My Maternity Leave: A Cautionary Tale

I wish The Second Shift existed when I was going out on maternity leave.  As an admittedly type A personality, I plan everything, including the step back in my career that I took a year in advance of getting pregnant.  In my role as a sales manager, I was responsible for a national team and was on the road almost every week.  I was thrilled with my achievements and moved quickly up the corporate ladder. But I knew I wanted to start a family and this was not a schedule that would work once I had a baby.


So I left management, took a step back and moved to a new company as an individual contributor. I followed all of the advice I had given my direct reports over the years: I was super buttoned up with my notes, follow-ups and pipeline.  Once I got pregnant and maternity leave was imminent I became me even more diligent. Pregnancy brain be damned–my turnover documents were super thorough. As my belly was expanding I prepped all of my clients about my coverage plans. I had ALWAYS hit my goals, and I was not about to let having a baby tarnish my record.


The team covering my leave was an incredible but overworked account manager and a sales manager who was already tapped out with too many internal meetings. So even with all the prep work, I came back to crickets…  No meetings scheduled, a non-existent pipeline and revenue numbers below 50% for Q1. Not having a maternity leave fill-in wasn’t just a bad business decision for me, but for my company as it meant lost revenue for multiple quarters. It wasn’t the fault of my back-up team, they were already stressed about their own jobs and responsibilities. They should never have been made to cover my work– I should have had a backfill. It was a devastating and unnecessarily stressful “welcome back” for a sleep deprived and emotional new mother.


….If there had been a The Second Shift I likely would not have chosen to take a step back in my career path and leave my sales management role. I would have realized there were other options for my growth.

….If there had been The Second Shift I would have found the perfect member to fill in during my leave. We could have worked together to prepare ahead of my birth and she could have been there to assist me during my transition back. I would have felt supported and my team would have not resented me for the extra work they shouldered while I was gone. Work could have continued on successfully and my sales numbers would have reflected the positive effects of an unbroken workflow with no loss of momentum.


The Second Shift offers you options and takes the burden off parents, families, and co-workers. And I am proud to be a part of this team that supports and encourages female growth and keeps women engaged in the workforce.

Remote Workers = More Productivity. We Agree!

I visit a lot of offices. I have moved offices 3 times in the past 2 years; so I can speak with authority about offices and I can say for sure that the move to open office spaces does not increase my personal productivity. In fact, I have clocked it: If I stay home and work from 7-10am on a sprint I am getting the same amount of work done as I do in my office during a normal day. That 3 hours of work time is not broken up with meetings and deciding what to have for lunch and coffee runs and chatting about tv shows and the news. In an open office space find it hard to concentrate on a specific task for very long because of the ambient noise and interruptions. Plus,  I am not a fan of headphones or going into another space to work.


I realize I may be in the minority and I know I am adverse to change– I still use a Filofax for goodness sake. But everywhere you go today there are open office spaces with distractable perks like ping-pong and plentiful snacks and blow-out bars. I understand it is meant to provide creativity and foster a collaborative environment… but I don’t buy it and the research is now backing me up: in open offices workers spend more time talking to each other online than they do in person. So there.


Another study shows it takes more than 23 minutes to get back on track when you are interrupted. Which basically means proves that when I work in my pajamas in my bed without speaking to anyone except my friends on Morning Joe I am actually way more productive than if I went to work this morning.


Look, I definitely understand the counter-argument and working remotely does have its challenges: you miss a lot not being around the conversations that take place outside of scheduled meetings among co-workers. You may lose out on opportunities that come up on the fly. And while it may be personally more productive for me to work remotely, it may be less productive for my co-workers to have to catch me up on what I missed.


There are, however larger, less personal business cases for why remote work should be encouraged:

  • Increased productivity–studies show remote work increases productivity and efficiency.
  • Ability to hire from a larger talent pool than only those who are geographically available.
  • Parents will flock to work for your business– flexible/ remote work is the number one thing caregivers are looking for when choosing work opportunities through The Second Shift.
  • Lower overhead and operating costs without needing to provide office space and all those snacks and craft beer-on-tap.


