LIFESTYLE

Project Eve Founders Explain How They Are Helping Women To Reinvent Their Careers

05/03/2014 11:55 GMT | Updated 06/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Whether you're fed up with your current job or are a mother trying to find different ways to work, the lack of help allowing you to change things is seriously frustrating. So a global platform such as Project Eve, which is billed as helping women to reinvent their careers, is gold dust.

The website is invaluable not just for women wanting to start their own business for also for those stuck in a rut. Even better, it is founded by two women who really know what you're going through. Americans Meridith Dennes and Kimberly Oksenberg left their high-powered jobs because the balance wasn't just working for them.

Together, they are helping to change the conversation around flexible working and are all about giving women their first, inspirational push at changing careers. HuffPost UK Lifestyle wanted to find out more...

meridith and kim

What created Project Eve?

After meeting in business school in the late 90’s we spent over 15 years working in investment banking and financial services.

At a certain point we each decided we wanted and needed to make a career change but when we looked at the resources available they were all geared towards staying in the same industry and moving along the same career path. When we were looking for a new network and set of resources to make our career change we encountered many women looking for the same thing and some striking statistics:

  • On average professional women can expect to have 8 different careers over the course of their lifetime.(1)

  • 45% of women are employed in careers that differ significantly from what they thought they would do when graduating college.(2)

  • 30% of women think that they will work in a totally different industry or company in ten years.2

When we couldn’t find someone else providing what we were looking for we built it ourselves.

Both of you left the corporate world to raise families - did you ever miss it?

Not really. From time to time we miss having someone from IT down the hall to come and fix things for us. That is a rarity though. Project Eve keeps us plenty busy. There is always a new challenge, we are passionate about it and also allows us more flexibility. Balancing it all is still challenging and involves tradeoffs but it isn’t something we would trade for an IT person down the hall.

What have you noticed, have been the best benefits of leaving a company to start your own?

1. We got to build something that we are proud of.

2. We get to help people.

3. We have a more flexible lifestyle.

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Has the workplace (especially corporate companies) become better at working around women? Or worse?

The lack of workplace flexibility, the rising demand for work-life balance and the desire for economic freedom are driving educated and successful women out of the corporate sphere.

Job satisfaction amongst working women in the US. is at an all-time low. Of the 66 million working women in the US roughly 1/3 will opt of the workplace. Of this over 89% want to continue to work in some capacity. Whether or not things are getting better in certain industries or at certain companies, there is a growing recognition that the current system isn’t working for many women and many families. We believe this is a global trend.

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Is the conversation changing around flexible working, especially for women?

That there is a conversation about flexible work options is a substantial improvement from when we started our careers in the early '90's. In the last two years there has certainly been a lot of discussion on the topic because of Lean In and the Ann Marie Slaughter’s piece.

But typically in the media there is an ebb and flow between some conversation and not much. Regardless of the conversation it seems like as one company sees the inherent advantages to offering flexible options you'll always find another that feels the need to shut down those options. Look at what Yahoo did last year.

It’s a shame that workplace flexibility is still seen as a woman’s issue when in fact life happens to all of us. People get sick, have kids, have accidents, there are deaths in families.

How have you contributed towards ta better way of working?

We contribute to the conversation by keeping the conversation alive even when it is not the hot topic in the media.

Our community is there to support women who are struggling with work-life decisions and their consequences. Our members can also connect with other women who have struggled and found solutions that at one time seemed intractable.

women businesswomen

Do you think women are finally starting to see themselves as creative beings that can take control own their own career and finances?

In most parts of the developed world that is probably true. The degree to which any woman feels empowered and feel fully free to take risks depends on her own circumstances. Certainly, a woman struggling to support her family and is living from paycheck to paycheck will feel less free to take risks. There are others who feel disaffected by their careers who feel chained to their paychecks by student debt or other life choices.

Our mission is for women in any of these circumstances to know they aren't alone, that there are others who have lived through similar circumstances and that there are steps they can take to make a major career change.

The age-old argument is around 'work life balance' - do you think we need to start having a different conversation about balance, and if so, what should it be?

We aren’t so sure that the concept of work life balance is so old. When we were growing up in the '70's the message was that we could have it all. Of course no one mentioned the challenges involved in having it all. That is probably where the balance question started.

We feel it is an important conversation that shouldn't be gender specific. That more men are looking for the same thing is an important change. We spent a fair amount of time working in an industry where people bragged about working all night and sleeping under your desk. Its not healthy and the work you produce when you work like that can be lousy. Even when we spend late nights and early mornings devoted to Project Eve we are big believers in finding balance.

We love this line - 'we can do more than break the glass ceiling; we can get together and build our own house' - what advice would you give a woman thinking of starting up her own business, but doesn't know where to start?

Start! Make one step, even if it’s a small one. It will help you get going. It’s easy to get hung up on all the challenges and reasons not to do something but if you can take one small step forward it will make the next step easier. Whether it's joining Project Eve and asking a question or getting inspiration from other members, writing the first paragraph of a business plan or finding a URL for a website the act of doing something is empowering.

Which women do you admire?

There are so many accomplished women who have made an impact on the world and who have opened doors and created opportunities for those of us who have come after us.

The famous ones include Susan B Anthony, Sandra Day O'Connor, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Mead, Sara Blakely, Marry Barra, Maya Angelou, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Hillary Clinton, Julia Child…. but the list goes on and on.

How many women you've helped?

We have published close to 500 Startup Stories and 3,500 blogs so it’s easy to say we've helped to get the word out on behalf of all those companies and authors. Each of those articles live on our site which gets over 1mm visits a month. The articles are also shared on social media which reaches over 500,000 people.

We would like to keep growing and for more women to participate in our community so that together we can lift each other up.

To sign up to Project Eve, click here.

Sources:

1) US Bureau Labor Statistics, National Center for Educational Statistics Table 258, US Bureau Labor Statistics. Degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2016-17

2) Today’s Professional Woman Report, a national survey exploring women’s career and financial concerns inspired by the conversations on Citi Connect: Professional Women’s Network

3) State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN; Sylvia Ann Hewitt, Economist, Center for Talent Innovation.