Friends, I am really excited to introduce you to my new friend in Cape Town, Lynette Hundermark. We were introduced through a mutual friend and arranged to first talk via Skype. What unfolded was a nearly two hour conversation where we poured our hearts out to each other about the struggles we face as women entrepreneurs, the need for women to lift each other up and the fight against the images and portrayals of women that our daughters see.
I can honestly say that Lynette is an inspiration for me and a breath of fresh air. We need more women like her to be authentic, honest and transparent about the challenges and blessings of motherhood. Her story is remarkable, but also relatable to so many women I know. While we both live in countries that are supposed to champion women's rights, we see the disparity toward how mothers are treated in the workforce. So, we do what any mother would do, go off and create opportunities for our family so that our children can live in a better world.
Today, on Women's Day, I am proud to post Lynette's story. She is leading by example with the support and love of her dear family and opening up about how we are treated as mothers. I can say I have felt many of these same experiences. The media would prefer to portray stories of honesty and vulnerability as man bashing, but it is far from that. We both have loving husbands who parent right along side of us, and they too see how difficult it is for mothers to succeed in the workplace. I am glad that Lynette is championing women and sharing her story. If we all were honest about such things, we would live in a world more full of understanding and compassion. Thank you, Lynette for being my friend and for giving me the courage to stand up for what I believe in.
Name: Lynette Hundermark
Hometown: Cape Town
Occupation: Co-founder/CEO/Chief Product officer of Useful and Beautiful [Editor's Note: Find her on social media @uandbmobile]
Tell us a little more about your company: Useful and Beautiful is a digital and mobile specialist company that works very closely with clients/businesses to help them understand how mobile can fit into their current processes. I spend a lot of time understanding my clients’ needs, challenges and objectives so that I can empower them with a mobile strategy that not only fits their target market’s needs, but also adds value to their business. I also make sure that their mobile strategy fits in with their overall business strategy, ensuring that mobile is not treated as a silo. Once the strategy is defined, I work with creative and technology teams using my UX/product experience to execute the ‘best in class’ mobile solutions. [Editor's Note: She has an amazing company and she is so freaking talented!]
How has being a mother changed your perspective on work? It’s all about purpose. I had my children when I was living abroad in the UK. I still remember that awful moment that every working mother has probably had to endure – leaving your tiny baby at day care for the first time in the arms of strangers. My son was just over 4 months at the time I returned to work. Nothing has ever tore my heart as it did that day and I made the decision that if I am going to do this daily, it better be for something that fuels my passion or it’s not worth doing. So from that day, almost 13 years ago, I set about making it my master plan to eventually cultivate my career to something that will also fuel my passion when I am not with my children. [Editor's Note: Yes yes yes. We are better mothers when we pursue life with a mission and passion. And our children benefit when they see us living out our purpose.]
As an entrepreneur, how do you feel working mothers are creating change in the workplace? (Whether that it going out on your own or fighting for change within the corporate world.) This is an ongoing challenge for working moms, irrespective of whether you are an entrepreneur or working for someone else. Most parents today need (unfortunately) a two person salary in order to meet the financial demands of today’s living which we took for granted as children.
Education for one is really expensive and not just tuition, but the add-ons that go with it, such as clothing , extra murals, outings, school fundraising etc. The basic standards of living is also much higher in comparison to people’s salaries too these days (much more than when I was child), so most households I know have two working parents. For a mom it is even more demanding as undoubtedly (even though some husbands these days, thank goodness I have one of them, are actively contributing much more to parenting than back in our days where women were meant to look after kids and run the home while men worked) quite a bit of responsibility still lies with the mother. When a child is sick, the first port of call is the mother. People told me that it gets better as kids get older but to be honest, while there is some truth to that in that the kids don’t get as sick as they do when young (thank you nurseries, when one child has a stomach bug, you can be guaranteed that all kids will be getting a stomach bug), there are other parental responsibilities that come your way when they reach their tween and teen years (which is where I am right now). So as a parent you have to be still keep your eye on the ball with your kids.
Also what adds to the challenge is that most moms at this point in their lives are also still looking to take their career to the next level and it does become tougher to ‘compete’ with the non-parent who does not have such responsibilities at the home. While there is lots of talk about finding that balance (I don't like the term "work-life balance" because, to be honest, it's not a scale), it is a work in progress for all. I hate the message portrayed by movies such as The Devil Wears Prada and I Don't Know How She Does It, where a woman has to choose between her career and her family. Your circumstances will change as you progress in life.) I always look at it as just integrating both worlds and adapting to changes when they happen. I am a tech entrepreneur so I apply tech principals to my life. ☺ Just like when you integrate an API to an app, changes always have to be made and likewise with family, as your children become older and family life demands change, you learn to integrate the family and work facets of your life and this is how moms in the workplace can support each other by sharing such stories and helping each other realise that we are not alone. [Editor's Note: How true. I believe one step toward equality in the workplace is to also give paternity leave so that dad's are afforded the opportunity to be part of their child's life from the very beginning. And also to support mothers as they recover from one of life's most miraculous moments.]
