The “Mom Question” — YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on Studio 1.0


Behind the scenes with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Every time I sit down with a powerful working mom, I wrestle with whether to ask the “mom question.” I don’t want to be part of perpetuating a double standard by asking women in business a question that men are not asked. However, as a mom myself, I want to know the answer — How do they do it? What are their mom hacks? What can I learn from them?

When I first met YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, I was moderating a panel she was on for Harvard alums. We were both wrapping up our maternity leaves. She had just had her fifth child; I’d just had my second. We traded tips on maternity clothes and I peppered her with questions about how she finds her balance. Wojcicki was kindly very open and it’s advice from her and so many other amazing working women I’ve had the chance to meet, that’s helped me manage my own career and family — and helped me to believe that I CAN DO IT.
 So, I’ve decided to ask women questions about parenting how and when I feel it is appropriate, and sometimes men too. On the day Yahoo announced the acquisition by Verizon, I spent the majority of the interview asking Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer about running the business. At the end, I also asked about how motherhood has changed her approach to leadership, given that her parenting decisions (rightly or wrongly) became such a flashpoint in her tenure. She lit up as she talked about how amazing it’s been to watch her children learn and how much she has learned about herself in having them: “I love to work. I love to have an impact. I love to talk with them about it…and for me it’s really important to keep going.”

At the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, I asked Alibaba CEO Mike Evans — who has nine kids! — how he does it, as well as Didi President Jean Liu, a mother of three. Evans said he couldn’t do work well without the support of his family and vice versa. Liu told the audience she spends a quality hour with her children after dinner every day. They call it “happy hour.” I’m totally stealing that.

And when I sat down with Susan Wojcicki this week on Bloomberg Studio 1.0, I asked how she feels about getting the “mom question.” She said she doesn’t mind answering it because moms and dads care about the answer. She talked about how being a mom has made her more productive and enabled her to focus on things that are growing fast with high potential while not wasting time on things that are growing slowly. This reminded me again that I can do it, and YOU CAN TOO.

Of course, we also talked a lot about YouTube. She is, after all, one of the most powerful women at Alphabet/Google and in Silicon Valley, now running what could be a $70 billion standalone company. She wrote the original justification plan for Google to buy YouTube back in 2006 and it’s now been 10 years since the acquisition. Oh, and Google started in her garage in 1998 when two unknown entrepreneurs Larry Page and Sergey Brin needed a place to set up shop (and she needed help making rent).

Here’s the full edition of Bloomberg Studio 1.0 with Susan Wojcicki. And if you missed last week’s episode with Former Microsoft CEO now LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, check it out here (and buckle up!). 
 All episodes are available as podcasts via iTunes, SoundClound and Overcast.

Leave a Reply