The Events Experience

Empowering Women with a Unique Employee Benefit, Leva

March 06, 2024 Bishop-McCann
Empowering Women with a Unique Employee Benefit, Leva
The Events Experience
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The Events Experience
Empowering Women with a Unique Employee Benefit, Leva
Mar 06, 2024

To celebrate Women's History Month, this episode highlights a unique benefit that Bishop-McCann offers our female associates to help them thrive in their lives and careers. Our VP of Talent and Culture, Melanie Maddock, interviewed Founder and CEO of Leva, Vanessa Jupe. Leva was founded to ensure women are successful both personally and professionally, and we delve deeper into this benefit. Topics include:

  • Why Leva was founded to empower women
  • Benefits of investing in and supporting women in your organization
  • Leva's unique offerings and long-term outlook

Subscribe to The Events Experience, and create JOY wherever you go! Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more.

Show Notes Transcript

To celebrate Women's History Month, this episode highlights a unique benefit that Bishop-McCann offers our female associates to help them thrive in their lives and careers. Our VP of Talent and Culture, Melanie Maddock, interviewed Founder and CEO of Leva, Vanessa Jupe. Leva was founded to ensure women are successful both personally and professionally, and we delve deeper into this benefit. Topics include:

  • Why Leva was founded to empower women
  • Benefits of investing in and supporting women in your organization
  • Leva's unique offerings and long-term outlook

Subscribe to The Events Experience, and create JOY wherever you go! Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more.

Host: 0:01  

Hi, and welcome to The Events Experience, where we take a deep dive into everything event planning. I work for Bishop- McCann, an agency devoted to creating JOY through meetings, incentives, and events for big name brands. On this podcast, myself and our company's experts will discuss all things events, so keep listening to hear all about the latest tips and trends for virtual, live, and hybrid events.  

Hi everyone! In this episode of our podcast, we are joined by our Vice President of Talent and Culture, Melanie Maddock, who will be interviewing Founder and CEO of Leva, Vanessa Jupe. Leva is an organization that was founded to help ensure women are successful both personally and professionally, offering various benefits for new parents. Today, we'll be delving deeper into this benefit that Bishop-McCann offers for our employees. Thank you both for joining the podcast! 

Melanie Maddock: 0:56  

Hi, Brenna! Thanks. 

Vanessa Jupe: 0:57  

Yeah, thank you so much for having me! I'm excited to be here. 

Melanie Maddock: 1:01  

Vanessa, thanks so much for joining us today. I've really been looking forward to chatting with you a little bit further about Leva. I know that you created Leva to support women on their journey to be successful in their lives and careers with a focus on new moms, and we rolled it out here at Bishop-McCann less than a year ago. Can you tell me first about the reasons behind why you founded Leva? 

Vanessa Jupe: 1:21  

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I will share a bit about my story. And also just start by saying that I have spoken to so many women now that I've been running Leva that have shared their stories of early motherhood and how they managed to get through it, and everyone has their own tale of things that are challenging. So every time I talk to someone and I hear their stories, I feel even more empowered about what we're doing and excited about it. 

For me personally, my biggest struggle was with breastfeeding. I'm the type of person that does all kinds of research and prepares for things, and I just think that my sheer determination is going to get me through it and be successful with it. And I can tell you that no amount of effort or preparation would have saved my breastfeeding journey. I just thought it was supposed to be natural. I thought my kid would do things just fine, and ended up that he had a tongue tie and a lip tie, which is a thing that I had no idea was a thing, and that was literally the most painful experience. He could not gain weight by naturally breastfeeding. We did all the things that you could think to do and still nothing was working for us. So I ended up exclusively pumping for a year. Instead of breastfeeding, we had to supplement with formula, and just from a self-esteem perspective, I felt so bad and ashamed. 

And I was like, wow, as a woman, isn't this supposed to be something that my body does naturally? And isn't he supposed to be able to get the milk out naturally? Why is this happening? And I was really angry about it. Honestly, I was angry that I wasn't prepared. I was angry that there wasn't better support, that nothing I was finding was really helping me resolve the issue, and it was completely outside of my control. 

