WatchHerWork Uses Crowdsourced Videos to Empower Professional Women

Houston—Denise Hamilton, founder and CEO of WatchHerWork, says that when it comes to achieving a better gender balance in the workplace, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

That mantra has provided the motivation for her startup—a website that features women offering testimonials of their experiences navigating a variety of workplace issues.

“I wanted to create a place where women could bank on the expertise of other women who had successfully done it,” Hamilton says.

WatchHerWork currently has about 5,000 videos offering advice on dozens of topics. Examples include career building blocks like asking for a raise or seeking professional training, as well as stickier predicaments such as dealing with workplace harassment or pursuing flextime work schedules to accommodate family needs.

Women, Hamilton says, might get pushback if they seek such advice inside the company. Women advocating for themselves can be seen as aggressive or uppity—a perception that men are largely able to avoid, according to studies on gender in the workplace. (Of course, women may also have managers or co-workers who circulate sexist beliefs or directly harass them—see recent events at Google and Uber.)

WatchHerWork gives women another outlet, Hamilton adds. “They need to be able to ask that question without penalty or risk,” she says.

The site is part of a growing community of startups founded by women to leverage the Web to help others like them reach professional goals. Among them is Fairygodboss.com, founded two years ago when co-founder and CEO Georgene Huang was pregnant and needing information on companies’ maternity leave policies. (She didn’t think she could ask that question while interviewing.) The New York-based site features anonymous, though vetted, advice regarding work issues women may face.

“One of the things I learned very early on in the process of launching Pink Petro is that women want a safe place to vet their questions,” says Katie Mehnert, who founded the energy industry-focused site three years ago in Houston. “One of the biggest components of what we do is to help elevate role models, to show what the industry can be.”

Hamilton, who has worked for companies such as AOL and CBRE (NYSE: CBG), decided to found WatchHerWork after realizing she personally didn’t have enough time to help the women who sought her out for advice. The idea, she says, is to formalize the ad hoc conversations among women—“Can I pick your brain?”—and create lasting mentor relationships.

“In talking to peers, I found they had the same problem,” she … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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