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Using Technology to Level the Playing Field

There’s an interesting story over on the financial side of cnn.com, featuring startup companies that are aiming to use technology in order to “level the playing field” for women and minorities. Writer Sara Ashley O’Brien details nine innovative businesses that are striving for this kind of progress. Let’s take a look at a few of these smart young startups.

Glassbreakers

This networking site makes its mission clear: “empower women to break the glass ceiling, together.” That basically means a way to connect professional women for possible mentorship and support.

The site, founded by Lauren Mosenthal and Eileen Carey, uses what CNN calls a “dating-app style algorithm” to designate women who have similar career interests. And the Glassbreakers site describes the safety of the community-style environment, calling it “a gender-gated space to discuss and celebrate our stories.”

In a recent Newsweek story, Carey emphasized the importance of mentoring, and how the basic concept often has an inherent disconnect.

“Traditional mentorship, established in male-dominated industry, is between very senior and very junior people,” she said. “But the problem for women in the workforce is that there are many more mentees than mentors. Also, the tech industry is changing so fast that women even five or 10 years older may have very little of practical use to share with younger workers.”

Paradigm

Joelle Emerson, a Stanford Law School grad who once served as a women’s rights lawyer, started this consulting effort to help technology companies incorporate more women and minorities.

The Paradigm site states: “We believe that with the benefit of diverse perspectives, world-changing companies will build more creative products, provide more innovative services, and design a future that’s better for everyone.”

Emerson is working with businesses of various sizes, including Pinterest, according to CNN. Topics range from the rate of women being promoted to the kinds of questions recruiters use during interviews.

“We’re making flawed decisions,” Emerson says. “But [we] can build out tools to prevent that from happening.’”

Power to Fly

Co-founders Katharine Zaleski and Milena Berry set out to develop an online community for women to find remote jobs in technology. That became Power to Fly, which quickly expanded to include design, bookkeeping and journalism, according to the CNN story.

“We live in a day and age where we can all communicate remotely,” Zaleski said.

The Power to Fly website lists some of the advantages of efforts beyond the office. Among these: the flexibility to work from anywhere (“As long as your Internet connection is strong enough for video chats …”), gaining the freedom to succeed without constant supervision, and having a choice on the amount of hours to spend working each week.

The group has helped place women with companies including BuzzFeed and Hearst, according to CNN, and in technology roles in 62 countries.

InHerSight

This company uses crowdsourcing to collect company policies through anonymous feedback. As O’Brien writes, “How can candidates really know how accommodating a company is toward its female employees? Turn to the women (or men) who already work there for intel.”

The InHerSight website says it’s on a mission “to measure how well employers support the women who work for them — and to turn those insights into better support for women in the workplace. … We want to make it possible for more women to succeed in the workplace, whether that’s climbing the corporate ladder, finding family growth support, or developing skills.”

Founder Ursula Mead tells CNN that the site aims for “constructive” data: “The people who know what needs to be done are the women working for those companies.”

Tackling Last-Minute Taxes

As April 15 nears, many Americans began to feel a growing sense of dread. For small business owners, especially new ones that haven’t experienced a tax process before, it’s best to ask for help — and, at this point, some extra time. Here’s a look at some last-minute tax tips.

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Getting Certified as a Minority or Woman-Owned Business

Becoming certified as either a minority or woman-owned business can open doors to business opportunities that may remain closed to uncertified businesses. However, the application process is not without its challenges. It can be easy for business owners to get discouraged. The following information could be helpful when deciding whether minority or woman-owned business certification is beneficial for your organization.

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Millennials in the Workplace

Millennials are quickly becoming the largest generation in the workplace. But, who are they? What do they value? Where are they going in life? Why are they beneficial to the workforce? It is crucial that leaders and managers have a proper understanding of what makes this upcoming generation tick.

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Building a Winning Team

There’s a certain pioneer spirit that can go along with starting a new small business. An ambitious owner may feel a sense of bravery in attempting such an endeavor. It’s not easy to strike out on your own, become your own boss and follow your passions.

But it’s often just as crucial to build a winning team around you. Attracting and assembling the right combination of talent and personalities may help a business get off the ground quickly and on the path to success. Here are a few tips on assembling the right kind of support staff.

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How to Improve Maternity Benefits at Your Small Business

Balancing work and motherhood has been a hot topic in the news recently. First, working mom Katharine Zaleski wrote an open letter to “all the mothers [she] used to work with” apologizing to them for her attitude towards their work-life balance.

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Small Business Owners Increasingly Optimistic

Optimism among small business owners is at its highest point in seven years, according to a recent poll by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. Among the reasons for the spike: increases in revenue, hiring, cash flow and access to credit.

Lisa Stevens, head of small business for Wells Fargo, said this about the positive results that many small businesses experienced last year, according to Business Wire: “With the economy improving every day, many business owners are seeing stronger revenues, and are feeling a renewed sense of confidence and expecting an even better year ahead.”

So, what to do with all that optimism? Here are some tips and techniques to maximize and enhance the good vibes.

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How to Sell Your Products and Services

Being an entrepreneur usually requires wearing many hats, and the role that seems the scariest to a lot of people is sales.

As a business owner, you need to make people think you’ve got what they need, and that requires putting yourself out there and being persistent. That can be a daunting proposition, but it’s essential.

Here are some tips that will help you succeed as a salesperson:

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Lessons from Undercover Boss

The CBS show Undercover Boss, now in its sixth season, is an entertaining look at how different businesses operate and offers some insights for business owners.

Each episode focuses on an executive of a different company who goes, you guessed it, undercover to take a lower-level job within the company or assume some other fly-on-the-wall vantage point. The purpose of the disguise is to allow the executives to observe the uninfluenced efficiency and productivity, or lack thereof, of their employees. But they often emerge with opened eyes for other reasons.

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How to Have a Successful Meeting

For a lot of employees, meetings are just obligatory formalities they’ve learned to accept. Too many meetings are filled with more hot air blowing, thumb twiddling, clockwatching and daydreaming than anything else.

That’s not just a harsh reality for the employees who have to struggle through them. It’s also a harsh reality for the business managers and owners who are faced with lost productivity because of poorly planned or completely unnecessary meetings.

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