Okay, time to get up and get dressed and go into work for a meeting. I have been at this computer for 2.5 hours and gotten my entire list of “to do” tasks completed. So now I can go to my actual “office” without the pressure of deadlines and enjoy myself and my co-workers.


From Jenny Galluzzo: Co-Founder/ Luddite/ Possible Curmudgeon?



Pitch “nearly” Perfect


We chose this example because it is a great pitch and with a few tweaks it would be perfect!


I’m a seasoned human resources professional who has had the opportunity to develop & deploy recruiting strategies for various business segments & levels. Over my career, I’ve built, restructured, manage & develop teams as small as 4 & as large as 60. I had the opportunity to work on enterprise-wide initiatives, most recently with the HR Change Management team in supporting the implementation of Workday.


Last year, I had the opportunity to help develop & execute XX Employment Brand. In the last few years, I’ve gained the confidence of XX Executives to partner with internal executive recruiting team vs hiring a retained firm for C-Suite roles, which has saved the firm millions each year. I have viewed myself as a brand ambassador. From speaking with students on campus to participating on national diversity conferences panels to networking with C-level executives. I am confident that my experiences provide me with a solid foundation to be successful in this role.


The Good:


She touches on the basics: who she is, what she does and why she is successful– with quantifiable results.


Not Quite There:

This pitch is all her past accomplishments and it is missing a vital element– why her background is relevant to the position and why she is uniquely qualified to succeed.


For more information about how to craft a great pitch read our do’s and don’ts:




Older and in Charge!

“Women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough, and our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, “I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.”


Glen Close famously said that in her Golden Globes acceptance speech last Sunday. She is just one of a growing group of successful women over 60 coming into their own power in this present moment. Think Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Susan Zirinsky who was just named the head of CBS News.  This is a demographic of women who are sidelined and silenced no more.  But why now? A recent NY Times article points out a few unique reasons that 60+ women are taking center stage:


  • The overall aging population is staying healthier and working longer than ever.


  • The #metoo movement forced a reckoning with power dynamics and unfair gender structures that have historically kept women from reaching the top.


  • Women who started working in the 70s and 80s are now at the height of their power and success… as their male counterparts are dealing with the fall out of their poor behavior.


The rise of women as a political, cultural and professional force can’t be ignored. Let’s hope it spreads and companies fill their leadership roles with older, experienced women. The pipeline of female talent to senior level roles is depleted because, according to Pew Research,  39% of mothers say they have to take time off to care for family and 42% reduce their hours. This is a fact that is talked about a lot about in articles, conferences and summits but there are very simple answers:


  • Hire and promote more women
  • Create family-friendly policies including fluid parental leave,  flexible hours and remote options.


The more the workplace changes to accommodate the needs of women early in their careers the more women will remain engaged, rise up the ranks and take home the ultimate prize– power!


Featured Member Allison Prior

Allison Prior is our kind of leader, embodying and inspiring confidence and kindness at every turn. Despite a resume filled with impressive professional accomplishments in the notoriously cut-throat apparel industry, her continued commitment to mentorship and making work work for all women is why we chose her for this month’s featured member.


Tell us your story : Who are you and what do you do?
I am a seasoned sales executive in the apparel industry with proven leadership skills, a strong and trustworthy reputation, and a critical eye for success in an ever-changing retail environment. I am the mom of 2 kids, Jack (3.5) and Molly (15 months). I am a master juggler and I love being busy. In fact, I don’t know how to be bored. My mind is always churning and burning with the next new idea, recipe for dinner, strategy at work, project at home, activity with the kids, party to plan. I have it all but have learned that I want it all on my time and terms.


