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Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts: 'Mumsnet survives because people speak the truth on it'

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

From its humble beginnings 20 years ago, UK-based website Mumsnet has grown to become a leading internet destination for parenting advice and support to its 14 million monthly users.

Its no-holds-barred discussion forums are often the source of national news headlines about topics ranging from unreasonable “bridezillas” to traumatic childbirth experiences and Brexit stockpiling. Mumsnet’s influence has also stretched to Downing Street over the years: The 2010 General Election was even dubbed “the Mumsnet election” as major parties used the popular parenting site to place their campaign messages.

Speaking on Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show, Mumsnet co-founder and CEO Justine Roberts explained the site never set out to be politically active, “but once we realised we had ... the ear of prime ministers we thought it was remiss not to use it.”

Mumsnet and Gransnet CEO and co-founder Justine Roberts (right) on Yahoo Finance UK's "Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded" show. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

In 2014, Mumsnet launched a “Miscarriage Care Campaign,” for example, which aimed to change the way the UK’s National Health Service deals with miscarriages, to offer more support, information and treatment. Mumsnet is currently campaigning for the UK government to compel companies to publish their parental leave policies, much like firms in the region must now make their gender pay gap statistics public. A 2019 Mumsnet survey found 82% of parents and prospective parents are reluctant to ask potential employers about their parental leave policies.

‘Mumsnet survives because people speak the truth on it’

Mumsnet’s staying power over the past couple decades suggests it has been at least somewhat resistant to some of the other trends facing internet media companies, many of which have struggled to retain their audiences and maintain healthy advertising revenues amid growing competition from US internet giants.

“I think Mumsnet survives because people speak the truth on it,” said Roberts. While on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, users are likely to be showing off their best selves, “on Mumsnet you’re getting the truthful nitty gritty.”

“You can’t really say, ‘What do I do about my mother-in-law, my boss, my best friend, my middle child’ on Facebook, but you can on Mumsnet and you’ll get great answers, and you’ll get a range of answers from quite a wide crowd as well.”

Watch the full show for:

  • Roberts on the incident that led to her leaving the finance sector and starting up her own business

  • How Mumsnet keeps users safe and navigates grey areas in content moderation

  • How Roberts keeps a cool head in a crisis — such as its recent data breach and her house being maliciously swatted

  • Why the “motherhood penalty” is holding back future leaders and Roberts’ advice for working mothers

  • Why many advertisers are getting it wrong when they target mums

  • Mumsnet’s international ambitions and the potential for a “Dadsnet”

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded is a new premium video series from Yahoo Finance UK. The show explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.