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While the COVID-19 pandemic has had dire economic consequences worldwide, its impact on women has been especially harsh, setting back strides made towards gender and economic equity. Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, co-founders of TheSkimm, a digital media company aimed at millennial women, join to discuss the recent launch of SkimmU, a free online financial education series for women impacted by the pandemic.
While the coronavirus pandemic has had dire economic impacts across the globe, its impact on women has been pronounced, setting back some of the strides women have made in gender and economic equity.
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg are co-founders and heads of TheSkimm, a digital media company aimed at millennial women. I spoke with them about their launch of SkimmU, a free online financial series to help women who have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic.
Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, thank you both for joining us. First, I want to ask a little bit about SkimmU, this financial literacy course. Carly, why start this? What's it about?
Oh, my gosh. Well, we're so excited. First of all, thank you for having us. SkimmU is really about educating our audience. Obviously, the pandemic has changed everything for all of us, but it's really changed everything for her. And when I say her, we're really talking about the millennial woman. And this is a moment where we've all seen that she's just been decimated by the pandemic and we've already, pre- pandemic, she was already fighting a wage gap. She was already fighting to sort of have equal footing. And she was also the one that was hurt the most in the pandemic. And when we really thought about what is it that we want to lean into for our audience, it was thinking about what are the skills we wish we had from college, and our educational background that would allow us to get a leg up in our financial knowledge. And how can we give that to our audience when she needs it most.
So, Danielle, you're not approaching this from the viewpoint of we know at all. In fact, in many ways you're trying to say, I didn't know this and you're making yourself vulnerable in that way in saying, if I didn't know this and I went to college, there's probably a chance that somebody didn't.
Yeah, that's a great point. We really take the perspective at theSkimm that we're not experts, it's impossible and it's unnecessary to try to be an expert in every single area of your life. What we try to do is to make sure that our audience is armed with enough of the right information and the confidence to be able to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their family. And that looks different in many different types of situations that our millions of Skimmers are in every single day.
When we first started the company, we thought about what we wanted to do, which is create a brand, a platform that really stood for making an impact with this generation that has so much information coming at them in so many different ways, at so many times. And for us in the beginning, that meant creating a way to make digestible daily information around what was going on in the world.
And now we've taken a step back and really thought about what that means at this stage, is helping our audience navigate what is coming up, as Carly spoke about, for millennial women throughout the country, when they think about what's on their plate right now, they can't even think about it. There's so much going on. The idea of work is home and home is work, the idea of balance. None of that really exists anymore. So we don't want to spend time talking about it. What we want to spend time on is making sure that we can help them be a step ahead for whenever we come out of this.
It's not going to be easy to get this audience back to the position of strength that they were in, where they were at the position of being breadwinners, of being able to say we're leading our male peers in paychecks and degrees. We are getting seats at the table. And now all of that has been erased.
Carly, when we look at the impact of the pandemic, it has been disproportionate on women in general. And as you point out, it's also different by generation. And when you think about the kind of work that's left to try to just get back to that parity, how long is this going to take?
Well, when you say get back to that parity, I think it depends how you define it.
I'm sorry to get back to better than where we were in normal times.
You know, we're obviously talking at a time where it's been coined the "Shecession". And what's really interesting about this generation is that there's never been one like her. She's, pre-pandemic, was facing sort of unprecedented opportunity where she actually was getting a seat at the table. She actually was beginning to outearn her male counterparts in paychecks and in degrees and was becoming the breadwinner. And then at the same time, she's facing just insurmountable student debt, still fighting the wage gap. She was going to count her parents as her dependents at the same time as children she's having later in life. And then you put in the pandemic.
So when we talk about how do we get back to normal, I don't think that a lot of her wants to get back to normal. It's how do we move forward? She didn't have parity before this, as we just said. And it's really how does she have workplace solutions that allow her to have a family that allow her to become the breadwinner and to have support? And how does she have support in all aspects of her life that really allow her to move forward and to have agency in her life? And I think what we've seen so much in this past year is just the feeling of loss of control. And that's really, really underscored once again, why we felt like SkimmU was so right, right now, which is here's the stuff you can control is the information that you have at your disposal.
The other part of that conversation about not returning to a parity that never really existed. Right. It's kind of a myth. The return back to normal is that everything we talk about is significantly more challenging for women of color. And part of what we want to make sure is that what we're doing at theSkimm, what we're doing with SkimmU, is making information available to as diverse of an audience as we can, because as a group of women, millennial women, we want to make sure that we all have the confidence and the availability of information to make the best decisions that we can when our time is so limited and the pressures have never been greater.
You two recently had a chat with Vice President Kamala Harris, and one of the questions that you posed her was about family leave and paid time off. This has been a universal event and perhaps I'm an optimist when I say that maybe this drives greater empathy in how people need to take care of their family members during a crisis. But what are you hopeful for? And Carly, let me start with you, that we can come out of this with in terms of policy or legislation.
You know, I think one of the things that, I think that there's a few things, it's not just one thing, which is the first point to make. One of the things that we did talk about with VP Harris is around the American Rescue Plan and what does it mean to have a family leave policy that actually makes sense for her? One of the things that I think Danielle and I think about all the time is how are we going to be prepared to actually take care of our parents who are thankfully living longer but are getting pushed out of work earlier? And how does the government support us thinking about how to save for them at the same time when we're going to have children at home?
At theSkimm, we're very proud that we were able to put out a comprehensive paid family leave plan before we actually had working parents at the company. And that means that as CEOs, we were anticipating what the needs of our growing workforce were going to look like. And I think that this is a time for both corporate America and executives and as well, obviously, as government institutions that we need to rethink very broadly how we proactively support people, because paid family leave is the very basic thing that we need.
We're talking not about just how do we support our dependents as in children, but we're talking about how do we support our dependents as boomer parents who are being pushed out of work earlier, don't have savings. And we are a generation that has been sandwiched in between two financial crises. So I think that every conversation that we have out there about how we can support our current workforce is not enough. We need more. We need to understand that there is a responsibility, both on a corporate level and also on a public level. And no one has a clear sense of how companies can pay for everything that is needed while we're all still trying to navigate the pandemic.
Carly Zakin, Danielle Weisberg, co-founders of theSkimm. Thanks so much.
Thank you so much.
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