What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
I could say that my proudest accomplishment has been launching a new label or opening a new account—and, yes, these moments have felt great—but, really, my proudest professional accomplishment has been mentoring other colleagues in making work work for them. Seeing their nodding heads and beaming eyes as I help them build their confidence to prove that they are worthy of getting the job done in ways that suit their life has been the most meaningful. I have worked with some amazing women over the years and I have loved holding their hand as we navigate this transitional time where companies are needing to bend to retain talent.


What is the hardest challenge you’ve faced. work-wise?
Striking the balance between work and home! When I went back to work when my oldest child was 12 weeks old, I felt an immediate uneasiness and, for 3 years, I wavered between being OK and not OK at all with the balance I was striking. During this time, I worked for understanding bosses and also for bosses who did not respect the constant pull I felt. I also felt the pressure of colleagues who didn’t have children, who did not understand the push and tug I was experiencing.


If you could change one thing about how your given field operates, particularly with regards to women, what would it be, and why?
It would be flex hours for all—with the expectation that top notch performance is required! I work in an industry where so much of our success is determined by the hours we clock. But I can drive sales, build relationships, and analyze data from anywhere. Of course, face-to-face interaction is important in any industry, but technology allows us to have that. I wish that the leaders could stop being afraid of the “what ifs.” What if women were really given the tools they need to have it all and succeed at work and at home simultaneously?!
What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
If you want your boss’s job, you’re in the right spot. If you are the boss, well then, #goals!


How do you negotiate the balance between life and work when you are the one setting the boundaries?
Lead by example: If you’re balancing life and work and not getting the job done, that is not ok; if you’re “doing it all” then that will rub off on the team.


How do you make work work for you?
I speak my mind and am honest about my needs! I am also a believer in being where I am meant to be. Learning about and joining the Second Shift could not have come at a better time in my life!

Motherhood Misogyny

Once upon a time, back when Gina and I were first hatching the idea for The Second Shift, we spoke to everyone we knew about our idea. One of our early meetings was with a very well-known and successful Public Relations strategist who gave us her time and advice. One thing I remember clearly from the meeting is she told us not to use the word “mom” because the perception of the word undervalues the expertise and professionalism of the women in our member community.


I thought of this today when I read an opinion piece in the NYTimes by Hillary Frank, a journalist and creator of the podcast “The Longest Shortest Time” about all things motherhood. In the op-ed she writes that she hit invisible barriers to success because the topic of the stories she tells revolve around mothers and children—and this is on NPR!!


“ I met rejection after rejection…. One guy put it more bluntly: who wants to listen to this except for moms?”


I have been asked if The Second Shift is a company for Betty Drapers who want to work in between rounds of golf. I have been told by a male investor that he can’t envision who are our members are because he would never hire his wife or her friends. What I have found is the minute you bring motherhood into the story the tone changes and you have to start explaining and qualifying when, the truth is, as Gina eloquently explains, “you are not doing them a favor and hiring our members because they are mothers. The only reason they are available for you to hire is because they are mothers.”


Luckily, in the past few years the public conversation about women and parenthood has dramatically changed for the better: increasingly companies are understanding how and why parents need flexibility in their schedules, and parental leave for both genders is becoming more common. Companies like Twitter have 20-week leave for primary caretakers and work with The Second Shift to fill those leaves because statistics show it can improve employee retention rates by 50%. Progressive companies like JP Morgan, American Express, Microsoft and others are offering external childcare partnerships and benefits like IVF reimbursement and career mentorship. Businesses like Babycenter, Hatch and are proving that motherhood has become a big business. Where there is money there is power and that will ultimately change the “mom” PR problem forever.

Pitching Dos & Don’ts

Helpful information to keep in mind when crafting your pitch.


When writing your pitch think about it as your personal “elevator pitch” tailored to the specifics of that particular role.



