Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How Ashley Connell CEO of the “Prowess Project” Is Helping Millions of Women To Return To The Workforce

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As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Connell.

Ashley Connell is the CEO of the “Prowess Project”. This project helps the 11M+ women who were pushed out of the workforce during COVID due to lack of childcare return to flexible, family-friendly jobs. 

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I started Prowess Project to solve my future (at the time) problem.  For 15 years I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into my marketing career. I was an award-winning international marketer & agency owner, but I knew that what I was going on just wasn’t “IT”. That’s when I realized I had this ongoing anxiety since I graduated college about how I was going to do both – have a career and family.  

So I did some digging and according to Harvard Business Review, if a woman is out of the workforce for just three years, she loses 37% of her compensation power for the rest of her life. Feeling disgusted yet determined, I spoke to 100s of women who were in this position. They had 1 to 3 degrees, been in the workforce for 10+ yrs, and couldn’t get back in.  

When I asked what their biggest barrier to reentry was they said confidence – which I was really shocked by. That led to the inability to find a solution that solves the entire problem: confidence training & goal-setting; upskilling; a new network of professionals, and job pairing – all in one.

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Since that wasn’t on the market, I built it. Forward-forward to now, I have a super smiley 5month baby girl and we’re 5K mom jobseekers strong with 70% of them securing jobs in just 3 months!  

What do you specialize in, and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?

Prowess Project helps (mostly) women go from “home to hired” through our integrated job, upskilling, and networking platform. Often overlooked, Prowess’ tech pinpoints diverse jobseekers’ transferable skills and matches them with aligned jobs resulting in a 70% placement rate. Employers get access to untraditional, yet vetted and qualified candidates, ranked by compatibility – saving them time and money as they know who to hire and why.

Prowess Project is different because we take the whole person into account when hiring. While job seekers create an account, we are gathering hundreds of data points on them beyond what you’d see on a resume.  These include interpersonal skills, transferable skills, Communication, behavior style, values, and much more. Based on all of these, we match the job seekers with the top roles that they’d be successful is based on the employers’ team’s work style and what is needed for the job. See how our tech works here. 

If the job seeker is a top 5 match for the role, she’ll get an alert from us. That means that there’s AT LEAST a 20% chance she’ll get an interview. Women (especially moms) are super busy, so we don’t want to waste their time applying and going through interviews at a company where they ultimately won’t fit. 

As for the employers, our talent + tech delivers quality over quantity. Our approach allows employers to make data-driven hiring decisions – fast by focusing on the hard & soft skills, scoring applicants to highlight the culture adds, and prioritizing which to interview first.  All of this is on top of our mission to help the 11M women who were pushed out of the workforce due to COVID return to jobs that they love.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d put more money in women’s pockets. It’s proven that women invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men. 

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That would help children especially. As Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest says, Nothing bad happens when women have more money

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

  • Products will have women’s needs in mind – Women think differently, we have different needs. I give some examples in my blog post I talk about this a lot that the workforce is like a urinal, built for men, by men (see my blog post here).  And now it’s our opportunity to infuse feminine energy 

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

It’s glamorous – ha! Just the opposite.  I have a rule that the CEO eats last. I want to make sure that my team is paid, and paid well before me. If there is leftover, I get it. I know a lot of people don’t share this sentiment, but your team is everything. Without them, you’re stuck.  It’s imperative to treat them that way. 

What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?

There are a couple, first, make sure that whatever you do, it’s something that you’re obsessed with. Nearly everything ( minus family) has become second-fiddle to Prowess Project as we’re getting it off the ground. Second, it will take twice if not five times as long as you think it will. It’s worth it but plan accordingly. 

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?

  1. This will be one of the hardest things you ever do. 
  2. Ask for help – a lot. 
  3. Enjoy the journey as much as possible. 
  4. Focus, focus, focus. 
  5. Build a kickass team around you.

I would tell myself not to change a thing. Enjoy the moment because they will all lead to building an amazing company, movement, family, and life. 

What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?

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Aside from a killer salary & job security, everything but family and a tight-knit group of friends. And I do mean everything. I sat down and wrote everything that I’d sell to keep Prowess Project going and that included our house, car, any furniture, clothes, etc. What is so powerful about Prowess Project is we are changing women’s lives on a day-to-day basis.

Women rely on us for connecting them with their next paycheck, and for helping them get out of toxic living or work situations. If I can do that for women, I’m not going to let anything material get in my way. 

What is your no-fail go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?

Going to a coffee shop. The buzz of people around me combined with the caffeine gets the juices flowing again. 

Lastly, what do you think this world needs the most? 

Empathy. If we had more of that, combined with an abundance mindset, we’d all be set.

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