Katharine Zaleski is the Co-founder and President of PowerToFly, the community where women are changing the nature of work. PowerToFly is doing this in three ways: matching women with companies, building inclusive environments where they can excel, reaching millions of women with information about why a company is committed to diversity, and organizing online and offline programming across America to connect women to each other and executives at top brands. At PowerToFly, Katharine and her team are proud to be working with companies invested in diversity and inclusion that range from fast growing start-ups (Gitlab, Automatic, Buzzfeed) to Fortune 1000 companies (American Express, Viacom, Time Inc, Verizon, Amazon).
Prior to co-founding PowerToFly, Katharine was the Founding Managing Editor of NowThis, Executive Director of Digital News at The Washington Post, and the Senior News Editor of The Huffington Post for the site’s first four and a half years.
Meeting Katherine was such an honor. Thanks to her dedication to women empowerment, we have a more diverse startup and corporate work culture. Without further ado, check out what she had to say!
Natasha: When speaking with innovators like yourself, I love to know when you had your aha moment for starting PowerToFly?
Katharine: So, I would say it was a series of moments. After I had my child, and I worked so hard for the last 10 years, now that I had my baby, people thought my work ethic was going down the tubes. In fact, it was the opposite. I actually wanted to work harder to prove them that I could do it. I was home initially for nursing reasons. At the same time, I met with my co-founder who was a mother of 3 about to give birth to her fourth child. When she told me what she was building, it was exactly what was needed. We don’t just focus on remote work or mothers. We give employers the workforce that reflects the world we live in.
Natasha: It is 2017, and I think it is unbelievable to think there are some businesses that don’t have women or people of color on their team. What do you think are the main reasons why businesses still need help to diversify their staff?
Katharine: It starts out with people saying they are not biased, but they are. They use this term cultural fit – which is really racist or sexist. Usually, it is the white guy they are comfortable with because they went to school with. When you have a room with 5 white guys they are going to hire more white men. At PowerToFly, we have a natural bias to hire women because we are mostly made of women. We have to make conscious effort to push past our comfort zone. The only way is to hire someone that doesn’t look like you and know it will be OK. And it will give you a whole new output.
When we do scenarios with all white men interviewing a black woman, we find she will not get hired because she wasn’t comfortable. You shouldn’t leave the hiring up to people not comfortable with others.
Natasha: What are current work trends women should be aware of?
Katharine: There is a huge amount of tech openings, and companies are more focused on hiring women for these positions. They are trying to get more women in the interview process. Starting to see big changes with companies.
Natasha: What are the main type of roles you staff and promote?
Katharine: Our focus on digital positions. We have marketing roles, sales roles, and recently had a webinar with Dell. The goal is to increase the number of women at these businesses.
Natasha: What were some of the challenges you faced when starting PowerToFly? And, how do you push past these challenges?
Katharine: I have an amazing co-founder that pushes me every day. My worst fight is when she is telling me to do something and I know I need to do it. I work with an amazing team that pushes me every day. My daughter motivates me as well. You want to work with people you want to impress. People make a mistake by hiring down.
Natasha: Can you tell me more about the events?
Katharine: Women can have access and leadership with these major companies. They can ask pointed questions about why they value gender inclusion.
Natasha: How can you figure out how it is like to work at a place?
Katherine: Whenever I looked a job, I called people. I do a reference check. Usually get 80% good news and 20% bad news. Some organizations have pervasive work cultures. Nowhere is perfect.
Natasha: What are the biggest surprises you discovered when looking for talent or working with an employer?
Katharine: I have been surprised that women cut themselves out of the game so early. Studies show that women who don’t have 60% of the job listing won’t go for it while men will. If a woman or man wasn’t a great fit for the role but they are great and looking for a job, it can elevate you at your own job.
Natasha: What advice do you have for women currently looking to make a transition in their career?
Katherine: You show that you can build what the new job is requiring. You can show the code for the product. Like in journalism, you have a writing sample. Women need to show more examples. You have to show what you can do what the job is asking for.
Natasha: Do you believe work-life balance really exists?
Katherine: No. I think work-life integration exists. In August, I will be able to work and because of the time change, I can do the sport that I want to do, but I can’t normally because of too much work. Our philosophy is that you should be able to see your kids and do the work you need.
Natasha: Love the PowerPromoters idea. Can you tell me more about it?
Katherine: It allows you to support other women by telling them about our mission and signing them up with your unique referral link. If you share PowerToFly with enough women you get access to exclusive events, professional advice and support, and featured in our blog, videos, newsletters and more.
Natasha: What are changes do you expect to see with employers in the next 5-10 years?
Katherine: The private sector is stepping up despite our political landscape. We are seeing women speaking out like they never could before. You have an environment where women have the opportunities to speak more. We have women with more money and education. Studies and research and corporations that understand that people are not robots. You will have to offer diverse work cultures for a better work product.
Having diversity in the workplace matters. “Teams that include workers from different backgrounds and experiences can come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems.” -Entrepreneur
Thanks to women like Katharine, reaching this diverse workforce can be a reality for us all.
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