Denise Hamilton’s Startup WatchHerWork Helps Women Maneuver Corporate America

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Denise HamiltonDenise Hamilton ditched her many years in corporate America to go out on her own and recently launched WatchHerWork .com. The Jamaica-born, Brooklyn, NY-raised Hamilton, 45, wanted to create an online network and resource for professional women, providing curated advice, helpful videos and assorted information. Then there are the WatchHerWork networking and mentoring events nationwide.

“WatchHerWork is a simple concept. We crowdsource wisdom. We videotape professional advice from top female professionals, carefully curating and categorizing that advice in a searchable format so women have the information they need when they need it. You cried at work, what should you do? What if a client hits on you? How do you choose between attending an important medical appointment for your aging mother or your annual budget meeting? How do you negotiate severance? Women are struggling with these and many other issues every day,” explains Hamilton.

She adds, “No one person has all the answers, but together we all do.” Hamilton, who has released a new book “When Sleeping Women Wake: Moving Mountains in Life & Work” this summer says, “We give our best female professionals the ability to help other women with a minimal investment of time, which makes them happy as well. We are leveraging the best of us so we can empower all of us.”

So why did she start WatchHerWork? “Why? I was tired. The world wasn’t changing fast enough for me. I was mentoring/coaching hundreds of women and I could see that they needed more support across a broad range of topics to succeed. Women are still so terribly underrepresented and the technology was finally available to tackle the problem in a new way that speaks to women where they are. The democratization of the Web mixed with a little courage created a window to change the world in a small way and I grabbed it,” she says.

The company reaches out to a wide variety of women. “A key element of WatchHerWork is true diversity. Women experience the workplace very differently if they are Black, white, tall, short, introvert, extrovert, pretty, unattractive, old, young, you get the idea,” says Hamilton. “These characteristics impact everything from negotiation to meeting management to sexual harassment. Consequently, at WatchHerWork, we interview women from all walks of life. It is important that women see themselves on our site and are empowered, not discouraged by what they’re told. It is easy for me as a  5’11” extrovert to be heard in a meeting. That can be a more difficult challenge for a 5’1” soft-spoken woman. It’s important that all women are encouraged and shown that they can succeed, no matter who or how they are. We talk about the things that matter.”

According to Hamilton, WatchHerWork is very much needed. “The statistics are not moving. Women are still grossly underrepresented in all areas of leadership. If you look at Fortune 500 corporate board seats, the percentage of women has hovered at just above 12 percent for over a decade. That’s unacceptable,” she points out. “We keep doing the same things and expecting different results. WatchHerWork is a fresh new way to address a frustrating recurring problem. Women are often told to get a mentor, but nobody seems to have one. Fewer than 35 percent of women boast a successful mentor relationship. That number dwindles to 14 percent as you progress and age. What a contradiction! You might have a mentor when you’re starting your career and you need help finding the bathroom, but who’s going to help you find the boardroom? That’s why WatchHerWork was born. We use her life as your lesson.”

On the WatchHerWork website, Hamilton made sure to include a section for “him.” “I knew we needed a section called ‘What’s With Her’ where men could write in the questions they have about women in the workplace,” she says. “At WatchHerWork, we are all about creating transparent dialogue. We are all still just over a generation removed from Rosie the Riveter. We are figuring out how to operate in the workplace. That takes men and women working together successfully and respectfully. i think men will learn a great deal about the challenges women face in the workplace when they visit WatchHerWork. I also think we as women will learn a great deal from the questions the men ask. It’s a two-way street,” she explains.

Building her startup WatchHerWork has been a challenge. One of the biggest being “navigating the sea of conflicting advice for tech startups. As a 45-year-old Black woman, I am not the typical tech startup founder, but I’m here. It’s been a powerful learning curve, but I’m learning everyday. I’m not always welcome and people don’t always understand or support what I’m doing, but I knew it was important for me to overcome any resistance. I have to be a part of the tech ecosystem if I want my problems to be solved. No one else is coming,” she says.

Hamilton has also penned a book, “’When Sleeping Women Wake: Moving Mountains in Life & Work.” “The title is based on a Chinese proverb, when sleeping women wake, mountains move. I believe firmly in the ability of women to move mountains in their life and work. We do it on behalf of our children, partners and parents all the time. The book focuses on the behaviors you need to develop to be able to make powerful changes in your own life and career. As women, we are socialized to care for others and put others first. We have to unlearn some self-sabotaging behaviors if we want to succeed. If we master ourselves, we can master our world. The book will be out later this year,” she says.

As far as WatchHerWork, Hamilton has more than a few goals. “I would like to reach 100,000 email subscribers this year for WatchHerWork and see it become a wild commercial success,” she declares, and adds, “Of course, I want to make money, but I also want WatchHerWork to be in the world and I want people to be helped by it. I want it to have the broadest reach possible. Long term, I want to make WatchHerWork a go-to tool that is a part of our normal language like Google or Uber. I want to change the dialogue and close the gap. When it comes to women in America, I want to see salary increases, improved negotiation, significantly higher representation, policy changes…I want to be an integral part of changing the world. That’s all.”

Hamilton is happy with the mission she is on with WatchHerWork. Says Hamilton, “I’m closing the gap for women. I’m making a difference. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to combine capitalism and impact. I live in the intersection of the best of both worlds. I get to talk with amazing women every day and share their experiences with the world. What could be better than that?”