When Randi Zuckerberg told me that she didn’t think women should hold out for that one life long mentor to fix their careers, I knew she was speaking my language. Mentorship is everywhere. It can exist in many shapes, forms and sizes, especially now, when we are learning something new every day no matter how old we are. With that shared perspective, I knew I wanted to know what Zuckerberg learned last week.
As the author of Dot Complicated, a New York Times best-seller exploring how technology is changing our lives, and Dot., a picture book that teaches children how to both plug in and unplug creatively, people often ask Zuckerberg how to manage their children’s relationships with tech. But it was her own children that made her rethink her rules of engagement. She talked to me about digital-life balance, her new book Missy President and how the election has changed the conversations both men and women are having about women in the workplace and power.
Randi Zuckerberg: Having children has made me rethink almost everything about my life on a daily basis. As they get older, they notice more. They ask more questions. My 5-year-old is hypersensitive about the phone being out when he is around. Older children are definitely aware when you’re multi-tasking.
It dawned on me that I am the person that my children are learning the rules of tech from. When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to let work blend into all parts of your life. We’re working 24/7. But it is only recently because of my children that I had to re-evaluate the need to unplug and the need to actually create some tech balance.
Vuleta: In the past week, has there been a situation where you started to do something on tech and said, “Wait. No, I’m not going to do this right now?” Any “I stopped in my tracks” moment?
Zuckerberg: Absolutely. I try not check my phone for the first 20 to 30 minutes of the morning. It’s difficult, because it’s on my bed. It’s my alarm clock. It’s so tempting to grab that phone and immediately go into emails and messages. But if that’s the first thing I do: a) It delays me getting out of bed and greeting my children in the morning, and b) It puts me in a funk. It immediately gets me into the weeds and nitty-gritty of things instead of starting off my day fresh, and positive.
That’s a behavior that I’m working to change. There is a study that shows that you’re happier if you don’t check your email for at least 20 minutes in the morning.
Vuleta: Given the election and potential shifts in the economic backdrop, have you noticed new conversations about women in the workplace?
Zuckerberg: A lot. First of all, I’m sitting here looking at a pile of about 400 books. I recently came out with my next children’s book,Missy President. The book was supposed to launch alongside the first female president. That was the plan.
I woke up the morning after election day and looked at this giant pile of books and felt this soul-crushing feeling. “What now?”
On the business side, I think we need a book like Missy Presidentmore than ever. If we don’t have a world where little girls can see a woman in the White House in real life, then I’m going to create that world, so that girls can see themselves in that position.
On the personal side, several men in my life contacted me to say, “Sorry for the last decade of your career.” I think it finally dawned on men what so many women have been up against.
It summed up every moment where I got overlooked for promotion even though I was four times as qualified. Every time that one of my female-founded portfolio companies didn’t get funding, but a guy doing the same idea with subpar thinking raised $40 million of venture capital.
It summed up everything in one moment in a way that men could relate to. I think in some ways it validated our struggles on a more national level. I hope that it will open up a bit more empathy.
Vuleta: Is there anything coming out of those conversations that makes you think, “This would be a better way to ask for a promotion or pitch for venture capital?” Do you have any tangible advice to make sure that doesn’t happen again?
Zuckerberg: I think if there is one thing we can all learn from this election, it’s the importance of fact checking and research and data. I’m in favor of going into a discussion about a raise, a negotiation or raising capital armed with data and numbers and statistics, whether you’re a man or a woman. Don’t go into those talks in an emotional way. What you need to be doing is showing data that can’t be argued with a mindset of “I deserve this” or “I worked hard for this.”
I also think, for the first time, it’s easier and more appropriate to just say, “Hey, guys. I don’t know if you anticipate that your behaviors are causing me to feel this way, but they are.” I truly believe were in a climate right now where people will be more receptive with that feedback.
Zuckerberg: Right before the election, I moderated a panel of both Hillary [Clinton] and [Donald] Trump supporters. I thought, “Is there anything we can all agree on? Anything at all?” The one thing everyone agreed on is the need to support female entrepreneurs more.
I think as a society, we can align on championing female entrepreneurs more. That’s exciting for me to hear. The more money that’s flowing to female-owned businesses and female CEOs, the more power we have politically, the more power that we have in policy discussions and politicians. It’s a really important step.