Founder and CEO Michele Heyward of PositiveHire discusses her experiences helping women become leaders and working with a liquid workforce.
Michele Heyward founded PositiveHire to help connect experienced Black, Latina, and Indigenous women who are engineers, scientists, and technology professionals to management roles.
Connecting women to opportunities
Michele was inspired to create PositiveHire based on her experiences at work. Michele shares, “In the nearly 15 years I worked in engineering, I’ve never had a Native, Latina, or Black woman manager. Hell, none were in any level of management. This was the same for many of my friends.”
She highlighted several statistics that echoed what she had observed. “In 2014-2015, African American women earned 2.9%. and Latina women earned 3.6% of all STEM degrees. Yet when it comes to women of color in STEM, 1 in 3 will leave her career and not return. Nearly half of women in STEM leave because of work conditions including, but not limited to lack of career advancement and low salary.”
Developing an underrepresented workforce
PositiveHire provides professional development to underrepresented women in STEM and diversity & inclusion services to employers to combat this challenge. Michele adds, “This isn’t a pipeline issue but a culture issue which PositiveHire is working to solve.”
To date, PositiveHire has had over 2000 underrepresented women in STEM attend professional development virtual summits and webinars.
Engaging liquid workers for project-based work
Initially, Michele had some reservations before engaging contractors to support PositiveHire. “My first hesitation was the quality of work. I hate paying for something of poor quality. Another hesitation was someone not understanding the mission of my business and the impact small projects can have for my business.”
Now Michele has no hesitations – she wishes she had known earlier that she could find high-quality service providers at affordable prices. “The work I’ve been provided has been outstanding from most of the providers I’ve worked with thus far.”.”The work I’ve been provided has been outstanding from most of the providers I’ve worked with thus far.” Michele Heyward, PositiveHire
Michele relies on liquid workers to take on project-based work to help her grow her company. “When I have specific projects, I’m able to provide a clear scope of work, timeline, and budget for support. This, in turn, lets me continue to focus on increasing my sales efforts as opposed to putting it on pause to complete short-term projects.” She adds, “I had a web designer who understood end-to-end processes of an online business. She introduced me to tools and processes I didn’t realize I’d need then or now. She truly looked out for my business as opposed to just building me a website.”
Michele also shared some tips based on her experiences working with freelancers. “Use them to your advantage. It can be cheaper than a part-time or full-time employee. In addition, it lets you create business relationships which may last for years as your startup grows.” “When I have specific projects, I’m able to provide a clear scope of work, timeline, and budget for support. This, in turn, lets me continue to focus on increasing my sales efforts as opposed to putting it on pause to complete short-term projects." Michele Heyward, PositiveHire
Planning for productivity
Michele also has other tips for founders of startups. She notes that the one thing she wished she knew before starting her company was more about sales. Michele says, “I didn’t realize I’d spend so much time learning about it and business development.” Now her mornings are typically focused on sales, making calls, and sending messages. Afternoons are focused on scheduled meetings, training, planning, and working with her team.
To maximize her productivity, Michele blocks out her schedule for work. She says, “I have 2-4 hours blocks for sales calls. On Fridays, I don’t take any calls, so I can do administrative work.” Every Sunday, she sets weekly goals and writes out her top 8-12 tasks for the week in her planner.
One of Michele’s sources of inspiration is Ursula Burns.” As the first black woman CEO is one thing. But for her to have natural hair, i.e., an Afro, and dark skin, was a significant moment in time. I reset my goal to become a CEO!”