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“Live the fullest life” With Penny Bauder & Hagit Kaufman

For women in STEM, and really all industries, COVID-19 highlighted that even today there seems to be the assumption that women will pick up the slack in a family or look after the children. A lot of senior leaders on my team are mothers. Some are balancing work and children with their partner and some […]

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For women in STEM, and really all industries, COVID-19 highlighted that even today there seems to be the assumption that women will pick up the slack in a family or look after the children. A lot of senior leaders on my team are mothers. Some are balancing work and children with their partner and some doing it on their own. It’s been a constant work in progress to create workflows that accommodate team members with children and without.


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hagit Kaufman, Wix VP of Design & Brand.

As the VP of Design & Brand at Wix, the leader in website creation with over 170 million users worldwide, Hagit Kaufman is the authority on all things design and branding. Overseeing a team of 300 designers and managing Wix’s in-house Design Studio, Hagit is the mastermind behind the company’s amazing web design, user experience, and eye-catching promotional content. Outside of work, she is a mother of 4 and outspoken on issues like gender equality and advancing diverse, equitable leadership.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Hagit! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I joined Wix by accident and it’s the best accident I’ve ever made. After finishing my degree in print design in 2007, I was working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrating assembly instructions. Around the same time my boyfriend, now husband, and friends asked me to join their tiny startup as a web designer. I didn’t have the traditional skills that usually come with the position, but this allowed me to come up with creative and non-traditional solutions to common design problems. Back then, the Wix design team consisted of five print and web designers in a tiny studio, and today we have a team of over 300 designers that span a variety of specialties.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

I remember the first time I was asked to speak at a large conference for design professionals. They asked me to share my insights on web design trends. I was super intimidated because it was something I had only shared internally. When I sat down to craft my presentation, I realized how my skills had evolved from my days as a traditional print designer. Being so invested in the day-to-day details of our work, I subconsciously developed my ability to forecast and predict web design trends.

I don’t think any of us could have dreamed that we would grow Wix into the global brand the world knows today. Thirteen years ago, I was managing a small team of junior designers and today many of these individuals are still with the company, leading large teams and managing projects with million-dollar budgets. It’s been a true privilege for me to support and empower them throughout their career.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The Wix Playground Academy is underway now and it’s one of the highlights of the year. Each year we select 40 of the world’s top design students to attend our 3-month summer web design program, at no cost to students. This the third year we’ve hosted the Playground Academy, but it feels totally renewed. Typically, we host the program in-person at the Wix Playground, our physical space in Manhattan that holds events for the creative community, but as the impact of COVID-19 became apparent we shifted everything online to benefit the homebound design community.

The Playground Academy bridges the gap between design school and the professional world for students with hands-on-experiences including working with real-world clients, redesigning and launching fully functional websites for nonprofits and developing their professional portfolio. This year, we partnered with 14 local NYC nonprofits, some of them who were impacted by COVID-19. These organizations have such inspiring goals, yet rarely have the time and resources to broadcast their message. The format allows the students to gain experience working with a client with a real need, while also making a contribution to our global community.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe a lot to the entire team that launched Wix and recognized my potential early on. During the first few years, long days navigating unimaginable challenges turned into many late nights. We often sat on our balcony chatting over coffee and sharing meals. I now realize those conversations were the mini masterclasses in my life. It was all informal, but I learned everything from QA testing, to a bit of coding, to how product and marketing thought about CTAs and much more. Coming from a print degree and illustration background, this was all so eye-opening and fascinating and I have extreme gratitude for the education and skills the team empowered me with… and their patience!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

As a parent I know working from home is one thing, but working from home with children is another! Everyone is facing so many new challenges right now — regardless of industry or number of kids — and we’ve all had to add new titles to our day-job like teacher, chef, and cleaner to name a few.

Personally, the biggest challenge I’m learning to overcome in quarantine is accepting that some days everything gets done and other days it doesn’t. I’m constantly asked about how I balance it all and the reality is, I don’t. We rarely ask our male counterparts the same question, yet women are sold articles and lists for how to achieve work-life balance. These methods don’t work for me or describe my life. And they probably don’t describe yours — certainly not during COVID. So I appreciate the opportunity to be honest in my answer.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Work-life-balance is the wrong goal to set. Instead, my goal is to live the fullest life as an executive, leader, parent, sibling, and friend. I set intentional goals each week for myself, but have learned to be flexible with my daily schedule. No two days look the same; some days are longer with back-to-back meetings and others are shorter with more time for family activities. It’s dynamic and messy, but it’s the truth and I’m proud of it.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

As the impact of COVID-19 became clear, Wix quickly transitioned from everyone exclusively working in the office to a 100% work from home mandate. As a leader, I searched for new ways to redesign what a workday looked like to accommodate my team’s varying needs and situations.

