I recently had the opportunity to interview five cool—and inspiring—women CEOs who embody the future of work. They’ve walked out of the traditional workforce and started their own purpose-driven businesses that paint a new picture of how we work.
I’ll dive deeper into the stories of each of these women—and the obstacles they faced—in a future post. For now, I’m excited to introduce you to each of them.
Here’s what they do, why they do it, and why you want to get to know them.
1. Sara Sutton Fell
CEO and founder of FlexJobs, founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, founder of Remote.co
Why do you want to get to know her? She’s changing the game on the front lines of the future of work.
Let’s start by saying that Sara and her team of over 40 staffers all work from home in 15 states across the US with flexible schedules. Hello, future! Sara is walking the walk of promoting flexible work options for everyone, and actively advocating for work-life balance.
Faced with being laid off while pregnant, Sara found herself unable to find a flexible job that met her high qualifications. She experienced first hand the inadequate telecommuting career websites, so she started her own—FlexJobs. FlexJobs lists thousands of professional-level jobs that offer various forms of flexibility, including freelancing, telecommuting, flextime, part-time or full-time. Sara also founded Remote.co, a resource for companies who want to find expert insight, best practices and support for remote workers. She then took it one step further by founding 1 Million for Work Flexibility, an initiative committed to spreading awareness about the importance of work flexibility.
One thing we love about Sara: She believes that a woman’s intuition is way more valuable than an MBA.
2. Kate Kendall
CEO and founder of CloudPeeps
Why do you want to get to know her? She’s a woman who was voted most influential Australian entrepreneur on Twitter, yet holds a biotechnology and microbiology degree.
Kate Kendall founded CloudPeeps, a talent marketplace that matches businesses with the world’s top freelance marketing, content and community management professionals. Here’s why: While she was managing the social media accounts of multiple clients and travelling the world, she realized that many companies couldn’t afford to hire an agency or full-time staffer to help them build their online community. After creating The Fetch, she realized that finding excellent, available, and consistent freelancers was a challenge. So she swooped in to solve that problem with CloudPeeps.
One great point from Kate: When it comes to the barriers women entrepreneurs face, she says it’s not enough to raise seed money for your business. Once you are on the board or are a female CEO, you are given a different set of issues that require you to continue to prove yourself, in ways that men don’t have to.
Check out CloudPeeps here.
3. Rhiannon Ruff
Co-founder and Vice President of Beutler Ink.
Why do you want to get to know her? She’s opening people’s eyes to the fact that the majority of Wikipedia editors are men, which influences the content.
In 2011, Rhiannon Ruff joined a one-person consultancy founded by William Beutler. Through 2013, they mainly focused on Wikipedia consulting, but also provided research, ideation and copywriting for infographics, animation and other content marketing. In March 2013, Jenny Karn joined the team, expanding their services with the addition of visual content, interactive projects and social media. This led to Jenny and Rhiannon co-founding Beutler Ink, with William Buetler as the founder.
Her main focus is seeking ways to bridge the gap between PR and communications professionals and the Wikipedia community, to make the site a stronger resource overall.
Due to insight from working so intimately within the Wikipedia sphere, Rhiannon has written about content biases and the gendered patterns of editing on Wikipedia, as well as the issues involved in encouraging more women to participate in such a male-dominated space. She has a largely female team working on research, with two of those women actually undertaking outreach on Wikipedia on behalf of Beutler Ink’s partners. Another female member of her team has become a volunteer Wikipedia editor, joining the small ranks of women editors on the site.
Rhiannon asked a great question: She wants to know: if someone has the confidence to start a new business, why don’t they speak up and stay in corporations? What’s in the way?
4. Maria Simon
Senior Partner, Geller Law Group
Why do you want to get to know her? She’s a lawyer who has made it to senior partner and wears jeans to work.
Maria and her partner noticed a lack of female mentors in their field. By the time women made it to the top, many dropped out either because they didn’t, or didn’t want to, make partner. They also noticed that of those who did make it to the top and had children, most had a stay-at-home partner. What about women who have children and their partners also work? What is it like when they make it to the top? Maria felt she had no one to model.
Their solution was to start a virtual law firm, Geller Law Group. They only step into an office when needed, but otherwise work from home, allowing them to spend time with their families. Obligatory face-time is a thing of the past. Both Maria and the founding/managing partner hope that for other women, they can be the mentors they were unable to find for themselves.
A message we love from Maria: Maria believes we can change the paradigm of how we structure business, if we demand it. Women don’t need to be bound by an old rule. It’s hard to ask for things and it’s even harder to demand change, but if more and more of us do just that, the paradigm will shift.
5. Jessica DeGroot
Founder and President of ThirdPath Institute
Why do you want to get to know her? Because she’ll help you, your boss, and your organization have time for life outside of work.
Jessica brings small to mid-size organizations into the “21st Century Workplace” where every member of the organization, entry level to C-suite, has an integrated work/life balance. She does this with the company she founded called ThirdPath Institute. They help redesign work to create time for family, community, and other life priorities.
She started with a concept called “shared care” which developed resources for parents who wanted to share in the care of their children while both earning an income. ThirdPath expanded to support what they call “integrated leaders,” leaders who are successful while still having time for their lives outside of work.
ThirdPath is also growing a community of leaders, organizations and individuals to influence wider change in the workplace on both a public and policy level. They want to give us our lives back!
One of Jessica’s surprising (or not) challenges: Getting men and women to believe they can be a team at home.
It’s important to recognize women who are designing the architecture of the future workplace. A huge US trend is women hightailing it out of the corporate world to start their own business. When they’re not battling plain old discrimination, they’re battling second-generation bias. When they start to reach higher levels they get stopped in their tracks with a glass ceiling. It’s tiring and women know there is a better way.
These five women are pioneers of the “better way”; it’s inspiring to see all they have created and what they stand for. I look forward to diving more into their personal experience and challenges in a future post.
What do you find most exciting about the paths these women have forged? Who would you love to have a coffee chat with? What would you talk about? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment below, send me an email or find me on Twitter..