Before launching my own business, I worked for a number of renowned (and not so renowned) publishers and marketing companies. Throughout my 18-year corporate career, while I had many positive, exciting experiences that I thrived from, there were other times I wished I could scream from the mountaintops about the practices I witnessed that were far less than fair, legal and ethical, and share with other women what I was seeing. I’m guessing you’ve had this experience too?
What if women had the chance to publicly rate their employers in an anonymous way, and share what they know to be true about the work culture, environment and practices – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Would you do it?
As we know, “what gets measured gets done.” That’s the concept behind InHerSight, a platform where women are encouraged to openly evaluate their employers and rate how female-friendly their workplace cultures and environments are. The new website, founded by Ursula Mead, provides women an avenue through which to communicate candidly with other women about workplace issues they care about. And this, in turn, will impact and shape the very issues and workplaces themselves.
I was excited to catch up with Ursula and learn more about InHerSight. Here’s what she shared.
Kathy Caprino: Ursula, what does InHerSight do and offer that hasn’t been done before?
Ursula Mead: There’s a lot of momentum these days behind improving the workplace for women, and most people agree we need to do more to achieve equality. But I can’t see how we can get there without useful, actionable information.
The information we need isn’t just individual stories, which are difficult to scale into making a difference for large numbers of women. And it’s not just government data, which is too highly aggregated to be meaningful for individuals. It needs to come from women ourselves — not from management defining the problem or determining what success is. These are our issues, and this is our story to tell. We need to take control and shape our own solutions.
That’s how we came to measuring the opinions of women about their work environments. Through anonymous ratings and reviews, we’re measuring the reality of our workplaces and what company policies and cultures actually mean for the women who are experiencing them. When I started looking for these kinds of insights, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before.
For example, a company can point to providing 12 weeks of maternity leave, but what happens when women’s real experience is the “soft policy” of pressure to return to work early, or having to return to a job that’s changed? A company can offer flexible hours on paper, but there would be no way of knowing if women feel that they’re able to actually use that flexibility.
That’s why we’re focusing on experiences and outcomes, not just policies and ratios. These insights can only come from working women, and the solutions can only come from those insights. We have strength in numbers because we’re using our insights to shape our paths to success.
Caprino: Why did you choose to launch this now? What’s your personal motivation?
Mead: There’s a critical conversation happening now. Across the country, companies and employees, women and men, are coming to terms with the problems that still exist for women in many workplaces.
Like many working women, I’ve seen and experienced these issues and didn’t see solutions that worked for me. In trying to figure out how to drive change in my own life and career — and in the lives of other women as well — I learned that it’s really about each individual woman having the tools and resources to make the right decisions for herself. Success and “having it all” mean different things to different women at different times in their lives and careers. I’ve seen that what we want isn’t one perfect policy or one model company; it’s the opportunity to find workplaces where each of us has the best chance to thrive.
To get there, we need the tools and resources for each woman to make the right decisions for herself — and that’s what I was inspired to create. I’m a full-time working mom, and a believer in the power of data and transparency to create change.
Caprino: Why is it important, and what does channeling the collective voice of working women do for the country?
Mead: I want to make sure that the conversation about workplace equality stays focused on and is driven by working women. We can’t rely on a handful of voices to speak to all of our individual needs.
InHerSight harnesses the power women have by bringing all of our individual insights together. The website makes it easy for women to share their experiences — not merely to catalog the facts about corporate policies but to make them real, living stories of what works and what doesn’t. This empowers and enables us to take action ourselves, toward the things that matter to each of us.
Caprino: What are the 14 metrics you offer for women to rate their companies, and why these?
Mead: We see three main ways that employers can support women, Career, Family, and Personal Growth, and we ask women to rate their companies on 14 metrics that inform those categories.