For women in STEM, and really all industries, COVID-19 highlighted that even today there seems to be the assumption that women will pick up the slack in a family or look after the children. A lot of senior leaders on my team are mothers. Some are balancing work and children with their partner and some doing it on their own. It’s been a constant work in progress to create workflows that accommodate team members with children and without.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Creativity has and will continue to play an important role as a tool for overcoming the challenges of working from home and eventually figuring out how to safely return to the office. Quickly we realized we needed to develop new structures to help our teams adjust to working from home. Having children myself, I empowered my teams to create less traditional and more flexible ways of structuring the days and working with their teammates. For instance, we have a policy that no-one schedules a meeting 1–2 pm, so that everyone can take a proper lunch break, fit in a workout or spend time with their kids. The culture we’ve built at Wix welcomes employees to bring their whole self to work, which means from time-to-time during COVID, kids make a cameo on video calls.

Outside of juggling homeschooling and work, I think it’s important to address that a lot of adults are experiencing feelings of loneliness. Our office space is extremely open and our culture lends itself to frequent coffee gatherings and informal conversations. We’ve made a conscious effort to engineer this back into our workday with one-on-one check-ins that aren’t centered around work, but focused on personal connections.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Drop any ideas of perfection and approach everything with creativity. I also recommended for our team, both those with kids and without, set a beginning and end of their workday on their calendars so that there was some separation between when work starts and finishes.

My older children have mandatory Zoom sessions with their teachers and activities they have to complete, but my younger children were sent easier and more flexible homeschooling activities. With my husband and I both being senior executives, we’re prioritizing our kids’ general education and enjoyments over rigid academic goals. The caveat being that Tel Aviv‘s students were back in school after 2 months. Now being back in lockdown, we’re creating new strategies to adjust. It would be impossible for both of us to truly homeschool our children and get our work done, so some things have to give. I hope my honesty in this will relieve any feelings of guilt for those reading this!

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?

I schedule times to virtually connect with my friends and family — yes, sometimes that means over a glass of wine — and explore new ways to engage my creativity. A few years ago, I took up baking and making chocolate as a personal hobby so I’ve been using that as an outlet too. With the kids involved, I wouldn’t say it’s serene, or even ever serene for that matter, but it’s fun and a grounding way to connect with my family.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

I’m not an expert on managing anxiety, but I’ll share a few of my personal sources of hope and inspiration:

  1. Seeing businesses and individuals reinvent themselves or adapt their products is distressing, but it’s also nothing short of astonishing. The impact of our current global situation has demonstrated that creativity is more than aesthetics, it’s a tool for survival and meeting unimaginable challenges.
  2. We are more openly and authentically sharing our lives on social media — whether it’s our crafting tips, recipes, and reading lists, or the less glamorous mundane tasks and relatable hardships. Our focus has shifted from sharing only the “good life” to sharing our actual life and it’s been a refreshing change.
  3. I have found, and so has our team, an even greater sense of pride and purpose in our work at Wix and how it is helping people during this time..
  4. Necessity is the mother of invention. I’ve seen so many members within the STEM space develop solutions, services, and products to help our global community.
  5. Focusing on our users and supporting their businesses, has also kept me grounded. We’ve experienced exponential growth — registering 3.2 million new users in April alone. I am extra grateful that we have work during this tough time and that our work is enabling others to do the same.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

During this time, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the real power of community and the need to feel a sense of togetherness. Our situation means that we need to look for new ways to preserve this intimacy even though we are far apart. Small gestures, like a phone call to a friend or a random act of kindness, have a bigger impact than you think.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I am a visual person, so I tend to focus on images not words for inspiration. I have a lot of images hung on my office and home office wall and I often change them around to refresh my energy and mood. So maybe my life lesson quote is to find some images you like looking at, or that calm you, and placing prints of them around you.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hagit-kaufman-4402526/

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