I was fortunate enough to interview five female entrepreneurs who are actively building the future of work. For a quick introduction to these inspiring women, you can read, Pioneers of the Better Way: 5 Women Blaze a Trail Toward the Future of Work.
Now I want to take a closer look at each woman, and share a snapshot of their insight that I gleaned from my conversations with them. I asked them about their experience with mentors, the barriers they faced while building their career, what they considered to be the largest trends in the future of work, and what opportunities they foresee for up and coming leaders.
Spotlight On: Sara Sutton Fell
The first trailblazer I interviewed was Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an online job resource listing thousands of professional-level jobs that offer various forms of flexibility; founder of Remote.co, a resource for companies who want to find expert insight best practices and support for remote workers; and founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, an initiative committed to spreading awareness about the importance of work flexibility.
Sara on Mentorship
I started my conversation with Sara by asking about her mentors and how other people supported her on her entrepreneurial journey. I am so happy to share her perspective:
You can find mentorship in different ways. It doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement, and it doesn’t have to be one consistent person you keep coming back to. [Mentorship] came to me in an informal piecemeal way, with a variety of people throughout my career, but to me it was still impactful.
Sara’s experience gives us permission to do things a little differently. Women can feel pressure to find a mentor, or feel that not having a traditional mentor means they are doing something wrong, or not worthy of one. But as Sara said, mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. The real idea is to be open and curious about the people around you who may be able to offer you knowledge and support. You can glean the benefits of mentorship in a way that comes naturally to you and your circumstances.
Sara on What’s Trending for the Future of Work
I also asked Sara what she considers the most prominent trends for the future of work. Her answer was not surprising—she cited remote work and workplace flexibility. But her perspective on the reality of remote work obviously comes from someone with an intimate understanding of the barriers that impede remote work as an accepted norm. In particular, she mentions a needed shift in management for remote work to be widespread and viable. She says:
Management has to shift away from lazy management—focusing on face time as a measurement of productivity—and focus on TRUE measures of productivity like key performance indicators, deliverables, timelines, communication, and how the person contributes overall.
Seems simple doesn’t it? But old paradigms are hard to break. Just look at how hard we still have to work to break the stale, pale, and male leadership paradigm!
Sara’s Career Barriers
When I asked Sara about the barriers she faced as she was building her career, she shared her biggest one. She explained:
When younger, I didn’t really realize the disadvantage women had. I never felt like it hindered me. Fast forward: I was working in an interesting job, but at a company—the only company—where I didn’t believe in the mission. I very quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a long-term fit. The business ethics of the owner were pretty low and didn’t mesh with mine, and true to form, he laid me off when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. So there I was, a very qualified professional, going on interviews in my third trimester. And it hit me for the first time–a version of the glass ceiling. I quickly came to realize, “Okay, I’m not going to get hired for this job, despite that fact that I am completely qualified and would knock it out of the park, because of my pregnancy.” That was a real eye-opener for me, as pregnancy is obviously a widespread “condition” that women have at some point in their lives. I saw the very clear hindrance, restriction, and drawback it could have on your career. It got me pretty fired up.
In Sara’s case, getting fired up led to amazing things, not only for her, but for the lot of people looking to find remote and flexible work. Her Flexjobs website alone gives people access to a database of 25,000 companies that are seeking people for those types of opportunities. I’d say this entrepreneur has definitely made a significant impact on the progression of the future of work!