1. Business

Websites are like Yelp for women's workplace issues

Published Sep. 3, 2016

Women looking for jobs and looking to leave jobs need the same thing: a space to share recommendations — and horror stories. Like Yelp, but for women in the workplace.

Now, a host of websites wants to do that. They collect women's experiences from different office cultures, addressing questions like: How satisfied are current female employees? What's the family leave policy like? How many women are in top leadership?

InHerSight, a fairly new entrant into the field, takes workplace feedback from women to create "scorecards," grades based on a five-star scale calculating how well companies provide for leadership opportunities, women's professional development, female employee recruitment, maternity leave, welcoming company culture and more.

The scorecards reflect well-documented industry trends, which InHerSight is also working to catalog. Technology companies like Facebook may rate highly for perks and benefits, for example, but they lose points when it comes to well-publicized issues like female representation in leadership. And while women working in government offices report they're happy with management opportunities for women, federal agencies like the Department of Energy score lower for their lackluster family leave policies.

InHerSight is just the latest innovation in a wave of women's workplace rankings. Popular sites like Glassdoor and Payscale stack different workplace salaries and cultures against one another. As more and more headlines flood our senses and depress our daughters, the ranking of women's workplaces has become its own cottage content industry.

Says InHerSight chief executive Ursula Mead: "(Women) want to know, 'What am I getting into?' One of the most impactful things we can do is when we take their experiences and capture them as data points."

And these ratings work the other way, too — company leaders can check out their own industry scorecards to see where they're lacking and what could improve.

"We need to take individual stories, combine them to make trends, and it represents the collective," Mead says. "It doesn't just represent the individual."

After a round of seed funding from the Motley Fool, 64,000 women have contributed to InHerSight's database, rating more than 13,000 workplaces. Mead says companies can have from a single rating to more than 200.

"We always feel like the more ratings, the better," Mead says. "We're trying to build a listening platform. We think companies can evolve and change over time, and we're trying to capture that."

Yale University management professor Zoe Chance cautions that not everything is measurable, especially when it comes to happiness at work. Sexism in the workplace isn't always direct harassment or boss-to-employee conversations. Instead, statistical discrimination and lack of opportunity for women ultimately characterize a workplace as "good" or "bad" for women.

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With relatively small numbers of women contributing to the websites, Chance points out, it's harder to take personal stories and turn them into identifiable trends.

But Mead of InHerSight says what her company is doing is very valuable. "By measuring satisfaction we can help companies understand what's working and what isn't for women in their workplace when it comes to their policies and initiatives," she said. "At the same time, we can help address problems and low scores that exist as a result of sexism, either intentional or not."

Gloria Feldt, a leadership expert at Take the Lead, reminds job-seekers that the value of these sites lies in their transparency: Here are some stories, here are some women's opinions.

She advises younger women to survey all the resources available to them: Glassdoor, InHerSight, LinkedIn, networking and more.

"Like with anything else, the better informed you are, the better choices you can ostensibly make, but these crowd-sourced rating systems, they are always fraught," she says. "You have to take things with a grain of salt."


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