Journalist Katharine Zaleski has been around for quite a few “firsts.” As an editor at The Huffington Post when they launched back in 2005, she was instrumental in building the national news website. In 2012, she also helped with the rise of NowThis News, a video news network. (You’ve probably seen them on your Facebook news feed!) In 2014, Katharine left journalism to team up with technology expert Milena Berry to start PowertoFly, a company dedicated to matching women with tech-related jobs at companies all over the world.
Since becoming a mother herself, Katharine wanted a third option between going back to the office and never seeing her daughter, and scaling back on work and sacrificing the career she’d worked so hard to build. PowertoFly allows women with and without kids to be valued for their productivity rather than the amount of time they spend sitting in the office. This is great news for the one billion women who will be entering the workforce in the next ten years.
Katharine and Milena are also encouraging increased gender diversity in the tech industry by helping more women find and reach those jobs. We caught up with Katharine at one of our Art of Being salons in New York to get some insider knowledge about how listening more and staying focused helps her empower women worldwide.
PowertoFly is Skirting the Rules by building a platform that enables women to be hired by companies that value diversity and inclusion. Women have been asked to conform to workplaces that were created for men, and then we wonder why women continue to leave? At PowerToFly, we work with companies that understand the changes they need to make in order to not only hire, but to retain, more women. For example, we recently placed seven women at a major media company that was struggling to hire for diversity. One of the first things we fixed was their hiring panel: It was all white men. We asked them to add women to the panel. This one move helped make women want to work there after the interview process, because it showed them that the company’s commitment to diversity wasn’t just lip service.
A time when I found the possible (a creative solution) within the impossible (against incredible odds) is when my co-founder, Milena Berry, and I were in a group of 14 women-run companies in New York City that raised Series A funding in 2014. (Series A is the second round of funding that a startup takes on, and it means the company has found high potential for growth). The odds are stacked against everyone who tries to raise money because capital can be scarce and you have to prove considerable traction in the market you’re disrupting, but being a woman ironically presents an opportunity. You stand out of the pack and can connect with venture capitalists in ways they’re not used to because they don’t get pitched by women as often!
An example of how listening to my intuition has helped me is how when I’m feeling freaked out, I know I’m onto something positive. When my cofounder Milena asked me to join her to build PowerToFly, I felt sick reading the email. That was a sign that my body was overwhelmed by how exciting, but also perilous, the invitation was. If my intuition is that strong, then that means I’m going to invest everything in no longer feeling freaked out. That’s a great thing.
My secret talent is being honest. By telling my own stories and encouraging other women to tell theirs, we’ve been able to build PowerToFly into the fastest-growing platform where companies find women who want to join their inclusive cultures.
A woman is most powerful when she is focused. The world does everything in its power to distract women from the moment they wake up each day. For example, we have to deal with makeup while men don’t. So when a woman can clear her mind and focus on the task at hand, she can create so much with her power.
What I wish I had told myself when I was starting out is to listen more. The best information comes when you don’t speak. (I’m still working on this). For example, when I’m in meetings with clients who are using PowerToFly to hire more women, I don’t tell them what they should be doing. Instead, I listen to the specific problems they’re trying to surmount and offer a few solutions to test out. Everyone is different and no solution fits all, so you have to listen to determine the best course to ultimately skirt the rules or create new ones.
My favorite skirt (a.k.a life hack or life rule) is to meditate for 15 minutes every morning. In order to stick with it, I choose the same time each day and use an app called Headspace. I’m working on meditations that get me to focus. With social media, a harrowing election, and a toddler running around, I need to train my mind each day to get into the right space. It’s hard, but I love it. After I meditate, I can see a big difference in my ability to concentrate on a project.