What is the one thing you want your children to know before they grow up and go off into the world? You can be anything you want, but never lose sight of the one value that you need to still possess…Be Kind (while still standing up to what you believe in)!
Can you tell us a little bit about your daughter and how she came to be an Ambassador for Rebel Girls? Hannah loves reading, she is a 100% bookworm which I am so happy about because she is also a mini tech girl like me. She is 10 now but it’s still our thing to read together at night. I heard about Rebel Girls Volume One in the pipeline a few years ago and was following their story. I loved the idea that they were looking at bringing into the limelight the stories of real women throughout history who had made their mark. Growing up this bothered me so much that there was a lack of women depicted in the media, real women who are true executioners, not these Kardashian type celebs. I was a fan of Ada Lovelace, and she was a hero of mine in my tech career and I always wondered why could there not be more stories of women like her. When Hannah was in Grade 2 (three years ago), she had to pick a famous South African from a list they were given as a history research project and again it upset me so much to see there were only three women from a list of 12. Hannah of course decided she wanted to choose a woman so she chose a famous SA author called Olive Schreiner. When we researched this author, Hannah found it both fascinating and annoying that in those days women had to pretend to be men to write books. It then started the conversation between the two of us about the struggles of women in the work place over the years. That same year I discovered Rebel Girls and thought Hannah would love it. I had to wait a year after it was released though because it took longer to reach our South African shores. And of course when she started reading it, she LOVED it , and guess what, the first story was about my hero Ada Lovelace. She loved the book so much and decided she would post Instagram reviews of each story she read so that her friends and others could discover the book and that goal was well reached. Almost every child her age we know, now owns the book.
Our dear friend (and the only person who Hannah thinks may be cooler than me), Sam Wright (@TechGirlZA), who is also a well-known tech blogger, professional gamer and making her mark globally in the world of eSports, (who shares the same values as me, in empowering young girls to get into the field of tech) published a review of the book on her blog encouraging moms to get this book for their kids. The review can be read here.
Spreading the messaging of Rebel Girls was a passion project for both Hannah and I – how could we not want to spread the love of books that depict powerful female role models.
But the Instagram posts didn’t just reach Hannah’s friends, it also got the attention of the authors and they contacted me on late evening thanks to our time zone (what a surprise that was) and asked if we could perhaps help them with a ‘little’ favour. They loved Hannah’s Instagram reviews and wondered if we could both help them with the new book campaign, as due to the success of the first book they wanted to do a second. I needed to record a video of Hannah reading her favourite story, which at the time was Catherine the Great. They then used this video in their Kickstarter campaign which broke all records as one of the most successful campaigns to date. You can view the video here.
As a thank you, Hannah received an autographed copy of the second book and she was so delighted to see she is mentioned in the credits, Rebel Girls Hall of Fame. Since then they have also released podcasts of a few of the stories where they got well known celebrities to read the stories and kids to read the credits. Hannah is on the credits for Grace ‘o Malley. [Editor's Note: So proud of Hannah!]
How as women, can we empower each other to achieve our dreams, balance our work-life responsibilities, etc.? That’s easy, be there for each other, support and share both the challenges and accomplishments.
I was recently a finalist for a “Businesswomen of the year “ award, by the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (and proudly represented the tech sector). This was a new experience for me, as I had never been a finalist for a business award before - previously I won many awards for apps that I have created, so this was totally out of my usual comfort zone. Even though I didn’t win the title (and I didn’t expect to win to be honest as the businesses I was up against were so different to mine and in completely different industries, so how the judges managed to pick a winner from such a diverse range, I will never know) however the process was such a humbling experience for me. Since the announcement of me being a finalist, I was surprised by the number of women that had approached and congratulated me, because they have said to me that by learning about my story, I’ve given them hope and inspiration to start something of their own one day. What came out of this was what I always believed, us women need to have active role models to look up to, those who not just talk the talk, but walk the talk. The role models that I have in my life certainly have this trait.
Women are clearly craving someone to actually speak to and have a conversation with. It’s not like we need special treatment or someone to hold our hand, but we need someone who’s empathetic and understands the challenges because of our experiences. [Editor's Note: You nailed it! We need to hear stories that we can relate to rather than social media feeds filled with the highlights. Thank you for leading the way!]