MDBWomen: A Look into MongoDB’s Affinity Group for Women-Identifying Employees

MongoDB affinity groups are employee-led resource groups that bring together employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals. They play an important role in our company and culture. Our affinity groups build community and connections, help us raise awareness of issues unique to their members’ experiences, and offer networking and professional development opportunities.

I sat down with some of the leaders of MDBWomen to learn more about their initiatives, impact, and plans for the future.

What is MDBWomen?

MDBWomen is a community of MongoDB employees identifying as women. We acknowledge that working women face many challenges and that not everyone experiences them in the same way. Our purpose is to connect and amplify the voices of working women at MongoDB by providing a space for support and advocacy.

We understand that both work and nonwork conversations are important and use our time together to share experiences and build connections. We are women from all walks of life who want to create a safe space for discussing important topics.

How did MDBWomen get started, and how has the group grown?

MDBWomen began as a cohort of women within our North American recruiting organization. Although it was informal, it quickly became a recognized affinity group, but there was no group page within our intranet, no mission statement, and no globally friendly meetings outside of U.S. time zones. After a few years, an opportunity arose to reimagine the group, work on a mission statement, and expand from being just a social club to having a strategic plan for supporting women and impacting the business.

Since its inception, MDBWomen has grown to just shy of 500 members globally, with chapters in India, Australia, and Ireland in addition to U.S. chapters in Palo Alto, California; Austin, Texas; and New York City. Wherever women are, MDBWomen helps activate them!

What types of initiatives does MDBWomen organize?

Our biggest initiatives typically take place during Women’s History Month. Every International Women’s Day (March 8), we host a companywide Purple Shirt Day to show support for women’s rights and raise awareness about the challenges working women still face around the world. In previous years, we’ve brought in spotlight speakers from outside the organization to discuss their personal experiences with being a woman leader in the tech industry. This year, MDBWomen organized a handful of events for Women’s History Month, including professional development workshops, panel events featuring speakers in sales and engineering, an empowering yoga flow and meditation, a Bollywood dance class, and a Kudoboard to share tips, words of wisdom, or experiences about promoting equality for women and employees who identify as LGBTQIA+.

We are also aware of the particular challenges working mothers face. In an effort to destigmatize pregnancy and motherhood at work, we’ve partnered with one of our benefits providers, Carrot, to host sessions that discuss pathways to parenthood and fertility.

It can be difficult to coordinate global events that all of our members are able to participate in, and we recognize that women face different challenges in different regions and cultures. Although many of our MDBWomen events are global, we also rely on the chapter leaders to coordinate initiatives in their region. Many chapters hold casual meetups along with networking events and other workshops throughout the year that allow women-identifying employees to connect with one another, find mentors, and upskill.

2019 International Women's Day Celebration in NYC

How has participating in MDBWomen impacted some of our employees?

We’ve had a lot of impactful follow up conversations after MDBWomen events. Our CIO Lena Smart gave a talk about imposter syndrome last year, and we had a great discussion afterwards. Knowing that you’re not alone, your voice is heard, and your feelings are valid is a big part of the support we give to our members. Our Carrot fertility sessions have allowed women to speak about things they normally wouldn’t talk about in a traditional work setting, and we were able to hear stories from women who had similar struggles and provide them with resources.

It’s not just the events and speakers that have made an impact, but our individual members as well. Many of our members have found mentors within the group or connected with other women who have gone through similar experiences, and we love that we’re able to introduce women to one another across the company and across the globe. So many women have told their chapter leaders that they wouldn’t have received such a high level of support if it weren’t for MDBWomen. Read Jane Zirinsky’s story below to learn more about how MDBWomen has impacted her.

Jane Zirinsky: In her Words

One of the challenges many women face when planning their careers is building out space to also plan for a family. As soon as I hit my mid-twenties, I couldn’t help but notice all the studies, articles, and thought pieces on the so-called motherhood penalty that can affect women as they attempt to progress in their careers. I knew that I would have to be proactive in my career planning to avoid the dreaded plateau motherhood can unfortunately result in.

However, one thing I didn’t know I needed to plan for was how to communicate to my boss and colleagues when I had a miscarriage. There really is no Emily Post guide for that!

When I lost my pregnancy in the summer of 2020, I knew I couldn't hide it and that I would need support and understanding. However, I didn't know how to share this news with the people I worked with. Embarrassingly, my biggest concern was that I would make them uncomfortable. I felt vulnerable. Thankfully, my manager and I have built a strong relationship founded on trust and respect. She’s also a woman, and a friend, which made telling her much easier.

My manager asked if I felt comfortable speaking to HR so that I could get access to the benefits available to me. Through our vendor, Cleo, U.S. employees can access grief counseling, support groups, and bereavement leave. I had no idea that this was an option for me and gratefully took advantage of the program. When they think of fertility benefits, many people think about hospital payments, parental leave, and childcare. It is so easy to forget that 25 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and not a baby.

I am a very outgoing, cheerful person, and there was a noticeable change in my energy levels after my miscarriage. I needed some time off to mourn, cry, breathe, heal, and process the complexities of all the emotions that come with losing a pregnancy. I learned that your body doesn’t care when you lose a pregnancy. It hits you with the full flood of postpartum hormones, which for many women (lucky me!) also includes the added onslaught of postpartum depression. I knew that these feelings were inevitable, and that people around me would notice something was off.

