Career Break Warriors Meet Your Hippolyta

prow·ess

noun

1.  skill or expertise in a particular activity or field.
2.  bravery in battle.

working moms feel overwhelmed and unsupported

It’s probably no surprise that mothers feel overwhelmed and unsupported as they transition from motherhood to working mother. While the U.S. once led the world in working women, we’ve been left in the dust since the late 90s to countries with paid healthcare, childcare, and parental leave as well as flexible work policies. On top of that, the expectation of perfection at home and work is one more way we are failing mothers.

Newsflash: women don’t want to leave their jobs when they have children

It’s no wonder why 43% of talented women opt-out or offramp despite only 2% planning to leave the workforce after having children. Regrettably, women who’ve taken a career break often experience a crushing hit to long-term earnings resulting in delayed retirement.

On top of that, women who’ve taken a career break at their peak often relaunch at the exact time they begin to face age discrimination. Couple this with employers who fail to value their educational, professional, and life experience, and it’s no wonder relaunching is an uphill battle. One solution is to land flexible work with built-in development—like job sharing—to make up lost savings and career progression in less time.

female founders are reinventing work

Thankfully, female founders are leading the future of work solving business problems by empowering women to rise. Prowess Project jumpstarts careers by making re-entry simple for women returning from a career break. Candidates get training, hands-on support, and are matched with companies as remote freelancers. I was excited to sit down with the company’s founder and fellow Austinite Ashley Connell to learn more.


Ashley Connell, Prowess project

Work Muse: What motivated you to start the Prowess Project?

Ashley: I have twelve years of B2B tech marketing experience and founded a marketing consultancy after a decade in. First, I observed how difficult many of our clients, whether Fortune 500 companies or mom & pop shops, found executing and implementing their ideas. Secondly, while they were paying for my creative marketing skills, I fell into project facilitation services moving projects from inception to completion. As a business owner who had managed teams, I understood their pain; It’s very hard for people to think strategically and handle logistics—not to mention fire drills—concurrently.

I began chatting with business owners and team leads to find out how to solve this common problem. We discovered they needed a cross between a chief operating officer and a strong executive assistant. Someone to streamline projects and hold teams accountable. Thus, Prowess Project was born!

why women returners

Work Muse: Why did you choose women returning from a career break as the talent solution for small businesses?

Ashley: One simple stat just put me over the edge.  According to Harvard Business Review, when a woman takes off just 3 years to care for her children, she loses 37% of her total compensation power for the rest of her life. THIRTY-SEVEN PERCENT. I’ve worked hard to get where I am professionally and at thirty-two, I worry about how having children could impact my career. I could not get that statistic out of my mind. I did more research and discovered the only proven way to lessen it was contract work to shorten the gap on resumes. 

It sounds like a simple solution, but it’s not. It can be intimidating to jump into a contract role after being out of the professional world for years. There’s a confidence hurdle to overcome for those who’ve taken a career break. Due to this, I knew I wanted to provide a full-service solution for these women. One that gave them a community, training to upskill, and a less intimidating way to find a job. We match them with companies who can benefit from their fractional expertise.

My argument is, “You’ve been project managing a family of five for the past three years. ‘Girlfriend, you got this!’ “

Fractional Business managers & project managers

Work Muse: What are fractional business managers and project managers, and how does the Prowess Project develop and support the talent filling these roles?

Ashley: Got a project or role that you need to get done but don’t have the brain space to ensure that everyone is on the right track and organized? Our project managers help connect the dots on projects and existing processes while handling task management.  

Need a process created start-to-finish and someone to handle the execution? Our fractional business managers are experienced in operations. They typically have deep knowledge in a certain industry or discipline, like marketing, HR, or finance.

As for Prowess Project’s role, we find and vet the project managers and business managers. Candidates must complete over sixteen hours of coursework for certification on emotional intelligence, project management, and the latest technology. Once they pass our test, we match them with companies based on skill-set needed, timing and personality compatibility. On an ongoing basis, Prowess Project provides resources and continued education to further their professional “prowess.”

benefits to talent and businesses

Work Muse: What are the top benefits for talent and businesses working with Prowess Project?

Ashley: For talent, Prowess Project understands that starting is the hardest part for moms who’ve taken a career break. So we meet talent where they are. That’s why we provide resources and support them into the idea of going back to work. For businesses, Prowess Project provides vetted talent with fractional expertise who not only have subject matter knowledge but are trained in communication and team dynamics in order to best engage teams and get work done. In addition, fractional workforces reduce risk without a long-term commitment for businesses.

why sahms make great employees

Work Muse: What’s the disconnect companies have about stay-at-home parents and why should they take notice of them?

Ashley: Ha! I love this. Employers believe stay-at-home parents have ‘stopped working.’ But I’m willing to bet stay-at-home moms work ten times harder than the average business person. Sadly, we live in a world that puts “professional careers” on a pedestal.

I have moms that say to me, “Ashley, I can’t go back into the workforce, I don’t have any skills.”  My argument is, “Are you kidding me? You’ve been project managing a family of five for the past three years. And you don’t get to ‘unplug’ from that on the nights and weekends. Add ten years of professional experience before that. ‘Girlfriend, you got this!’ “


Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, a job share solutions firm. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse drives adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here –– events, resources, and relevant content to empower you in work and life! For more info, hello@workmuse.com.

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