How these two women raised six Silicon Valley CEOs


Maye Musk and Esther Wojcicki didn’t just raise incredible children they are incredible women. You may not have heard of them but these women have not only affected change in their life but have also raised children that will continue to shape the world in their image. Maye Musk is a former model and nutritionist with two master’s degrees. Esther Wojcicki is an international journalist, an educator, and vice-chair of the Creative Commons board of directors which is changing the field for the next generation of journalists. Some may say the pair have overachieved for one lifetime but both women made sure their accomplishments extend beyond themselves by raising change-makers that would impact for generations to come.

May Musk mother of Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk, and Tosca Musk. Elon is the CEO of  Tesla, a company that is currently the forerunner in offering alternate energy resources and innovation in the field of space travel. Kimbal is co-founder of The Kitchen, a company dedicated to building a future where everyone has access to real food by reimagining how children learn about food. Tosca is a filmmaker who is launching a Netflix-styled website dedicated to making people’s favourite romance novels into movies.

Esther Wojcicki is mother of Susan Wojcicki, Anne Wojcicki and Janet Wojcicki. Susan is the CEO of YouTube – you may have heard of it. Anne is co-founder of 23andMe which is a Biotechnology company changing the genomics field with personalized home DNA kits, she’s also married to a Google co-founder, and can’t wait for those kids. Janet, Ph.D., is an anthropologist fighting obesity.

All fairly impressive accomplishments and we’re sure one of Anne’s home DNA kits will pull out a genetic pattern, but Forbes sat down with the two women to try and decode what made them raise accomplished, aware individuals. Forbes noticed that while both women had very different lives there were three common trends that helped shape the two taste-making clans.

Adventurous parents who displayed perseverance 

Both women were raised by parents who instilled in them that nothing should stop you from doing what you love. Wojcicki’s parents were Russian immigrants in America who heavily relied on their daughter to help bridge the language gap.  “Creative people come from situations of adversity, need, or have had some sort of tragic thing in their childhood…I think all three happened to me,” says Esther Wojcicki who walked a mile to school every day at the age of six. Similarly, Musk remembers her parent’s accomplishments and being a part of their wild experiences. My parents were the only people to go to South Africa from Australia in a single-engine plane…the two of them, no radio…you had to fly down low to see the street signs to know which city you were in…most people couldn’t speak English. Every year we would go to the Kalahari desert and look for the lost city. [My parents] lived a life of incredible experiences that we all were a part of.”

Instilling self-reliance and leading by example

Both women set expectations of how they wanted their children to behave and lead by example. Wojcicki encouraged her children to make their own breakfast and take charge of their space at the age of three. “There was a lot of cooperative stuff…I made sure they knew they had an impact on decision-making.”

The value of work, risk, and collaboration 

Musk worked from an early age and ensured her children did the same. Whether it was in a collaborative effort to make their home liveable or entrusting their children with adult responsibilities. The words ‘trust’, ’empowered’ and ‘responsibility’ kept coming up in both conversations with Musk and Wojcicki. “There was no fighting because they were so empowered. I didn’t encourage mistakes, I encouraged them to take a risk. I would also think, ‘how can I make them as self-confident and independent as possible?’ [The children] made the important decisions. The more you do for your child, the less empowered they are. [Otherwise] they feel like they need you to do it.” Wojcicki explains.


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