Founder Profile: Ursula Mead, CEO of InHerSight - Durham, NC
Hi Ursula! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ursula Mead, and I'm the cofounder and CEO of InHerSight. I spent most of my professional life in Washington, DC, working in financial tech and media before starting my own company and relocating to Durham, NC, three years ago.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’ve always loved to work. As soon as I was old enough to get a work permit, I did. Since then, I’ve dabbled in all sorts of endeavors: from teaching swimming and stringing tennis racquets to working for a state attorney and at an investment bank. I finally found my calling in product management when I took a job at The Motley Fool. That was really a turning point in my life and career—it felt like I’d found my professional calling, especially after the racquet stringing—and I developed a love for figuring out how to solve problems and make people’s lives better with technology.
What led you to start InHerSight?
When the idea for InHerSight started percolating, at home, I had a baby girl. At work, I was a woman in a male-dominated field. And I was closely following new conversations about women in the workplace, the challenges they faced, and the strong business case for gender diversity.
As a data person, my instinct was to dig deeper, and when I did, the stats and trends that I started to uncover were pretty shocking: Just 12 percent of private sector employers offered paid maternity leave. Only 10 percent of companies offered daily work schedule flexibility. And just 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were women.
I realized two things: Working women faced major obstacles in the United States, and there were growing tailwinds to support them. I envisioned a kind of TripAdvisor or Glassdoor for women to help them find the right companies. After about a year of Google searches for company review sites for women that came up empty, I decided to build it myself.
Could you walk us through how InHerSight works? How do women rate companies and what is the data you're collecting?
Women come to the site and rate their employers across 16 different factors—things like access to equal opportunities, flexibility, mentorship, salary satisfaction, and more. Then we take all that data, and we aggregate it into a “company scorecard” of sorts. (You’ll see star ratings on our site. Those ratings tell us how female-friendly a company is overall, and in each of the individual factors mentioned above.) We use that data to match women to companies that have what they are looking for. So if I’m a woman in sales in San Francisco, and I’m looking for companies where I can climb the corporate ladder and have the flexibility I need to support my ideal work-life balance, I can find it. Today we have insights and scorecards for more than 100,000 companies in the U.S.
After people fill out their ratings, are the companies automatically listed on your platform?
For the most part, yes. We do some work behind the scenes to approve new companies when they receive their first rating, and once that’s done the company scorecard and the rating goes live on the site.
InHerSight also works as a job finder as well. How can women find jobs through your site?
I think everyone can agree: Searching for jobs is a drag. Even if you find a role that seems like a perfect fit, you still have to try to figure out if the company’s culture is for you. We take care of both those steps. Our job seekers create a profile on the site that tells us what type of role they are looking for and what’s important to them from a company culture standpoint—mentorship, fair pay, great family support benefits, women in leadership, whatever. Then we take all that information and turn it into a curated list of jobs at companies that have what they are looking for.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I get to go to work every day feeling like, if we succeed, it could change her future. That’s pretty motivating.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
Fundraising is certainly a challenge. It’s hard for every entrepreneur, and even harder for women. In 2017, female founders got just 2 percent of venture capital. In 2018, that number only rose to 2.2 percent. You see why it’s important that we do what we do.
But while we’re not making impressive leaps on the numbers side, the conversations are getting better. Two years ago, I spent about 80 percent of my conversations with mostly all-male investors, trying to convince them that there were still significant problems for women at work. Now, they "get" it immediately, and we can move on to other aspects of what we're building. Progress!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
We’re powerful when we work together! Look at the amazing things women have accomplished by aligning to get better support at work at places like Nike, Google, and Microsoft. We’re 50 percent of the workforce. We control 85 percent of consumer spending to the tune of trillions of dollars a year. Women have power in numbers, and that’s exactly what we attempt to leverage on our platform. The more women who share their insights on InHerSight, the more likely companies will be to make changes based on those insights. So go rate your company! And tell your friends to rate, too.
We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women-owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
Cafe Femenino Coffee: This is a great way to start the day (especially when my husband makes pour over), and I often give their delicious beans to friends as gifts. aden + anais: Every time I have to give a baby shower gift, these swaddles are my go-to. They were the key to a great night’s sleep when I was a new mom, so I’m hoping they bring the same magic to my friends. And I’m about to order my first “fix” from Stitch Fix. One of our engineers is constantly coming in wearing great outfits and every time I ask her about them, sure enough, they came from Stitch Fix.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
I’ve learned that creating something alone is great, but building something with a team is even better. There’s so much to be gained from bringing a diverse set of ideas and experiences together toward a common goal or mission. It can be scary to expand your team, especially if you’ve been working on something for a long time solo or with a very small group, but it’s worth it.
Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Women in Product is a great Slack community for product managers (and Slack itself is a great tool if you’re not yet using it to communicate and collaborate at work). On the content side, I know our managing editor uses women- and inclusive-focused writers groups on social media to tap new talent. The Writers of Color Twitter handle has been especially helpful for her. And of course, our team is always reading and listening to other voices in our sphere—“The Paycheck,” “Women at Work,” and “In Her Words”. It’s exciting that there’s so much more out there than there used to be.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I’m working on learning the art of celebration! In a startup, there’s always so much going on that it can be hard to make time to celebrate the wins, and as the team grows, that becomes increasingly important. If anyone has any tips or resources, please send them my way!
What are some of your favorite places in Durham?
Oh there are so many, especially when it comes to the food scene. Pizzeria Toro and Jack Tar are two of my many favorite restaurants in the area. (I’m not much of a meat eater usually, but Jack Tar’s burger is amazing. I order it almost every time.) Loaf and Guglhupf for baked goods, and LocoPops for gourmet popsicles (try the strawberries and cream). My favorite coffee spot is The Durham Hotel and its beautiful contemporary design. We also have The Durham Bulls stadium right in downtown, and it’s a great place to catch a baseball game, and Durham Performing Arts Center and the Carolina Theatre provide fantastic access to top-notch productions.
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