The presentation I saw last Wednesday for Flock, a staffing agency aimed at helping female engineers and techies thrive in the all-too-often challenging male-dominated industries was, by far, the best presentation of any that I’ve seen since I started attending 1 Million Cups.
Thus, the feedback from the crowd didn’t critique the content, the delivery nor the slides. Rather, it revolved entirely around the business concept itself. Flock is aimed at not only providing staffing for companies looking to diversify its workforce, but it seeks to provide the support and tools necessary for women to achieve their greatest career goals so that women not only survive the often hostile work environments, but thrive in them and rise to top leadership positions. As such, the company provides mentorship, events and support outside of work to help women with their career development.
While I love the concept–especially witnessing the challenges my rocket-scientist sister, Kristin, has faced in her career–several 1MC attendees offered opportunities for improvement. Seeing that the company is set to launch on January 1st, the founder has time to make sure that the brand establishes itself on the right foot from the getgo.
For instance, a couple lawyers in the room raised concerns about abiding Equal Opportunity Employment standards and potentially engaging in reverse discrimination within her specific company by exclusively employing females. It seems like there should be some sort of protection or loophole here.
A couple people raised a concern I also shared. While I believe providing women with emotional support, networking and other tools will certainly help them within the male-dominated industries, it doesn’t address the root of the problem she seeks to solve–the hostile work environments and work cultures that enable them to exist.
If I told you some of the stories my sister has told me, you wouldn’t believe me. Blatant and outward harassment is certainly not a memory of the 50s, 60s, and 70s and is alive and well today. Her stories were echoed by other females in the room.
A strategy the founder suggested is partnering with male allies within the workplace to help ward off the bullies. If a dude tells the offending individual to back off, it’s much better received than the “oversensitive” female making the same remark.
Another suggestion I proposed was branding her company as a concierge type of service that selectively partners with companies who proactively promote the equality of women and work to achieve a positive work environment for all. As a 1MC regular, who happened to have worked in staffing for years, mentioned–all it takes is 50 great clients to grow a billion dollar staffing agency. Also, rather than women fending the climb their way up, Flock could potentially find openings at higher levels and help women “go up to bat” for those positions.
Also, again the question was raised: why are you raising capital? Especially in staffing where hardly any overhead exists until the first employee is contracted. This individual is actually seeking grant-type funds that is essentially “free money.” So she figures, why not?! I agree.
It’s a great start to achieve gender equality in the work force, and I’m excited to see what this company is able to do!