How much would you have charged if two scrappy computer scientists came asking to rent out your own garage to start a company back in 1998?
“$US1,700 a month,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, recalling the rent she charged for the garage at her old home in Menlo Park to the two Google cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. “And I took security deposit.”
At the time, Page and Brin were Ph.D students at Stanford, probably making much less than what most engineers did in Silicon Valley. But Wojcicki didn’t have to think twice when Page and Brin came asking.
“[Rent] is even more expensive now, but it was expensive back then,” she said, while on stage at Salesforce’s annual conference Dreamforce on Thursday.
Wojcicki no longer lives in that 2,000 sq. feet, four-bedroom house, but the decision to rent out her garage to Page and Brin ended up becoming a life-changer: she was later hired as Google employee #18, and went on to become its senior VP of advertising and commerce, overseeing some of its largest entities, including AdSense and AdWords.
Another interesting fact: Wojcicki was the first pregnant woman at Google.
Being pregnant made her do some research on maternity leave, and she found some staggering numbers about paid maternity leave in the US.
“I was really surprised to learn that most women in the US don’t have paid maternity leave, regardless of the job,” she said. “In the private sector, only 12% of women have paid maternity leave, and 25% women go back to work after 10 days.”
But after seeing more and more pregnant women at Google, Wojcicki says she discovered another interesting fact: having a longer paid maternity leave helped her retain employees.
“You’re more ready to return to work when your kids are older, they’re sleeping better, they’re getting closer to eating real food,” she said. “The really sad thing is a lot of women have to go back because they don’t want to lose their jobs or they want to have income.”
Now, Google offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave for mothers, and 12 weeks for fathers. But most businesses still don’t realise longer paid maternity leaves are good for the company, she said.
“Paid maternity leave is also good for business,” she said.
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