This year, white people woke up.
With George Floyd’s murder by the hands of police brutality and the expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement, our society has finally begun to acknowledge the unspoken injustices we witness daily. Though it can be uncomfortable, to incite real and meaningful change, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable. Over the past six months or so, it’s been disheartening to read about businesses that have accepted prejudiced policies as a standard and hushed individuals who spoke out against them. It’s disturbing to learn that employees of beloved makeup brand Glossier recognized an “ongoing insidious culture of anti-Blackness, transphobia, ableism and retaliation,” and Reformation staff members explained that BIPOC employees “ were routinely overlooked for advancement in the company and had their concerns ignored.” Entering the workforce is already a daunting task; we should never have to worry that our peers and superiors are instilling discriminatory policies. What if we could have a space in which we only engage with companies that are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace? This is where Work Wider comes in. With so much negativity circulating the media, I think it’s necessary to highlight powerful women who are inspiring positive change.
Meet Michele Lanza, a native of Oakland, California, and mother of two. Michele describes her journey into corporate America as an unlikely one, raised by a hippy mother who struggled to provide for her family. Unlike most business moguls, Michele didn’t go to college until her late 20’s and definitely didn’t think she had a start-up in her. Yet, in only 18 months, she built Work Wider from nothing and is doing her part to implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Throughout her twenty years of Talent Acquisition experience, Michele recognized a detrimental gap in communication between companies and underrepresented talent. As a woman over 50, she is particularly cognizant of ageism in her industry, as she’s watched countless women around her age out of their jobs. Michele desires to look at the workplace differently, appreciate individuals for their values and skill sets rather than their differences. Reflecting on her past interview experiences as a woman with a neuro difference, Michele remembered how she was constantly chastised for her spelling mistakes and typos. What if she could’ve just been transparent? What if she could’ve explained her setbacks on the forefront, asked for the tools she needed to be successful, and then continued to offset those setbacks with all of the great work she was doing?
While there are some websites that serve niche communities, it seemed as if there was no platform in which individuals could show up as their full selves. Rather than having to reduce themselves to a singular trait (ethnicity, sexuality, age, etc.), Michele wanted to create a safe space in which an individuals’ application could reflect their whole identity. After begging other companies to consider this concept, Michele spearheaded her own initiative; she was done asking someone else to realize her own vision.
Work Wider’s mission is to create a place in which companies can identify and hire underrepresented talent who want them for who they are. They provide “an online career and recruitment ecosystem for under-represented communities including BIPOC, LGBTQ, veterans, individuals with disabilities or neuro differences, as well as women and others over 50 years of age.” Aside from helping them build their funnel, Work Wider creates opportunities for companies to prove to talent that they are committed to DEI and more than just surface-level promises. Countless studies have shown that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones, accelerating growth, and improving company-wide decision-making. According to Michele, “The business case for diversity and inclusion has never been stronger. Organizations with inclusive cultures are more innovative, more agile, have better business outcomes, are more likely to be high performing, and are more likely to meet or exceed financial targets.”
Though Work Wider has only been in the works for 18 months, they already have the support of many renowned professionals in the field. In fact, American advertising tycoon Jeff Goodby, chair of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, gave Work Wider their name. Derek Robson, president of GS&P, was also eager to support the Work Wider team. He said, “Our Work and our staff need to reflect the world around us which is why GS&P is committed to diversity and inclusion. It’s so important for the industry to support underrepresented groups. We’ve been helping Work Wider because it is a solution that could help change, not only the advertising industry but potentially all business and that’s an exciting prospect.”
As a white woman, Michele knew that Work Wider needed an assemblage of voices that reflected the community it was serving. For example, Work Wider has gained the backing of advisors like Glen Singleton, the founder, and president of Pacific Educational Group, Inc and author of Courageous Conversations About Race, a book which deepens and sustains interracial discourse.
Singleton explains his interest in Work Wider, saying “I joined Work Wider as an advisor because I believe in the mission of the company. Work Wider is so much more than just a place to recruit, this is a community of people that will help to change the future of work.”
Wondering how you can join the Work Wider community?
Don’t worry. There is space for everyone!
In our conversation, Michele recognized that younger generations often get stuck on the idea that you need to be on a job search to join Work Wider, but this isn’t true. Work Wider is a destination for all up and coming professionals, providing content webinars, lectures, job hunting techniques, and skill-building resources. Whether you’re in an active job search or not, Work Wider’s site helps individuals get their first jobs, learn how to interview, access internships, grow their careers, and build relationships with companies. Plus, it’s all free for members! The most exciting part of Work Wider, though, is that every company on the site has committed to the Work Wider pledge, in which they are actively taking measures to instill DEI values in the workplace. Never again will you have to worry that a company you are associated with doesn’t share your core values. While many of the current companies on the Work Wider site are in Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising, and Tech, Michele is committed to bringing diverse companies that span the many industries members are interested in.
Welcome to the new age of equity in the workplace, welcome to Work Wider!
To learn more about Work Wider and their Pledge, click here.