Jun 20 • 46M

EUVC #185: Seda Ambartsumian & Peter Roos Target Global on Parental Policy in VC

What happens when life happens? As an industry, we need to know how to deal with this. Dive in with us for a true deep dive🤿

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Andreas Munk Holm✌️
The go-to podcast on European Venture Capital Investing.
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VC is a funny business.

We back the smartest, hardest-working individuals on the planet in the hopes they’ll survive, even flourish, on the cutthroat journey to a VC-scale exit. Rightfully, they expect us to be on top of our game.

We back these tech mavericks with funds it’s taken us years to raise from wealthy, powerful people around the globe. Rightfully, they expect us to be on top of our game.

We do this because we can’t help it. If we could, we’d do something more sensible, like consulting or banking. But we know there’s more to life than a fat paycheck. So we carry on.

But what happens when life happens?

VC is probably one of the industries where the most power (and euros) reside with young professionals. And at some point, young professionals tend to make babies.

As an industry, we need to know how to deal with this.

This week’s eu.vc episode is wholly dedicated to parental leave policy with Seda Ambartsumian, Head of Marketing & Communications, and Peter Roos, COO of Target Global. We’ll cover:

  • Why parental leave policy is so important in VC

  • How you can learn from Target’s process and findings

  • The importance of building a culture to back up the policy

  • Why being small shouldn’t be an excuse for not having thought things through

Read on for the core outtakes and insights, and listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your pods🎧

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The post that started it all: Seda on interviewing for her dream job while pregnant

Seda’s Linkedin post, read it below or watch her read aloud for full impact 💗

Today is my first day back from #maternityleave and although I rarely post anything on social media, I thought that my experience was an important one to share.

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Oftentimes, the financial services industry, particularly #venturecapital, gets a bad rap for what’s perceived as a macho and male dominated culture. Many firms are proud to vocally espouse values such as inclusivity, good work-life balance, and equality, but the numbers speak for themselves.

An estimated 40,000-50,000 women per year lose their jobs whilst pregnant or on maternity leave and just last year, the share of employers offering paid maternity leave beyond what is required by law fell to 35% from 53% in 2020. So as you can imagine, when I saw the Clearblue strip turn pink in the midst of my interviews with Target Global back in 2021, emotions were mixed.

When it looked like I was going to get an offer around that Christmas, I was already on my 7th week of #pregnancy, and I made the decision to break the news to Target’s leadership team (who were practically strangers at the time) – before I even told my own mom! Given the company didn’t have a #maternitypolicy in place at the time, I interpreted it as an indication of how the news would be received. However, this was one of those times in life where I was humbled by how wrong I was.

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I was met with hearty congratulations and excitement about the upcoming addition to my family and was told that this was the perfect opportunity for Target to develop their own maternity policy. Peter Roos and Anke Irdelp worked tirelessly to understand what kind of support women needed during this period, culminating in a brand-new maternity and paternity policy that is truly world-class and something I’ve been blessed to benefit from.

Navigating a new job is challenging enough without your hormones going crazy all over the place and you’re growing a little human inside of you, but the incredible and genuine support that I received throughout the past year is something that’s blown me away. The experience has taught me that all #workingmoms (or moms to be) out there deserve an employer whose values and culture are far more than perfunctory words.

The harsh reality is that maternity leave is the point at which we lose women from the workforce, careers stall and gender-based inequality really kicks in. “Having it all” is virtually impossible, but an employer who is committed to helping you at least try and is willing to take a chance on you – is like finding a diamond in the rough.

Special thank you to Shmuel, Yaron, Mike, Peter, Anke, Anett, Dana, Ricardo,BaoY, Lina, Pedro, Ben, and so many others for leading by example and empowering me as a mom that’s raising the next generation of strong women.

Very excited to be back in action and look forward to catching up with many of you over the coming weeks!

So why didn’t Target have a policy in place?

One part is definitely just a matter of where we come from as a society. But those times are gone, and the trail is thankfully being blazed:

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I asked Peter why Target hadn’t moved earlier:

If you look at countries like Germany, France, Austria - they have very generous statewide parental policies in place and there is no need to have a standalone policy in those countries. Given we were founded in Berlin, other than one colleague in Israel, all others who had previously needed to take parental leave were based in Germany so the issue hadn't come up. We also had a very young staff base who hadn't started having families yet.

We saw this beginning to shift around the same time as we met Seda and in fact since her joining, we had four men in our company take parental leave after welcoming their newborns so there is no shortage of babies in our offices.

