Read on to find out how these two women entrepreneurs are turning the traditional 8-5 workday on its head.
When Jessica Charlsen and Jina Hwang Picarella, Ph.D. met as part of a Women’s Fund steering committee, not much about the standard American workday had changed in about a century. And despite various recent campaigns to increase women’s leadership roles, Jessica says, “Leaning in, making sure everybody had a seat at the table, taking women golfing — you just didn’t really see the shift that you’d hoped to see.” Passionate about carving out a path for women in leadership but also keenly aware of the challenges of balancing family with high-powered careers, these two women set out to shift the status quo through a simple yet revolutionary idea: job shares.
What is a job share?
A job share is when two employees divide one position between themselves, splitting the hours, responsibilities, and compensation of one full-time position.
This setup can provide a workaround for someone having a baby, dealing with a sick parent, pursuing education, or any number of other things. According to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, 43% of highly qualified women leave their careers to raise children, and the return to work often means a step backward in job level and a cut in pay.
“With the gender pay gap, that’s a reason that women aren’t able to catch up,” Jina explains. Many women end up leaving and coming back or going part-time, but she points out that part-time positions typically aren’t on par with what a qualified, experienced worker would seek. “Job sharing is usually for professional individual contributors and above. And actually, the higher you get, the more beneficial it is.”
Although job sharing isn’t a new concept – it’s already common practice in the UK, Europe, and Australia – it’s relatively unknown in the United States. Jina and Jessica are changing that with their startup, Job Share Connect. JSC serves both prospective employees and employers, sourcing and coaching prospective candidates, matching them, and on-boarding, in a process they’ve standardized to provide a smooth transition for all parties involved.
But are employers ready to jump in?
“It’s a win for the business, getting to experience continual coverage that a job share provides,” Jessica says. “A strongly matched job share is up to 30% more productive than a typical full-time employee, and you can build a ‘unicorn employee’ with employees from different backgrounds with complementary skills.”
Fittingly, Jessica and Jina are what I’d call a ‘unicorn Co-CEO.’ Jessica has corporate and advertising agency experience with prior roles in marketing, new business growth and development, and as a director of client services. Her focus on strategic marketing and growth initiatives complements Jina’s Organizational Psychology background. Jina has a doctorate in industrial-organizational psychology and has worked in talent management and human capital consulting across the spectrum. She’s an expert in selection and assessment and in performance management. Simply put, these two women are #goals.
Strategies for a successful startup
In the United States, only a handful of companies specializing in job sharing exist. In a relatively untapped field, Jessica and Jina have a chance to stand out via their assessment and matching processes, which they’ve refined to artfully and scientifically blend technology with human elements.
While starting out, the women had a different idea of the talent pools where they’d find prospective employees. “We thought we’d see a pop in caregivers, and we did, but then we also saw the multigenerational workforce emerge,” Jessica explains. “This turned out to be people who were nearing retirement, people who wanted to re-enter the workforce, people who wanted to change careers, millennials who wanted to explore their passions and entrepreneurs who wanted to start a business but needed the consistency of their traditional job.”
Covid-19 challenges and ch-ch-changes
The pandemic has forced companies to change the way they work (how many companies pre-Covid insisted that remote work would be near impossible?), and subsequently the way they think about working. This has proven helpful for Job Share Connect. Says Jessica, “The foundation is crumbling, which gives us a huge opportunity to be a part of the rebuild. So as we move forward, we’ve never been more aggressive and sure of now being the right time for us to make a move and really push on our business.”
Still, the women tell me, one of the most challenging things about running this startup is shifting the paradigm from what’s accepted as the workplace norm. The other challenging part? Finding the right balance between visionary planning and day-to-day procedures, Jessica acknowledges.
“You’re learning and exploring and finding new models and pathways to customers and establishing a process, and as you’re building all of that you’re trying to figure out what works, but we have to make sure it’s documented and organized and repeatable, that we could tell someone else and they could do it.”
How have you sold Job Share Connect opportunities?
Early on, we sold Job Share Connect’s services by providing a way to unlock untapped talent pools in and out of the current workforce who couldn’t or didn’t want to work 40-60 hours a week. This has recently evolved. After talking with several companies to understand what they were really looking for coming out of COVID, we’ve found the most interest in how job sharing can start as an internal way to provide development, training, and flexibility to your top employees.
What would you say to a fellow working woman who’s considering entrepreneurship?
- It’s better than you could ever imagine but harder than you think.
- Make sure you love your mission and are 100% committed to your ‘why’.
- Try to find a co-founder who complements your skills and abilities. It’s someone to share your highs and lows with and to keep you going when it’s hard. Truly we believe that we’re so much better together!
Jina and Jessica agree that having a co-founder has been key to their success, for accountability and a mutual understanding of the unique challenges that come along with founding a startup. They encourage women to find startup collaboratives and seek out available grants and additional resources available to entrepreneurs.
The co-founders of Job Share Connect have inspirational passion, incredible work ethic, and artful scientific processes. They also have a really great why:
“Our mission is to standardize job sharing and to have it be widely adopted,” says Jina. “But essentially what we want to do, if you break it down, is help people lead a happier life.”