Platinum Jubilee will soon get underway, and a former SoftBank partner is tackling mid-career drop-off for working women. Have a lovely Wednesday.

– Inflection point. As Kirthiga Reddy advanced in her career, becoming managing director for Facebook India and then the first female investing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund manager SoftBank Investment Advisors, she came up with a years-long strategy to balance her work and home lives.

“I decided early on that I was going to work really, really hard when my children were young,” she reflects now. “To be in a place to have more flexibility when they were teenagers.”

The strategy was a “personal choice,” says Reddy, whose children are now 16 and 19. And she watched women around her make different decisions. The experience has been on her mind as Reddy, who is now president of the women-led SPAC Athena Technology II, launches her next endeavor. The executive is the co-founder of Laddrr, a platform launching today that aims to prevent mid-career drop-off for working mothers, Fortune is the first to report.

Kirthiga Reddy, former SoftBank investing partner and cofounder of the new platform for midcareer women Laddrr.
Courtesy of Laddrr

Reddy, 50, cofounded the platform with Eightfold.ai CEO Ashutosh Garg, who came up with the idea after watching the career struggles his wife, engineer Shilpi Agarwal, encountered, like seeing interest from a hiring company dissipate when interviewers realized she was pregnant. Laddrr cites research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which found that a year without employment can result in 39% lower pay for women; the think tank ThirdWay, meanwhile, found that pay for fathers increases by 6% with each additional child—a gap often referred to as the “motherhood penalty.”

Targeting women and managers in the U.S., Europe, and India, Laddrr aims to be an educational tool for women looking for support maintaining momentum in their careers or returning to the workforce after time spent as caregivers. To start, that will take the form of educational content about topics like how to talk to your manager about your parental leave and ways to stay up-to-date on skills during time away from a formal job. The website will also aim to reach companies and encourage organizations to do more to support mid-career employees who have children—not with at-home support as some platforms like Cleo offer, but with career development guidance tailored to their stage of life.

Reddy’s own experience is one example of the kind of role modeling the platform aims to offer. While her choice to prioritize work while her children were young with an anticipated family payoff down the road may not appeal to all parents, she thinks they should know it’s an option. “I’ve shared this with some younger moms as an alternate approach. They say, ‘That seems interesting. That resonates with me,'” she says. “And there might be a different model that resonates with other young moms, or a third one.”

Ultimately, Reddy and Garg’s goal is to share information with women at a critical point in their careers. As Reddy describes the informal information-gathering many women do when they have kids or seek to return to work: “It should not be a black box of discovery every single time.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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- At the Open. At the French Open on Monday, Chinese player Zheng Qinwen lost to Polish player Iga Swiatek after taking a medical break due to menstrual pain. “I really wish I can be (a) man (so) that I don't have to suffer from this,” Zheng told reporters after the match. Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American tennis player, advanced to the semifinals after defeating athlete Sloane Stephens. Gauff will face Italian player Martina Trevisan on Thursday. 

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"This is what I say to the younger people in Congress—do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference?"

- Rep. Karen Bass, Los Angeles mayoral candidate, on her shift from activism to pragmatism as an elected official. 

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