Ping pong tables, on-site massages, and free haircuts might look great on paper, but let’s be honest: They’re gimmicks. Even if they manage to attract a candidate’s attention, they’re unlikely to be the reason he or she sticks around.

Benefits are supposed to be a key differentiator for employers, but the reality is that most have been offering the same set — plus perhaps a gimmick or two — for decades. 401(k) plans have been around​ ​since 1980​. Employer-provided health insurance is a​ ​relic of World War II​.

It’s past time for some fresh ideas in the benefits space. The following female founders are shaking it up and will Win Workers Over With Benefits:

Laurel Taylor​, founder and CEO

Formerly a head of industry at Google, Laurel Taylor worked alongside dozens of engineers who worried they’d made the wrong career choice. While working their way toward a job at the world’s top tech company, many had taken on tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. To fund her time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Taylor herself had accepted a loan at a 9 percent interest rate.

Soon after leaving Google in 2015, Taylor decided to do something about it: She founded with a mission to reduce student debt by​ ​$30 billion by 2021​. How does hope to achieve that? Through private-sector partnerships. By offering student debt repayment as an employee benefit, Taylor is giving employers a key tool for attracting and retaining Millennial talent. Eighty-six percent of employees say they’d work for a company for five years or more if it helped to pay down their student loans,​ ​points out​.

Gillian​ O’Brien and​ ​Emily O’Brien​, Cherry co-founders

With Emily’s background in design and engineering and Gillian’s in digital marketing, the two sisters decided to join their skills to create Cherry. Developed with the help of Y Combinator, Cherry’s mission is to give workers choices around their benefits.

How does Cherry work? Using a Cherry chatbot in Slack, employees can personalize the lifestyle benefits their company provides. Instead of an annual gym pass, for instance, someone using Cherry might choose to spend their benefits on an Amazon Prime subscription or Postmates delivery credits. And because Cherry gives companies a sense of the perks their employees actually want, it prevents benefits dollars from going to waste on ones they don’t. Brittany Stich​ and​ ​Rachel Carlson​, Guild Education co-founders

Like’s Taylor, Brittany Stich and Rachel Carlson wanted to make college more accessible. Unlike Taylor, Stich and Carlson entered the employee benefits space not from tech, but from education. Between her time at Aspire Public Schools and Teach for America, Stich spent three years as a Bay Area teacher. Carlson, meanwhile, founded edtech startup Student Blueprint and worked in admissions at Stanford University before her and Stich teamed up on Guild Education.

Guild Education partners with companies like Taco Bell to provide financial aid coaching, degree program discounts, and college credit for on-the-job training. Although those might sound like expensive perks,​ ​Guild Education claims​ that its benefits deliver an average of 208 percent ROI while raising 90-day retention to 98 percent, compared to a 71 percent baseline retention rate.

Katherine Ryder​, Maven founder and CEO

Having worked for the The New Yorker and The Economist before becoming an entrepreneur, Katherine Ryder understands why many women feel forced to choose between motherhood and their career. Although Ryder made Maven available to individuals as well as employers, it’s Maven’s employer-sponsored fertility benefits that are big news in the HR space.

Despite the fact that Maven is barely five years old, it’s developed a vast network of women’s and family healthcare practitioners. Enrollees get unlimited video appointments and messaging with​ ​more than 1,200 practitioners​ across at least 18 specialties. To help working women plan their path to parenthood, Maven’s practitioners provide fertility treatments, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, adoption services, and more.

Georgene Huang​ and​ ​Romy Newman​, Fairygodboss co-founders

Fairygodboss may not be offering a new employee perk, but it’s more responsible than any company on this list for advancing women’s workplace benefits. Through anonymous reviews, Fairygodboss rates companies on how they treat their women employees. Intentionally or not, the company pressures employers to invest in robust maternity policies, gender pay equality, and female-friendly cultures.
Where did the idea for Fairygodboss come from? Huang​ ​came up with it​ after she was suddenly fired by Dow Jones, where she worked as a senior executive. Two months pregnant, Huang made maternity leave a priority during her job hunt. But because Fairygodboss didn’t exist yet, her only option was to have uncomfortable conversations in the interview about maternity leave and the number of senior-level women employees. Huang then teamed up with Romy Newman, formerly a sales and marketing manager at Google, to get Fairygodboss the attention it deserves.

The benefits space may be full of half-baked ideas, but not by the women on this list. By opening the door to parenthood or post-secondary education, they’re giving workers new reasons to commit. And by pushing companies to treat women well, they’re ensuring employers hold up their end of the bargain, too.


Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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