So taking a step back, it really shouldn't have been surprising when you think about how very little funding goes to women's health research in our country (hopefully that will change over time). And even until mid-1990s, women weren't required to be part of clinical trials. If you think about those things, it makes sense that we really don't know as much as we should. So I did some research online with 800 women to find out what their experiences were like, and it turns out that tons of women struggled with breastfeeding. Not only that, taking a bigger picture approach and doing some surveys, we discovered - you know, which should not be surprising now - that lots of women struggle not just with that, but with sleep deprivation (which is literal torture), with reintegrating back into the workforce. And time after time, I heard so many stories of women that either were passed over for promotions, got demoted, or had big projects taken away from them simply because they became mothers. And so all of those things added together made me really want to do something that could make a difference. 

So that's really kind of where Leva started, and I've learned a ton in the process. The more I learned, the more it really compels me to continue down the road of trying to help more women and families. 

Melanie Maddock: 4:06  

Vanessa, I love how you've taken your personal story and put that in the heart of your business to champion women. Thanks for sharing that. 

I was going to also ask, we're in a female-dominated industry. We have over 90% women in our employee population. I think supporting women and new moms has been an area of focus for Bishop-McCann for years because of that. I'm sort of curious what trends you're seeing in terms of the benefits that individuals and companies receive from investing in and supporting women? 

Vanessa Jupe: 4:34  

Yeah, I love that so much about your company and the workforce. I think it's really cool to be able to support a company that is so heavily female. Obviously, I think that it would be a beautiful world if more companies understood the needs of their employee base and took initiative the way that you guys have. Obviously, there are big broad trends about why we should support and invest in women in the workforce. We know that women in leadership drive solid financial performance. There are study after study after study out there that talk about this. Companies that have a higher female representation in leadership roles and on boards outperform those with lower representation. McKinsey has studied this. S&P has studied this. So there are great data points out there. In fact, there's a 37% increase on earnings per share for heavily female companies. And we know that if more companies had women in the workforce, we'd have almost $6 trillion added to the global market cap in ten years. So having women participating in the workforce is critical and having them see their careers advance and move into top management roles is also really fantastic and important for financial returns. 

All of that said - I know now something I didn't know a year ago or even a year and a half ago in this journey - is that a lot of companies don't realize how important it is to really support parents and women that are going through maternity. So what I've learned is there is a willingness to support fertility and adoption. For some reason that has become, I guess, more normalized rather than the awareness of the deep challenges (the physical, emotional, and mental challenges) that crop up after the baby gets here. So a lot of my time and effort has been spent helping to explain and educate company leaders and benefit consultants around the support that's needed. 

Fortunately, there's a lot of data that supports the need in this space as well. So we know that companies that have brought in solutions like Leva, like you guys have, see a greater return to work rate (around 90%) and higher retention after 12 months of the baby's birth. There's also a massive decrease in costs when you're supporting the new parents and your workforce in that way because it can cost over 200% of an employee's salary to replace them. And we know that with support like what Leva offers, there's a massive benefit to lactation induction and breastfeeding rates/success there, which are obviously great for the baby and the mom, but also decreased costs for health plans because the costs to treat babies that are not breastfed are considerably higher and then IQ costs are considerably higher. So there's a lot of value to supporting new parents in various ways. 

Luckily, this is a trend that's just picking up steam. The other thing that I'd say, which is slightly different from what we're doing, is on menopause. So there's been a massive increase in interest in supporting menopause in the last 24 months. So it's really exciting to see that as well. I think we're starting to realize, "Hey, you can't provide a one-size-fits-all for the entire population because women have different needs." 

Melanie Maddock: 7:35  

I love that you're speaking to the range of women's needs because I think you're right, it's varied depending on family status and age group. And a lot of what you're sharing is science-backed. I'm learning a lot just being on this podcast with you. 

Vanessa Jupe: 7:48  

Thank you! 

Melanie Maddock: 7:50  

I was also going to say, first of all, I feel like you're preaching to the choir. Again, I love everything that you stand for and what you're doing, and I hope that this is something that helps propel even more change. I look at leave in the US and how it compares to other countries, and I think Bishop-McCann tries really hard to be flexible. We've got lots of women who come back part-time initially, and I think flexibility is key, so I really appreciate what you just said. 

Vanessa Jupe: 8:15  

That's amazing. I love that you do that. You know, just real quick on that topic. The countries that are doing leave really well, you know, they're mostly Scandinavian countries. What they've really found that works is supporting both parents taking time off, and with a little bit of overlap, but each parent really having dedicated time and the same amount of time has been critical in establishing more gender equality. Because it's not seen as the mom's or the woman's challenge to bear. They're really seeing if men or the co-partner takes time off, that it allows both people to have equal footing in the workforce, and the amount of money that the mother makes ends up going up over their lifetime as well, which is super exciting to see. So hopefully America can follow suit. 

