Annie Dean is the co-founder and co-CEO of Werk, the first and only marketplace where ambitious job seekers can find real, career-building opportunities, all with pre-negotiated flexibility. Members can filter and apply for jobs by six different types of flexibility that Dean and her co-founder, Anna Auerbach, productized into a proprietary framework called the Flexiverse(™), so job seekers know upfront if a role is compatible with their lives.
Why flexibility? After analyzing all the available data about women in the workplace and speaking with women and companies across the public and private sectors for over a year, it became increasingly evident to Dean that workplace flexibility is the best, easiest and most cost effective way to close the gender gap. Of the 40 percent of women who are leaving the corporate workforce after having children (and the unknown number of women opting down into non-leadership track roles), 70 percent say they would have stayed—if they had access to flexibility.
Dean first became aware of the need for workplace flexibility while logging 16-hour days as a corporate real estate attorney and attempting to raise two children—one of whom has special needs. Her inability to “make it work” was not due to a lack of empowerment, mentorship or negotiation skills; it was a lack of flexibility. And the data confirmed that Dean’s experience wasn’t unique to her: dated workplace structures that were decided long before women had a voice are causing talented employees to leave the workforce before realizing their full potential.
That’s why Dean launched Werk: to help employers implement workplace flexibility so that women can advance to positions of leadership over time. While most companies already offer their employees some form of flexibility, the uptake is only 1-25 percent. Werk not only helps employers use flexibility strategically, but it also empowers employees to utilize flexibility by removing stigmas and normalizing the conversation. Dean’s long-term goal is to help women reach equal and proportional representation where it matters most: in the boardroom, on set, in government and, someday soon, in the Oval Office. Unlike other platforms boasting flexible opportunities, Werk does not feature gigs or other short-term project-based jobs. Dean is laser focused on keeping talented women in the workforce so they can advance to leadership over time. And that’s good for business, too: gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers and typically have better working conditions and fewer layoffs.
Today, the Werk team is headquartered in New York City and consists of six full-time staff members, all of whom have the option of working a flexible schedule. Earlier this year, Dean and Auerbach secured $1MM in venture funding and have been featured in a number of top-tier publications, including The New York Times, Forbes and Marie Claire. Since officially launching their product earlier this year, Dean and Auerbach have solidified themselves as the foremost thought leaders in the rapidly growing conversation about workplace flexibility and its ability to close the corporate gender gap for good.