  • Say where you have worked and in what role as it relates to the specific job. Show off what you did that was successful for past clients/ employers.
  • Add in any relevant information that will make you stand out especially if you have personal experience /interest in the company.
  • Pitch for jobs that you want even if you don’t have every single requirement listed—if you ever have questions about this reach out to us!
  • Take time to carefully craft your pitch, check for typos and make it shine!



  • Cut and paste the same pitch for every job.
  • Put in personal information that is not relevant for the actual job.
  • Sell yourself short by pointing what you can’t do or what skills you don’t have.
  • Pitch on the fly without proof-reading.
  • Forget to use specifics ie: the name of past clients/employers, what your job was and how you rocked that job.


TAILOR YOUR PITCH: Questions to ask yourself as you write your pitch.

  • What about this company/position attracts you to this role?
  • What specific experience in your background qualifies you to this role? And where?
  • How do you see tackling this job and what makes you the perfect person to do it?
  • What skills/experience do you have, outside of what is on your resume, that makes you a good candidate for the role.

Pitch Perfect!


Pitch Perfect: How to put your best pitch forward is a new feature where we will pick a good example of a recent pitch from an anonymous member. Every month we will highlight a different pitch that shows the types of structure, detail and vibe that we believe show that member in the best possible light!  We don’t guarantee that she got the job… but we do think that there was something catchy and persuasive in her personal brand storytelling. We hope you enjoy and learn from these effective examples.


As a seasoned marketer with relevant experience, I believe I would be a perfect fit for the fractional CMO position at Fly Louie. I have a breadth of relevant corporate marketing experience at xxx, xxx and xxx in brand, product, customer acquisition/loyalty, and customer experience that has given me a solid foundation for developing strong marketing strategies. Specific to project requirements, I have experience in building loyalty plans. In addition, customer communications with clear product messaging has been a key role in all my positions. Also, I have strong project management skills and am good at working with internal cross-functional teams and external agencies that seems crucial to this position.


More recently, I have been consulting for a boutique creative agency in New York City that prides itself in disruptive creative storytelling and really turns brands into a lifestyle. We have worked with clients including xxx and xxx. As the agency’s strategist for these clients, part of my role has been to create customer personas and determine the best positioning to the various customer segments. I take a look into competitive and influential cultural/commerce trends to inform these personas and also help shape the creative campaign process and communications to clients.


With all the hassle associated with flying commercial airlines, I believe Fly Louie is offering a service that is very much desired and has huge opportunity to continue to increase routes. I would love to join the team at Fly Louie and together help unlock a fresh, new thinking that will have your company fly over the rest. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide for you to make your decision. I look forward to hearing from you!


For more information about how to craft a great pitch read our do’s and don’ts:



Cate Luzio- founding a new path!

Cate Luzio, the extraordinary Founder and CEO of Luminary, can’t recall a time when she wasn’t passionate about empowering women. She ran several global women’s initiatives and events, mentored young women, and serves on the National Board for Girls Inc. But with the opening of her work/wellness/ collaboration hub Luminary, she has taken this passion and turned it into a mission, creating a dedicated space, and vast ecosystem, within which women can connect, support, uplift, and advance one another. Luminary’s tagline—We are in this together—comes directly out of Cate’s own playbook. It is our pleasure and privilege to shine a light on this bright light. Because, to quote Cate, “Real change can happen in the world when women work together on behalf of all women, raising each other up.”


Tell us the story of Luminary. When and how did the idea come to you? Was there an aha moment or something specific that precipitated its creation? And what was the turning point that enabled you to transform this vision into something tangible and real?


After almost two decades in banking and a successful career, I continued to notice the lack of senior women at the top. We read about it, we talk about it, we write and tweet and post about it. However, when I look around, we’re not only lacking women at the top, we lack women in the middle. How can we move the needle if we don’t have more women moving up? I felt a real passion for investing in talent in the organizations I worked for, but I felt like I wanted to do more and needed a bigger platform than one bank or one industry.


