In an Equity Talk, Maven CEO Kate Ryder shared a vision for a more equitable women’s health system.
Maven recently secured $110 million in funding, bringing the company’s valuation to $1 billion.
Ryder is focused on expanding health services for women of color and women who receive Medicaid.
In 2012, Kate Ryder closed the book on a journalism career and joined the world of venture capital. The then-30-year-old started thinking about the problems she could solve through startups. Talking with her friends brought up a big one.
Like many women, Ryder’s friends shouldered the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities before, during, and after their 9-to-5s. Navigating the healthcare system, they said, was a nightmare. So in 2014, Ryder founded Maven, a virtual health clinic for women and families that’s now valued at over $1 billion. Her mission was and is to make the healthcare system easier for women and families to navigate.
Her mission became clearer in 2020 after she saw COVID-19’s outsized influence on Black and brown women and the civil-rights reckoning of the summer. What was a company for families more broadly is now more closely centering the experiences of marginalized ones.
“George Floyd’s murder opened up my eyes to things that I didn’t know,” she said. “I want to help create a more equitable world through healthcare.”
To be sure, the company has always strived to be inclusive. Maven provides parents (including queer and single parents) with fertility, pregnancy, adoption, parenting, and pediatric services. It’s also funded by a powerful group of women investors.
But now, Ryder is honing her focus on creating better healthcare solutions for mothers and parents from marginalized communities. The company is building products and services for parents who utilize Medicaid.
The healthcare system is especially difficult for women of color to navigate: Medical research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found they often must advocate for themselves more than white women to receive adequate treatment, as Serena Williams’ near-death birthing experience made clear for many.
Maven pairs every user with a patient advocate who helps connect them with the right providers, schedule appointments, and find additional resources. It also lists providers who have experience with certain communities to better tailor the health journey to the patient.
“I want to change the health of the world, one woman and one family at a time, and really provide more access to care,” she told Insider. “My goal is to fill the gaps in care with a reimagined care model for women and families.”
In an Equity Talk, Insider’s new series featuring executives discussing their work to advance social justice, Ryder shared her vision for the company and how she was strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for customers and employees.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
In August, you raised over $110 million, bringing the total amount of funding to over $200 million. What are you focused on building right now?
One of the big things we’re going to be focusing on is further personalization across all the journeys our members go through. There’s a first-time mom’s journey and a third-time mom’s journey. There’s the IVF journey versus the surrogacy journey. We’re also deeply concerned about health equity.
There’s the journey of the single mom who works an hourly job. How do we make sure our model and technology is compatible with the pain points and needs she has? We put the chief medical officer for the home, whoever that is, at the center of our platform. Internally, we’re going to continue to focus on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
DEI appears to be an internal priority at Maven. Tell me about your decision to offer unlimited vacation, flexible work, and 14 weeks of paid parental leave.
I think it’s really important when you’re looking at DEI to actually be very principled in your approach. What are the principles? What are the problems you’re trying to solve for? And then build that into your KPIs and policies.
We treat DEI like any other business goal, just like revenue or sales. So that ensures we’re creating positive change. We wanted to ensure that a mom, a parent, has enough bonding time with their child in those first crucial months.
I also want to create an environment where there’s room to be your whole self, and that includes if you’re a parent. That has to be modeled from the top. My son will show up in Zoom calls. I’ll talk about my kids in meetings. We have lactation rooms in our office. I want to create that space for employees to be their whole selves.
You mentioned you treat DEI goals like you do marketing goals or hiring goals. Can you show me how you do that?
We publish our workforce statistics on our website. So it’s very transparent to everybody what the racial and gender makeup of our employees is. I think you can’t make things better unless you’re actually honest about your data. So you can see that on our website.
Last June, after George Floyd was murdered, and there was a lot of conversation around how to solve the problems of racism at your own companies, we built these DEI groups. One group is focused on improving the company’s hiring process. One is focused on the product representation, meaning do we have diverse representation in our product? We’re improving our company that way.
But DEI goes beyond race and gender. One group we realized we did not represent well enough was people with disabilities. And so we put more of that in our product visuals and goals. We’re trying to go beyond just checking a box. It’s a business priority in and of itself.
As a leader, how were you changed by George Floyd’s murder and the summer of 2020?
A few years ago, during the height of the #MeToo movement, there was a point where some of my male friends said, “Wow, I didn’t realize when you walk home at night, you might worry about all these things.” I think with George Floyd, I was having those kinds of realizations. So I think it was a good wake-up call for everybody to really look at our representation across society and at our own companies and think, “How can we do better?” Because it’s not acceptable where we are today.
What’s your next big diversity or inclusion project you’re focused on over the next year?
We’re launching products for our first Medicaid customers next year. I think in this healthcare environment, where COVID-19 has laid bare around the racial disparities in care, but to really walk the walk around health equity, you have to serve the population that accounts for almost half the births that are on Medicaid plans. So from a product standpoint, we’re genuinely going after diversity and inclusion.
So you’re really pushing health equity and making it central to your business model.
Yeah. We’re doing it not only because it’s really critical to our mission, but it’s like half of the population. So from a market standpoint, too, you’re just missing a lot if you don’t do that.
I think we’ve learned a ton because we’ve always had diverse providers in our community, and we’ve always done cultural care matching. So we have a lot of learnings that we’re leveraging as we continue to build out this product.
I really think creating an equitable health system starts with bringing diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives together.
In your opinion, what role does a CEO play in society?
It’s changing a lot. I think that in the past, it was, of course, a CEO’s job was to maximize shareholder value. I think that given that, you know, there hasn’t been as much leadership at the government level, I think people are looking for more meaning and guidance by the leaders that they see in their day-to-day lives, including in the workplace.
I think CEOs of companies are stepping up to fill some of these voids. So, for instance, with George Floyd’s murder, I don’t think 20 years ago you would have seen companies donate to charities or make investments as a reaction. But we made that choice to do so because we felt it was really important. Everyone at Maven wants a better world right now, so how do we do our part?
We have to compete in the marketplace and be an operationally excellent business not only because that’s how you win and how you scale, but it allows us to do a lot of these DEI initiatives and apply that same operational rigor to them so we can actually move the needle on some of these issues.
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