Melanie Maddock: 8:59  

Yes, yes. Well, and actually I wasn't planning on sharing this, but we have the same leave for dads that we do for moms. So I think equality is important, and dads can play a really important role in early childhood development as well. Again, we could probably speak for hours, Vanessa. 

But I'm going to jump to my next question, and I wanted to share with you that I'm really happy we've received positive feedback from the new moms who've been trying the app. I don't think there's much on the market like Leva. I'm curious to know from your point of view, what do you think makes it unique? 

Vanessa Jupe: 9:31  

Well, that's great to hear. Thank you for sharing it. We take a really user-centered approach in our design. You know, we do a lot of interviews with parents before we really build something and definitely before we launch it. So for example, right now we're working on a new onboarding flow and additional support for non-birthing parents. So we've gone through several different user testing sessions with brand new parents, so we can get their feedback. So literally nothing makes it to production before we know how it's going to be received. We've talked to users, we've talked to pediatricians, we've talked to all kinds of individuals that could potentially use our app just to make sure that we're building something that's useful. 

Then we offer real-time, personalized answers to questions that are on the minds of parents. So we know, you know, "Hey, you're pregnant, and you're tracking your pregnancy. You want to know how your baby is evolving, how your body is changing after the baby gets there." Then you have different questions around breastfeeding positions. You have questions around formula. You're probably trying to figure out how you can make sure you're balancing your career and motherhood. So we're making sure we're tackling all of those questions that new parents have and delivering content to them in that moment that it's really relevant to them. 

And then I would say, lastly, we are really a technology company that has a heavy human element. So we offer one-on-one virtual coaching to support parents. We also have a comprehensive suite of consultants, from nutritionists to personal trainers, mental wellness coaches and lactation support. We just added a doula, so we're really trying to think about what do parents need holistically, including career coaching to make sure that they stay on track in all aspects of their lives. 

Melanie Maddock: 11:09  

I think that's great. It's one of the things that was so attractive to me is that lactation support might be something that some women need (or many women need). And I loved the career advice. There's that mindfulness aspect on the app. I love how varied it is - that it can help people where they are and based on what they need. 

Vanessa, you mentioned the word doula - for anyone who might not know what that is, can you elaborate? 

Vanessa Jupe: 11:31  

Yes, absolutely! So a doula is not a medical professional, although they do have to go through certification to become a doula (and the doulas on our platform are all certified in prenatal and postpartum doula work). So they really are an advocate for the mom. They're trained in understanding the stages of labor and understanding how to initiate breastfeeding, and also knowing what happens after the baby is delivered. Doulas are associated with improved birth outcomes, so fewer cesarean sections, fewer pre-term births, and increased breastfeeding rates. So doulas are absolutely amazing. 

And I will say my own personal experience having a doula, I was prepared with a birth plan. I knew what to expect. And I was prepared after the baby came, in terms of, "How do I take care of this baby?" Because otherwise, you know, you're kind of on your own in a lot of cases nowadays. So doulas can cover all of that. And I found it to be one of the best experiences of my child birthing moment because they were there for me the whole time, and they prepared me beforehand and afterward. So that's really what doulas do. They're there for the mom, and they help prepare you. And our doulas work virtually. There are many doulas that also will be there to attend your birth and help you at that moment. 

Melanie Maddock: 12:42  

Yeah, they're an amazing resource. Thanks for elaborating. 

I remember when we first met, and I learned about your company and the app. You said something like, "This is just the beginning." And you've sort of hinted at it by talking about women, menopause, and their stage of life. In the short time that we've worked with Leva, you've created an admin tool for employers, which I've really enjoyed. I'm curious to know what the near and long-term future looks like for your company. 

Vanessa Jupe: 13:04  

Yeah, thank you, and thank you for giving us feedback on it. I totally appreciate that. So yeah, in the last six months we've definitely done a ton. We really look at data. So what's driving engagement within the platform today? When we do interviews or surveys with our users and prospects, what are they looking for? What do they want, and what's also happening in the market? There's a huge trend in artificial intelligence right now, so how could that apply to what we're doing? We added nutrition support. We added content around nutrition - all because our users were looking for it. We added doula support because we've seen in the data what a key driver that is of improved birth outcomes and breastfeeding success rates, and we want to make sure that the users and the parents that have access to our platform are getting the best support possible. And we've started doubling down on mental health content and support, as well, based on the trends that we're seeing in the United States. 