After a discussion with my (male) mentor in November 2017, he challenged me and asked, What do you really want to do with my career? I honestly couldn’t answer. I just figured this was it. But that conversation stuck with me. I couldn’t shake some of his comments about figuring out what I was passionate about. I left banking to figure it out and, three months later, I was writing a business plan for Luminary.


One of my strongest skill-sets is taking an existing idea or business, creating a better way of doing things and then executing. I’m a builder. While a great deal harder without the infrastructure of a big corporation, this project is similar. I started with writing a full business plan in March and we’re opening our doors in November. We worked extremely fast because 1) I know there’s a need for this space 2) I know how to execute. I have to credit my experience in banking and 20 years in corporate America for giving me the insight, tenacity and credibility to do this.


Throughout your career, your interest in connecting, supporting, and promoting women has been a recurrent theme. Where does this passion come from? And how do you think women can change the workforce for one another in the years ahead?


I learned at an early age to help others. My parents raised me to stand up for myself and those around me, to do the right thing. Over the years, I received a lot of support from many of the men around me but rarely women, partly because there weren’t that many in banking above me. As my career accelerated, I was very aware of helping others, investing in people and working with them in any way possible – 1:1s, roundtables, speed mentoring, etc. but how many times have you been asked or have asked to have a coffee with someone for career advice? We can fill our calendars with these meetings. I believe there is a better, more efficient, and impactful way to get good advice and build relationships. How can we broaden the impact? That’s the challenge Luminary is trying to solve.


We need ways to get more women into top jobs but in order to do that we need to develop the pipeline in our workforce, specifically women. And we need to commit to helping each other get there. Attracting, retaining, and promoting women is a huge need for so many companies, large and small, and commitment to helping each other is critical – raising each other up. Connectivity amongst one another is paramount, developing a broad network of support. We should be confident in competing and driving for success, but we also need real collaboration. Let’s focus on inspiring each other.



You’ve had wonderful male mentors and bosses, and also those who led you to second guess your worth. Can you share a little bit about all this and what role Luminary has carved out for men?


I’ve had some amazing male mentors (in fact almost all of them), managers, and peers. Throughout my career they have supported me, provided guidance and opportunities. Every single job I was recruited for came from a man. They are a big part of our journey, career influencers, and half of the workforce. They need to be at the table with us, helping to promote gender parity and pay equality. The statistics show that the number of women at the top won’t change or improve without men’s support.


But I have known many men who made me second guess myself, too. Or tried to diminish who I was or my performance. One of my former managers actually told me (a few times) that I did too much, that others couldn’t keep up. He said Cate, you go 100 miles per hour. Not everyone can keep up with the way you work. We need you to go 50 mph here. That’s our speed. Basically, he meant ‘slow down’ so I didn’t outshine him or others. I should have realized then it wasn’t the environment or culture for me to develop and succeed.


Knowing the positive and negative, I wanted to promote working with men while also having a space dedicated to advancing women; although Luminary is focused on female members, we want to include men in various programming, events, workshops and more. We work with men and we need to keep working with them. We’ve developed Luminary in a way that is safe and secure and for women but doesn’t exclude men, particularly for select events but also for meetings. We have private meeting rooms that are for “co-ed usage” should one of our Members want to bring a male in for a meeting or one of our Corporate Members has an offsite or team meeting where they want men to attend. It’s our way of being female-centric but also being pragmatic.


What advice would you give to other women about valuing themselves? On getting pay commensurate with performance? On promoting themselves? Are there common pitfalls you’ve observed? And what’s the antidote?


Be yourself. Stay true to who you are and stand up for yourself, ask for the new job/role, for the raise or promotion or flexible work. You have to ask for what you want but you have to demonstrate why it should be yours. I’ve always worked hard, and then worked harder. And don’t give up. When I was little, growing up with two brothers, my dad told me early on that if I fell down (or was pushed), I had to get back up and walk it off. Get back out there and give it everything I’ve got. I live that every single day.


