Sarah Johal - Thoughtful and Resilient

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Sarah Johal is a marketing professional with 10+ years experience leading mobile startups to profitable and reputable success. Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication from San Francisco State University. Fusing trends and insights with meaningful results is what keeps her inspired by paying it forward through women-in-tech mentorship opportunities. Sarah lives in the East Bay with her husband and daughter.

In May of last year, Sarah was a part of a dozen women from different tech companies who met in Twitter’s Silicon Valley headquarters for a conversation about issues facing the tech industry, where a growing number of millennials are now becoming parents. This is how the Parents in Tech Alliance was formed.

The “parennialls,” as the millennial parents have been christened, were facing unequal or inadequate paid family leave policies, and groups like the Parents in Tech Alliance were giving them more incentive—and information—about speaking up and confronting the cultural status quo.

Sarah, who at the time was leading UpLyft parents, the group she’d founded at Lyft to support caregivers, said listening to each woman share her story helped her realize the universal nature of her experience. She was shocked to discover that “it doesn’t matter what size a company is, or where they are in their life cycle. As working moms we were all facing similar biases and opportunities. It was very inspiring to know that I wasn’t alone in my desire to create change,” she says.

Sarah was determined to improve upon Lyft’s current paid leave plan, which was generous but staggeringly unequal.

In an article on Badass + Living, Sarah reflects, "I recently discovered there’s a unique Japanese term for maternity harassment called matahara. Pause on this for a moment. The pervasive culture of pushing working mothers out of their positions is so commonplace that their society made room for it in its vocabulary instead of making room for solutions to define working parents with equal value. Despite Japan passing legislation to prevent maternity harassment, one in five women are still being bullied and/or fired from their jobs while pregnant. Having been entrenched in the Silicon Valley startup scene for a decade, I was naïve to think this was a geo-cultural problem. It’s a global one."

Through the Parents in Tech Alliance, Sarah was introduced to Annie Sartor and Orli Cotel of PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States), an organization quietly finding its way into workplaces all over the country, helping employees amass the tools and information needed to lobby their own HR departments or boards of directors for improved paid family leave plans. 

Sarah began emailing with Cotel and Sartor, who helped her compile a business case for paid leave, something she could share with her benefits team. In August, Sarah formally presented her case for an expanded paid leave policy to the benefits team, citing examples of retention-growth and paid leave benefits their tech competitors provided. A decision was put on hold when Lyft hired the first chief people officer, Emily Nishi, in October, who proceeded to do a full audit of the current benefits.

In January, Lyft made the internal announcement that the new plan would expand paid parental leave for both men and women who work full time to 18 weeks. And it’s not just new parents who will benefit: The policy also expands caregiver support leave from two weeks to 12 weeks, all of which are 100 percent paid. Bereavement leave was expanded to two weeks. Employees who took parental leave in 2017 before the policy was in effect will have the option to use their additional weeks this year. The policy is effective immediately, without a waiting period, so there is no minimum time an employee needs to work at Lyft before being able to take advantage of the benefits.

If anyone deserves this ladybadass title, we believe Sarah does. To learn more about Sarah's 'side hustle' advocacy work building better workforce cultures for working parents check out these articles: