Would more women stay in the workplace—and advance to leadership positions—if they had a flexible work arrangement that made it easier to manage work and motherhood? That’s the hypothesis behind Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean’s company, Werk, the first marketplace for top jobs with pre-negotiated flexibility. When Auerbach and Dean began their respective careers in consulting and big law their starting classes were an even split between men and women, but they found that only 5% of top leadership positions were held by women. Once they had children they experienced the difficulty of giving 110% at work and at home and created a solution based on the assertion that “flexibility is the future of feminism.”
Elana Lyn Gross: What inspired you to start Werk? What was your career path?
Auerbach: When I started my career, my incoming class was 50/50 men and women—but when I looked up, it was only 5% women at the very top. And that number hasn’t changed in the 12 years since I started my first job. After graduating college, I read so many articles about women leaving the workforce, and then I saw it firsthand: my friends and colleagues grappling with the fact that they had no choice but to leave, because they couldn’t do anything less than 110%, and that simply doesn’t work when your base is a 16-hour day. But I also knew that these women were the most talented, ambitious and credentialed people I’d ever met—so if they couldn’t make it work, who could? And they aren’t alone. More than 30% of the most talented women leave the workforce entirely after having children, but 70% would have kept working if they had flexibility. And yet, there is no job platform today that focuses on flexible, career-building work.
Dean: When I went back to work after my first maternity leave, I couldn’t keep it all together. No matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t make any progress at work or at home and felt like I was failing for an arbitrary reason—that I was required to work long, uninterrupted days in my office at my desk. I never saw my son and I was unbelievably burned out. It felt like an environment that was designed for my failure. I had an “aha” moment one day at my desk when I realized that work didn’t need to be structured this way, and I started imagining what work might look like if it had been designed by women.
Gross: Werk’s mission is to reinvent work for women by providing a marketplace of career-building, flexible work opportunities for ambitious women. Please tell me more about the innovative work opportunities people can find on Werk!
Auerbach and Dean: Werk is the only job marketplace where ambitious job seekers can find real opportunities, all with pre-negotiated flexibility. We productized six types of flexibility into our framework called the Flexiverse™, which members can use to filter by, so they know upfront if a job is compatible with their lives. Our platform normalizes and de-stigmatizes flexibility by inserting the type of flexibility being offered right into the job description.
While we do have some part-time opportunities, you won’t find any gigs or short-term project-based jobs on our site because we are laser-focused on keeping talented women in the workforce so they can advance to leadership over time. Gig work often presents an unfair value proposition to working moms and parents, and we fundamentally believe there’s a better way.
More Info: www.forbes.com