One of the most recent pieces of content that we added that has gotten a lot of visibility and has been really popular are "Mommy and Me" workouts, which are really fun to create, and it's really cool to see the moms using them. We also recently launched corporate training. So one of the things we were hearing a lot from partners and benefits consultants is that HR leaders really want training for their people leaders, so they know, "How do I engage with my employees when they go on leave? What is appropriate, what's not, what's legal? And how do I make sure that I'm really speaking to the best interests of my employer and that I'm being an empathetic human?" So that's something that we recently rolled out. 

But in terms of what's coming up next, we're continuing that focus on mental health, as I mentioned. We have a childbirth class that we're working on for pregnant moms, so that they know what's coming, how to be prepared for their childbirth, and how to advocate for themselves. We've started hosting webinars as well, so we've done breastfeeding 101 leave planning and management, and the next one we're doing is going to be all about nutrition for mom and baby. Then what we're building, we're building out an experience for partners, for non-birthing parents. We're going to enable them to log data about their baby and understand what their partner is going through. How can they help mom? Because we've talked to so many partners that have said, "I'm not in this the same way that my spouse is like she's feeding the baby, changing diapers, etc. I don't know how to help." So we're working on content and information that can help them help their partner, as well as providing them with coaching and consultations, so that they know how to navigate this new realm for themselves as well. 

Then we're also adding a community feature within the app, which has been the number one requested feature from moms on our platform. That's going to enable them to connect with one another but also get more support from our experts through Q&A. And then we're doing more things around engagement and understanding. We're building an experience that really celebrates the users, what they're doing at the moment that they're in, and giving them fresh content and guidance on a daily basis. So if they're listening to a new meditation or an article, we're going to reward them by encouraging them. We're going to give them badges for the actions they take. We're going to celebrate when they listen to a certain number of meditations, for example, and really encourage them down that path of mindfulness and hopefully continuing to decrease those postpartum challenges with anxiety and depression. And then the improved connectivity piece, like I mentioned, the community - which I'm really, really excited about. 

As you touched on, our longer-term goal is really to support women across the stages of their life journey. So starting from their careers after college, helping them know how they can save money so that they can be set up really well from the very beginning. So they're living a healthy life, they're saving toward retirement. And then the stages of perimenopause and menopause, which obviously are super duper disruptive to anyone, especially women that are in the workforce and really trying to continue to have a successful career and climb the ladder. You know, those things can be really hard. So wanting to support women through every stage and then living into retirement and making sure that they're set up well as they go into their retirement years. We have a lot of goals for what we're trying to do, but as you know, it all takes time. I'm excited about all of the wonderful things that we've done in the last year, but I'm really excited about where we'll be 5 to 10 years from now as well. 

Melanie Maddock: 17:13  

I have to say, that is so much on your roadmap. It's all really exciting. You must be very busy and so is your team! 

Vanessa Jupe: 17:20  

Absolutely, absolutely! Well, it's cool to see, when you have a nimble organization, the amount that you can get done in a year. It's really exciting. 

Melanie Maddock: 17:28  

Yeah. It was really not even a second thought when we introduced Leva to our people because we saw a need in our immediate organization. And honestly, the rollout of it was very simple. Your team was really easy to work with. 

I guess my last question is just if there's any organization or HR professionals out there who might have a concern about rolling this out, is there anything that you would say to them? How do we encourage more people to take on Leva to try it out? 

Vanessa Jupe: 17:54  

Yeah. Thank you, I appreciate it. I would say there's really no downside. Melanie, as you know, Leva is really not an expensive benefit. We can get things up and running in less than a day, so it's super easy to give us a try and start supporting the parents on your team right away. We also integrate with HR information systems. We listen to our users and we listen to our HR teams, and one of the requested features was that integration. So we integrated with Rippling very recently, and we have additional HRISs on our roadmap. Really with the click of a button, you can import your entire team and give them access. If you're interested in learning more, you can absolutely reach out to us. My email address is, and I would be excited to share more about what we're doing with anyone that's interested. 

Melanie Maddock: 18:41  

Vanessa, we really appreciate your time today. Thank you! 

Host: 18:45  

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