As far as pitfalls, I think it’s the same old lack of confidence, feeling like you need to check every single box before you go after that new job or role, or falling victim to playing politics. I’ve always tried to let my work speak for itself. As my career accelerated, I believed if I was good enough, I wouldn’t have to play the game. We’re constantly coerced into playing the game, so it’s hard not to join. As a woman, there is heavy competition with men but there seems to be an even bigger competition with women, mainly because there are fewer of them. What do you think those younger women looking to us for guidance see when they look up? If they can’t see it, they can’t be it. They need to see female role models.


Women are constantly pitted against one another and part of what we must do is to stop allowing and engaging in this behavior; and yet, almost every question/comment I get is about the other women’s businesses I’m competing with and how will I “win.” Why? Well, it’s easier to foster competition than collaboration. But can’t I just support those women and what they’re building without explaining how I’m better? I’m giving it my all to foster an environment that encourages women, not hinders. There is room at the table for all of us. Let’s avoid this pitfall or at least narrow the gap!


Lastly, not every woman is an entrepreneur or freelancer. What are ways we can support entrepreneurs and freelancers, but also women who are still in the traditional workforce? And women who are looking to transition from one kind of work to the other?


Whether small or large, we need to build communities made up of female leaders of all ages whilst empowering all of us to make informed decisions to build our very best personal and professional lives. Taking a leap into entrepreneurship or a new role or just trying to advance your career is definitely difficult; there are so many factors against you. However, regret is far worse. Get in the driver’s seat and take control. Invest in yourself and the other women around you. Work together to support, inspire, and help one another. Focus on collaboration over competition. Raise each other up. Both women AND men. Let’s surround ourselves with luminaries of all kinds.


Come check out Luminary and meet Cate in person on Dec 12th at our event with celebrity divorce attorney/ founder of It’s Over Easy Laura Wasser 9-11 am. Register here and bring friends!

Featured Member- Avery Blank

For this featured member, impact strategist Avery Blank, the biggest risk imaginable is missing out on an opportunity. A self-proclaimed “bulldog ballerina,” she is fearless and driven, elegant and persevering,  a solid example of how to chart one’s career with passion and integrity, how to work for a client or company without getting worked over. The scope of her experience speaks as much to her talent as it does to her insatiable curiosity. We are so excited to introduce you to her here.


Tell us your work story : Who are you and what do you do? 

I help organizations advocate and strategically position themselves for opportunities. I am a Contributor with Forbes and the World Economic Forum, as well as an advisor to The Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? 

Taking control of my career and steering it in a direction where I could leverage my legal training and combine it with my passion for strategy, leadership, and women’s issues.

What is the hardest challenge you’ve faced, work wise? 

Owning my integrity and saying “no” to people in power about things I felt were inappropriate.

What advice do you have for other women who are looking to make a career change but are afraid or lack confidence? How is it on the other side?
“Risk is losing the opportunity, not failing in the attempt.” This is the mantra by which I live my life. Rethink risk. The risk may be greater in staying put than making the change that you want. You know more than you think. And you are smart enough to figure out what you don’t know.

Do you have any advice on how to craft a winning pitch?
Learn as much as you can about the organization (potential client) to identify their challenges and priorities and be able to address them.

What continues to draw you to your chosen field and what do you hope to accomplish in the years ahead?

One of my core beliefs is fairness. This is what energizes me to support women in male-dominated professions and organizations that are committed to the advancement of women.

If you could tell your younger self one thing about what this professional journey would be like, what would you tell her?

“Your degree does not define you, it enables you.”

What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Focus on them, not you. Think about how you can add value to the client, user, or customer.
How do you make work work for you?

Doing work that I am passionate about.

Do you want to be a Second Shift Featured Member? Submit your photo and fill out the questionnaire today!