For nearly a decade, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg have covered the issues facing millennial women through their platform, theSkimm. The co-founders and co-CEOs are known for equipping their community of 12 million with the resources and tools they need to create meaningful change within their daily lives. The longtime friends sat down with Jessica Abo to talk about their big 10-year milestone and what’s next.
Jessica Abo: Carly, let’s start with you. For those who don’t know, what is theSkimm?
TheSkimm is a media company that makes it easier to live smarter. We have over 12 million Skimmers out there who interact with us across all digital platforms. We have our signature product, our Daily Skimm email, which is how we first started, and that goes out every morning and makes it easier to break down what happened yesterday, what’s happening today, what you need to know tomorrow.
What else do you offer besides your signature newsletter?
We really look at what are all the categories that honestly seem cumbersome or have stressed each of us out at different points in our life? And that’s everything from voting to personal finance to health to starting a family and raising that family to big purchasing decisions, to navigating your career. We’re doing all of that, and we’re helping break down information that you need to know and helping actually curate and get you to the right decisions for you.
Danielle, let’s go back in time a little bit. How did the two of you meet?
We met studying abroad during college in Rome and had a great time. We interned for some of the same people, just not at the same time, so our paths crossed several times before we wound up as not only friends, but also roommates in a very, very small apartment in New York City.
Looking back, what’s been the best part about working together?
I can’t imagine how hard it would be and how isolating it would be to do this by myself. I think the best part about working together is the relationship that we’ve formed. We are part of each other’s lives, and that’s been when there’s really great things.
But I think that more importantly, it’s been there when you hit rock bottom. And if you’re building a company and you’ve been doing it for a decade, there are a lot of different versions of what rock bottom has looked like, and having someone who understands it and you don’t need to explain things to has been invaluable.
Carly, what’s been the best part of working together for you?
We were confident when we had no reason to be confident when we first started, and I think we were ambitious when we had no reason to second-guess or to have self-doubt because we were so naive. And that was a blessing, and I think what’s been one of the greatest things, is actually to see: one, how consistent our mission of theSkimm has been and how it’s grown into what was only our wildest imagination. And then two: to see the impact that’s beyond anything we could have ever experienced.
You’ve been able to accomplish a lot over the past decade. What would you say you’re the proudest of or has been the most meaningful for you?
Our work around elections and civic engagement, mobilizing over a million women to show up and vote, getting our audience to take over 500,000 voting-related actions in the two weeks leading up to these midterms. That is something that I’m just so proud of, that our company has not only done but that as a company culture at theSkimm, we feel like we’re really able to contribute but not tell our audience what to do or what to think. We’re telling them what to consider, and we have a relationship where we are privileged enough to inform people every single day about what’s going on in the world and then also to help them be in a position to act on it.
The other way it’s extended has been around #ShowUsYourLeave and really getting out there and advocating for more transparency around paid family leave programs and more support of working women and families of all kinds. Being able to have these life moments that sometimes are really great and often are very stressful, and that looks very different, depending on so many things. We want to make sure that that is a basic, fundamental part of an employee package.
Speaking of paid family leave, Carly, can you share more about theSkimm’s #ShowUsYourLeave initiative and what you’re hoping to do by calling attention to this issue?
We launched #ShowUsYourLeave last year when we saw that once again, Congress wasn’t prioritizing really any paid family leave policies. This has been a really horrible issue in how it’s been handled on both sides of the aisle, and I think we were watching this happen. And literally, I’m texting with Danielle, who’s dealing with her young son having a tantrum on the floor and trying to do work. And we’re like, ‘How is this possibly happening in our lifetime, that we’re still having these same fights?’
And so we realized the way to combat this is without having really a lot of faith in the government, and that’s what a lot of our audience shared with us. Over 80% said, ‘I don’t feel like the government is going to come up with a solution.’ We’re like, ‘Let’s go to the private sector,’ and so at first we just challenged our audience to share their leave stories. We were overwhelmed by their stories.
We literally had people sending in pictures of when they were in active labor, with their laptop on the contraction monitor, so that they could still qualify for leave at midnight. It was insane. We had NICU nurses who were trying to take their own leave but had to come back to work seven days after because they didn’t have leave at a hospital. It doesn’t even make any sense.
And that viral movement of people sharing these stories actually turned into a campaign challenging employers to show us what their leave policies were. And that grew into this amazing database that you can find on our website, where nearly 600 companies have publicly been transparent about their leave policies and benefit plans. This is something that I care so much about, and we look at leave policies as an example of how your company shows up and says, ‘We care about you, our employee. We care about you, our female employees, in particular.’ And these are just some of the examples and ways that a company can illustrate its values.
Finally, Danielle, what are you the most excited about when it comes to the future?
There’s so much more we want to do and so many more ways that we feel that she needs support. For theSkimm, we’re constantly thinking about what are those question marks in her life and her day-to-day. And when we think about that, it’s “How do you make good decisions around what’s going on in your world, what’s going on with your wallet, what’s going on with your career, what’s going on with your health, and what’s going on with the idea of family, whatever that means to you.
So making sure that we are broadening what we are able to give her information on is something that I’m really, really excited about.
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