OkCupid’s chief marketer on the fertility struggles of women in the workplace

Melissa Hobley is the first global chief marketing officer of dating site OkCupid. The brand’s first-ever ad campaign, “DTF” from Wieden & Kennedy New York, flipped pejorative slang on its head to showcase fanciful ideas for date night. The ads’ depiction of same-sex couples drew the ire of far-right activist groups, who accused the company of “promoting lesbian sex.”

“Yes, we are totally promoting lesbian sex!” Hobley says. “Thank you for getting that message out there. We were very happy, so we poured gasoline on those stories.”

In this episode of “Ad Block,” Hobley describes the obstacles facing people who are undergoing in vitro fertilization. She is currently pregnant with her second child conceived using the technique. The process is stressful, time-consuming, painful and expensive, and it involves plenty of uncertainty.

“You don’t know how many eggs are going to be good and be able to match up with the sperm. And then of those embryos, you don’t know how many are going to be viable,” she says. “It’s one of those things that so few people talk about, for obvious reasons.”

But more people need to talk about it, she says—both those undergoing IVF and their managers. Only between 10 and 15 percent of U.S. companies cover fertility as part of their healthcare plans, but even those that do typically don’t make accommodations for the process. Women in tech or other high-powered positions are actually less likely to get pregnant through IVF because the demands of their jobs keep them from sticking to the strict schedules required by the procedures.

“You’re at the doctor two or three mornings per week,” Hobley says. “Sunday mornings you’re there, Saturday mornings you’re there, it doesn’t matter. The security guys thought I worked there.” She recalls a dinner held by a previous employer for venture capitalists.

“We had just presented a Series C ask, and I’m in the bathroom giving myself shots before the dinner with VCs that we needed to win over.” That round of in vitro didn’t work.

As for managers hoping to make things easier on employees, start now, she says, before anyone asks. “By the time an employee comes to you, you’re not going to make any changes that will impact their journey at that point. It’s too late. Have you ever tried to change a health-care plan at a company? It’s a year or two or three.”

Hobley also weighs in on the best and worst couples, the allure of live TV and mixing politics and family. And in a frank video (below), she addresses the growing opioid epidemic, which she has been speaking out against since 2011, when her younger brother became one of its earliest victims.


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