Asking for help and being vulnerable is easier said than done. I always advise women and friends to reach out to their communities when they need support; so I did what I tell women to do all the time: I reached out to my community. I posted in our private, internal MDBWomen Slack channel about what I had gone through. Although it was challenging to be so vulnerable, it was the single best thing I could have done. I received an outpouring of support from MongoDB women across the world. They shared with me privately that I was not alone. I had more than twelve 1:1 conversations with other women who had lost a pregnancy. Some wanted to thank me for being brave and sharing my experience, some wanted to connect and cry, and some just wanted me to know them and to better know me.

The single strongest tool I had to fight my depression was a feeling of connectedness and community. No matter how strong you are, nothing makes you feel more alone than depression. Add in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that took my depression to another level. Had I not been brave, I would have missed the chance to connect with and support other women too.

Now, I strive to be a resource for other women at MongoDB, whether it’s sharing information about access to benefits or proofreading emails that will alert leaders of the need for time off or additional support. I’m grateful that MDBWomen is a safe place to be open, share experiences, and receive the support and empowerment that every woman deserves.

Hear from Some of Our Chapters

North America

Led by Jane Zirinsky, Melanie Kyono, Megan Blancato, Alexandra Hills, Gigi Neuenfeldt, and Libby Firer.

The North America chapters have members in Palo Alto, Austin, New York, and many other remote locations across the U.S. and Canada. We’ve had women jump in and get involved during their first week at MongoDB alongside women who have been here for years. We believe strongly that empowered women empower women, and that you get what you give in communities like ours.

Building a strong internal network provides support when facing challenges and gaining access to new opportunities. As part of this network, we’ve created an internal Propel-Her group aimed at elevating MongoDB women through mentorship and shared experiences. Propel-Her at MongoDB will be launching small, goal-driven peer mentor groups focused on specific professional development goals such as internal branding, negotiation, self-advocacy, and networking, where the emphasis is on peer mentoring and skill sharing. We are also launching a speaker pipeline in concert with our women in sales groups, which helps to connect our membership with women leaders in other companies and industries to inspire and teach us. With NYC and Palo Alto tech hubs being in our backyards, we strive to connect our members to the wider world of women in tech.

Because MongoDB is headquartered in New York City, we have the advantage of access to the majority of our executive leadership team. One of our main goals has been to leverage that access to expand the connection our global members have with our C-suite. We do this via Q&A sessions with our executive team, sessions that spotlight women leaders and experts in their fields, and partnerships with our Recruiting and Diversity and Inclusion teams to ensure we can advocate for our members where the impact is greatest.

Australia

Led by Tammy Bailey and Jocelyn del Prado

The Australian chapter of MDBWomen started just over a year ago, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. The women in Australia typically cannot participate in global MDBWomen events and meetings due to the time zone disparity, so we wanted to create a local community of women who could support one another. We brainstormed heaps of ideas and scheduled our kickoff event for International Women’s Day 2020, but the pandemic brought most of that to a halt. Despite this, we organized regular Zoom meetings that allowed us to connect, meet new hires, and generally get to know each other. We had a great lineup of events for Women’s History Month in 2021, and we plan to continue this momentum throughout the year.

One of our goals moving forward is to engage women across various departments and roles within MongoDB. We plan to hold even more organized activities such as event sponsorships, welcoming and mentorship programs, ladies’ lunches, high teas, informal meetups, and yoga sessions. Another goal is to create opportunities for collaboration and friendships with women in other locations.

The number of women employees in Australia has doubled over the past year, and we’re always working on ways to bring more extraordinary women into the organization. MDBWomen Australia is a place to have your voice heard and make a difference, and we are excited to continue growing our group of amazing women in Australia!

MDBWomen Australia celebrating Purple Shirt Dat virtually in 2021

India

Led by Palki Sood and Neha Mukherjee

We joined MongoDB one month apart from each other and reached out separately to our office site leader, Amit Babbar, with our ideas and vision of forming an employee affinity group specifically for women in India. He connected the two of us with each other in August 2019, and the rest is history! India became the first established chapter of MDBWomen outside of North America. Our vision was to build a network of trust and a strong support system for all employees who identify as women in India. We believe that empowered women empower women. To add a local touch, we came up with the moniker “MongoWomaniya,” which is a fun way of representing our group and resonates with each member. We are proud that the logo we created for our group is now used as the logo for the global women’s group.

We’ve been able to help foster new friendships by providing group members with a platform to get to know each other better and be sounding boards for common issues. We even started our own recognition program called “MongoDB India Superwoman of the Quarter,” which highlights women employees who are not only star performers but are also succeeding in balancing their work-life responsibilities and leading the way with their impact. Since the pandemic began, we have held multiple virtual engagement sessions addressing “taboo” topics such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We also have held self-care sessions and collaborated with other affinity groups for activities such as Bollywood dancing. We have future plans to host more inspirational speakers, engage more “Womaniyas” to lead our regular meetings, and collaborate with recruiting to ensure we drive our diversity hiring goals. Our main goal is to ensure MongoDB India is a top employer for women, driven by our inclusive and equitable culture.

MDBWomen India, AKA Womaniya, gather in the office prior to COVID-19

Ireland

Led by Rita Martins Rodrigues, Avril Murphy, and Amy McKeon

The Dublin chapter of MDBWomen provides a safe space for those identifying as women and allies to come together, share experiences, and help each other grow.

Our goal is to support the women of our Dublin chapter with mentorship and upskilling programs, along with engaging our allies in open conversations in which we can help them demystify allyship and how it shows up at work. There is also an opportunity for the women of our chapter to connect with their peers in all of our major locations. We held our first event in April and are looking forward to establishing a community for the women of our Dublin team!

Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB and joining MDBWomen? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!