WomenLEAD, Inc: The Big Idea and Why It will Work

WomenLEAD,Inc has just become a finalist in the MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup incubator. Between now and October we will have free office space, access to interns, and free coaching from mentors; experienced serial entrepreneurs. During that time we’ll be building the first release of WomenLEAD, and we’ll need to be able to pay for software developers to help us turn our ideas into a working system. That’s why we’re launching this campaign. Your contributions will help us get to the place where we can start getting paid by companies for our work. We expect the beta to be completed in the fall with a January 2014 public launch.

Let me give you a little background so you can determine if this is an idea worthy of your support.

In the US women and men are equally represented in entry-level jobs. But women only occupy fourteen percent of the senior executive ranks. Other than the fact that seems inherently wrong, who cares?

Well, it turns out companies do. A study by the Harvard Business review showed that 52% of women in Engineering, Science and Technology leave their careers mid-career. Not to start families, but because they find the work environment unsupportive, they have unclear career paths and they have no role models.

Companies care because it costs them around $100,000 to replace these highly-skilled women.

Equally compelling are studies that demonstrate that companies with women on their boards and on their senior teams perform better financially. A lot better ( 53-84% better on return on Equity according to Catalyst)

From my perspective, this is great news. I’ve been championing women’s rights for decades, having founded one of the first battered women’s shelters in the country, having worked on the Equal Rights Amendment Extension, and recently supporting women in their careers as the CEO of a non-profit dedicated to advancing women in STEM.

This is great new because companies now see it is in their best interest to do something. Instead of having to fight for equality, there are many companies who now are COMMITTED to do something.

So here’s the idea. I’m creating a online application for women to build their own online “Personal Advisory Board”. What’s an advisory board?

Whenever I’m facing a new opportunity or challenge, I reach out to this incredible group of women who have become members of my “Personal Advisory Board“, Their advice and guidance has been invaluable. In my last role I tripled our organization’s revenue and doubled the membership. I attribute this to the deep relationship I have with the women  and men on my personal advisory boards.

I’m inherently a networker, at business functions multiple times a week where I get to meet powerful women. Over time casual relationships turn into deeper relationships and I’ll ask them to join my personal advisory board.

I realize that not all women network the way I do, nor are they located in cities where there are many opportunities for networking, so something else is needed. Specifically, women need a way to find people for their advisory board online.

WomenLEAD is building an online platform to enable women to build their own “Personal Advisory Board“. The idea is simple. You search for advisors using a matching algorithm that helps you find people who can meet your needs. You start a conversation, either on line or on the phone, and if you find you click, you ask if they’ll join your “Personal Advisory Board”.

Once they’re on your “Personal Advisory Board”, you can talk with them individually or as a group about whatever is of interest to you in your career. Working with a multi-site team? Find out who has experience who can help. Have a challenging manager? Get advice on how to handle it. Putting together a career road map? Share it with your “Personal Advisory Board” and get their feedback.

If you have people you already know you can add them as advisors – women and men – buy just sending them an invitation from WomenLEAD, Inc.

It’s my belief that women will advance further in their careers if they have a strong supportive group behind them. And this is better than traditional one-on-one mentoring because a single mentor may not be able to provide you with what you need when you need it.

It turns out that companies also think this is true. I have four large companies, including a Fortune 150 and a Fortune 10 who are interested in making WomenLEAD, Inc  available for their employees.

But I need to show working software to be able to get their business. Once we have the first clients on board, we’ll be able to make the investments in the WomenLEAD to fully realize our vision, including online training, leadership assessment and communities focused on specific interest groups (e.g. women in biotech).

But we need that initial working system to show them, which is where you come in.

Once we get the first solid beta ready, we’re convinced we can get funding from potential customers and investors, but we need to take that first step and get development under way, which is how your contribution will be used. We are asking you to contribute to our Indiegogo campaign so we can achieve these goals.

I think that this is a tipping point for women now – businesses recognizing that it is in their best interest to support their women employees. I think we have a solution that will enable women to dramatically make progress in their career. I have evidence that companies will buy this solution. But I need some capital to get us started.

Will you help? If yes, click here and be taken to our Indiegogo campaign where you’ll be able to donate in just a couple of minutes. Thank you!

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