The 14 metrics are
– Paid Time Off
– Flexible Work Hours
– Ability to Telecommute
– Maternity & Adoptive Leave
– Family Growth Support (e.g., child care, expense reimbursement, lactation rooms)
– Equal Opportunities for Men and Women
– Female Representation in Top Leadership
– Management Opportunities for Women
– Salary Satisfaction
– Learning Opportunities
– Sponsorship or Mentorship Program
– Social Activities and Environment
– Wellness Initiatives
– People You Work With
Caprino: What types of actions can be taken from this collective data?
Mead: Thousands of women (and men!) have already rated thousands of employers, from government agencies to non-profit organizations to household names like Apple,Google, Coca-Cola, and Eli Lilly, and we’re just getting started. This approach requires a lot of participation, which is why the most important thing we’re asking women to do now is to rate their workplaces and help us spread the word on social media, to organizations they’re a part of, and especially to other women at their companies.
Women can also use the website to make decisions about what companies they want to work for. If you’re looking for career growth, you should be able to find a company that provides that. If you have a family and need flexibility, you should be able to find that.
As we know from other crowd-sourced ratings platforms like TripAdvisor and Angie’s List, the more people who participate, the more valuable and useful the information becomes.
The outcomes we’re hoping to foster can be as simple as voting with our feet and sending a message to companies where women are sharing their stories of unfair treatment, or it can be as sophisticated as developing new models for communicating with companies to develop the workplaces where women succeed. We want to see companies recognized for what they do well, and we want those dimensions we’re measuring to become part of how we talk and think about the workplaces and workforces of today and tomorrow.
Similarly, the data we’re collecting can help companies create roadmaps to make themselves more attractive to women and to retain the women who already work for them. They’ll be able to see how women feel about their policies and the implementation of those policies and adjust accordingly.
Caprino: How does this change how companies and industries perform, grow and focus?
Mead: Every day we’re uncovering the benefits to companies of having more women in the ranks. Women lead to better business. Employers with women at the top outperform financially, and family-friendly policies increase productivity. And at the same time, women in the workforce and in the educational pipeline are growing in numbers.
So we see the information we’re collecting as equally interesting and valuable to companies and women. Companies and industries that want to be competitive will need to attract and retain top female talent, and our data, our “scorecards,” can help them create the environments to do that.
Caprino: What did you do before launching InHerSight?
I’m currently the head of Premium Membership at a financial tech and media company. My background and experience are in product development and management, using data and analytics to launch and grow products that serve the goals of our users and members.
I’ve learned a lot about technology, media, communication, and persuasiveness — things that I’m driven to bring together with InHerSight, as I tackle issues that are both widespread and personal to me.
I’ve spent the past year and a half building InHerSight outside of work, on nights and weekends, with a developer and a designer. It’s been hard work, but the payoff already has been so rewarding — seeing women share their experiences and starting to bring together the data to illuminate the stories and trends.
Caprino: Was there a key event that triggered your wanting to launch this (did you wish you could rate a lousy employer but couldn’t find the way)?
Mead: I’ve thought a lot about Lean In and asking whether women can have it all, and I keep coming back to the belief that this widespread conversation isn’t always asking the right questions. There isn’t just one way to push for change inside the corporate world, or one way to have it all . So I wanted to know more about what other women want, what they have, and what they’re looking for. The problem-solving and data-gathering opportunities piqued my interest, and I’ve just run with it from there — pretty much nonstop!
I’m excited to see news of InHerSight spread on social media, among groups of women, and even when a company’s management itself encourages its employees to share their insights.
As we hear from more and more contributors from across the country and the world, we’re aiming to share data on the trends, top motivators, and issues that stand out.
To rate your employer, and share your important voice, visit InHerSight.
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized career success coach, writer, trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough:The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose, and Founder/President of Ellia Communications, Inc. and the Amazing Career Project, focused on helping professional women build successful, rewarding careers of significance. A Forbes, Huffington Post and LinkedIn contributor and top media source on women’s career and workplace issues, she has appeared in over 100 leading newspapers and magazines and on national radio and television. For more information, visit www.kathycaprino.com and connect with Kathy on: Twitter, FB, LinkedIn.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Photo Courtesy of plantronicsgermany [FLICKR]