Talent platform allows women to transcend hiring inequity

Gender inequality is as old as commerce. Today, despite more women graduating college and pursuing advanced careers, there are far more men than women in many fields, most notably in technology. PowerToFly, a New York-based startup, is taking a crack at solving this centuries-old problem through its own creative blend of online talent marketplace meets social activism.

“We’re working on the problem that everyone is talking about, which is placing women in tech,” says PowerToFly President Katharine Zaleski. “Our belief is that there are plenty of women in tech out there — in the words of Mitt Romney, we have ‘binders’ of women — but the issue is that the nature of work needs to change for them. Women today are more educated than ever before, more career-driven. But they also have these challenges that hit right as they’re getting to their prime working age — family, children. The solution to getting more women into the workforce is taking them out of the office.”

“The office” refers to the notion that employees need to sit at a desk (in an office that, according to a recent study highlighted in a The New York Times report, turns out to have been designed for the comfort of men in the first place) for eight to __ hours a day to be effective employees. PowerToFly’s platform connects professional women,mostly in tech but increasingly in other verticals like editorial and finance, to ongoing contract jobs at large companies which can be completed remotely. They also do a small amount of direct hire and project-based work.

Zaleski believes where work is performed is not as important as how it is performed, and thus while the company mostly lets workers set their own schedules, it has a rigorous vetting process for applicants — three rounds of interviews and a skills assessment. Workers that make it onto the platform get the opportunity to work when and where they are most productive, while clients enjoy a qualified candidate pool of global talent that simultaneously helps increase diversity. Zaleski believes this combination of technology and social activism will pay off.

“There are tons of women in tech. We go out and find them, recruit them and handle all the difficult issues like payments and local laws, but companies need to open up to this idea that women need to be able to work remotely,” Zaleski says.

Her message is resonating around the world with women, clients and investors alike. Founded in August 2014, PowerToFly posted $2.5 million in revenue its first year and has more than 50,000 professionals on its platform from 140 countries. It also recently closed a series-A round of financing for $6.5 million, bringing the company’s total funding to $7.5 million.

The Buzz

Online talent platforms are nothing new. Neither is working remotely. But combining the two to advance gender equality in the workplace is not just a good cause — it’s smart business.