It's no secret that returning to the workforce after having kids is a challenge. In fact, 30% of women end up leaving their positions, with lack of flexibility being one of the main reasons why.
Enter Annie Dean.
Along with co-founder Anna Auerbach, Dean launched Werk, "the only place where flexibility and ambition co-exist." A job marketplace that presents women with positions that include pre-negotiated flexibility, Werk helps pair talented candidates with employers who share the viewpoint that "9 to 5" isn't a prerequisite for success.
"Werk is what the workplace would look like if women invented it," says Dean. "The data shows that women are not advancing to leadership because they are largely being forced to opt out of the workforce. Werk is modernizing the workforce to support the way society looks today."
We caught up with the New York-based Dean, a former corporate real estate attorney, to find out how she balances startup life and life as a mom of two young children—and how Werk helps it all work.
Describe a typical day in your life, if there is one.
I use TimeShift (which is one of the Werk flexibility factors) to make sure I am at my son's school drop off everyday. I also aim to make it home for bedtime, spend time with both of my kids, and then get back to work after they're asleep. When I'm at the office my time is intensely scheduled and I spend most of the day problem solving with my team or representing the company externally. Every day is different and although it is stressful and high stakes, it's my dream job.
How do you stay sane on hectic days?
Sometimes when I'm really stressed out and exhausted I close my eyes and think of my kids laughing. It works every time. Suddenly I'm smiling and feeling great. I'm smiling right now thinking about it! To manage longer periods of stress I verbalize my feelings to people who can help me, like my husband or my mentors or my cofounder. And I also read a lot. Reading is the only thing that really takes me away and has always been a key source of stress relief for me.
"Sometimes when I'm really stressed out and exhausted I close my eyes and think of my kids laughing. It works every time."
What's the toughest part about juggling work and family?
Logistics — I build as much stability as possible into my work routine to accommodate the unpredictable nature of raising young children. I could not pursue my career without the support of my full-time caregiver and my husband. Affordable childcare and the undervaluing of care providers is a major issue of our generation that needs tackling.
What's the most rewarding part about being a working mother?
I know it's just semantics but I think of these things as separate — I take a huge amount of personal satisfaction from my job. I've always been someone who works. I've been making people work for me and starting businesses since I was 5 years old! And motherhood has surprised me in the depth of its joy. Yesterday my younger son—who has special needs—came up to me and said "Mama" and give me an enormous hug on my legs—and then left again. As a special needs mom, it was a moment of so many milestones: he acknowledged me, he spoke a word, he walked, he hugged, and then he went back to his own agenda. But the tenderness of it was the kind of thing that keeps you going through the sleepless nights and tantrums and dizzying logistics.
I am so grateful to be able to develop both parts of myself, and all of the other parts of myself that I want to invest in. I think that's what it means to be a woman today. No boxes. Just the freedom to pursue who we want to be and the milestones we want to reach.