Peter Roos, COO of Target Global

Exactly the point that it isn’t always ill-will that’s behind the lack of a policy was well-addressed in Frontline’s article “Mat Leave 101.”

A lack of a policy does not necessarily mean a lack of appetite, except when it does… It is important to look beyond the surface here; yes — surprising that a company that clearly has the means does not have a supportive maternity leave policy, but it is important to note that in many cases, this is simply because the team lacks a champion for this cause; even larger PE/VC funds that I am personally aware of went several years without having a policy, and then rapidly embraced one when team members stepped up to take on the roll.

Carolina Küng

Maternity Policies in European VC

As said, do go to Frontline’s blog as it’s a pretty solid resource outlining some standards for Maternity policies in Europe.

Let’s look at the important points to cover as she outlines them:

  • Time at full pay (weeks paid / rate)

  • Time at Statutory Minimum

  • Time unpaid

  • Holidays (Accrued vs Not)

  • Bonus Eligibility

  • Pension Eligibility

  • Carry Eligibility

  • Maternity/Paternity share

In our conversation with Seda and Peter, I asked them how they had weighted on these dimensions. They candidly replied:

Outlline of Target Global’s Parental Leave policy

  • 5 months of fully paid maternity leave

  • 2 weeks of fully paid paternity leave

  • Remuneration: carry, bonus and promotions should not be affected by leave -> employees are entitled to the benefit of all terms and conditions of employment that would have been applied if the employee would have been working 100%

  • Option to return to work early while receiving a 50% salary supplement to cover childcare costs for any period up to 5 months after birth

  • Full Flexibility of participating in antenatal appointments / classes during working hours

  • Structured on-/offboarding with line manager and Target HR team to ensure smooth transition before and after leave“Keep-in-touch” and “buddy” program Policy in place

  • Fathers, spouses or civil partners may take time off to accompany the pregnant mother to as many appointments as needed

  • Mum-buddy program allowing mothers-to-be to get advice and support from working mothers at Target Global

  • Paid grievance leave in case of miscarriage

Target’s reflections on implementing their policy

Given we are such an international firm, we wanted to take inventory of all the policies that exist across the countries we operate in and step in where we thought governments fall short.

Also, as a father myself, I believe that every employer that wants to demonstrate through action rather than words that they are an equal opportunity employer, need to send a strong signal (through policies) that recognise the important role of fathers and the role they play both when their partners are expecting a baby, and after the baby arrives.

Peter Roos, COO of Target Global

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But Peter makes an important point: the policy shouldn’t end at being just a “leave policy,” but rather a family policy and culture is what’s needed:

It’s important to recognize that it isn't just about the immediate parental leave but about being flexible and mindful as an employer - so making allowances for things like morning sickness, doctors appointments, nanny's calling in sick, etc. we wanted to ensure our policy was mindful of the fact that building your family is a lifetimes work and we wanted to be cognisant in that with everything we suggested.

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Peter Roos, COO of Target Global

A Family Policy, nothing less.

I really welcome Peter calling our policy a Family Leave policy rather than just a maternity or paternity leave because as we have all discovered, starting a family looks very different for everyone. So whether you suffer from a miscarriage, are adopting, or going through IVF, it's important that an employer appreciates the immense burden (both physical and psychological) that this puts someone under and creates policies focused on that. I would love for us to have more for toddler leave teenage leave etc but also as we get older and our parents age, more compassion leave for taking care of ageing parents and relatives.

Seda Ambartsumian, Head of Marketing & Communications at Target Global

Exactly this last point was echoed by Peter:

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For me it was just amazing to see how much time and effort Peter and his counterpart Anke (who runs our operations, compliance & ESG) put into really studying the market best practices and coming up with a bespoke solution that would resonate with who we are as a firm and the culture that we want to build and preserve. Having a man champion something that overwhelmingly benefits the mother, is also something I really appreciated because it showed a deeper level of understanding of the struggles we go through than I ever thought possible.

Seda Ambartsumian, Head of Marketing & Communications at Target Global

Got your policy in place? See how you compare.

In Carolina Küng’s article, she did an amazing job compiling how some of Europe’s leading firms “score” on these dimensions.

Check it out below to see how you compare and be inspired.

Long gone are the days when companies could afford to ignore key benefits because of their size/stage/market.

Carolina Küng, Frontline

Also, don’t forget to listen to the full episode on Spotify 👇

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