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Entrepreneur

Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach

The Women Making Companies More Flexible

Spend some time with Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach and you just might be ready to start your own business. The co-founders and co-CEOs of Werk—a tech start-up that puts flexibility insights and data into the hands of companies to help them work smarter—are passionate entrepreneurs whose strength and motivation are contagious. It’s no wonder their business is getting them press everywhere from The New York Times to Inc.

When did you realize what you wanted to do in your life?

Dean: “When I was little and my teachers would ask what I wanted to do with my life, my answer was always the same: ‘I’m going to run something.’ I always wanted to be a leader, whether it was on the lacrosse field or in my room, where I directed my friends to write book reports on National Geographic mail-order animal leaflets (yes, that really happened). I ended up going to law school, and then spent six years working on Wall Street as a corporate attorney representing institutional lenders in billions of dollars of transactions secured by real estate. It wasn’t until I met Anna (on a random phone call in 2015!) that I realized it was time to return to my childhood dream: I was ready to run something.”

What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

Auerbach and Dean: “Eighteen months after our first phone conversation, we had raised $4 million in two rounds of venture capital, which officially put us among 2,000 women to ever raise that much capital! We invested that money right back into our team, hiring the best and brightest talent and building a company set to change the way work looks—not just for women, but for everyone—forever. Not a day passes that we don’t think of all the trailblazers who came before us, the women who pressed forward breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings in a world that wasn’t designed for their success. Thanks to their sacrifices, we are able to realize our dreams today.”

What are you most grateful for?

Auerbach: “We are so grateful we’ve been able to rapidly advance the national conversation on flexibility since founding Werk two years ago. In the beginning, our solution didn’t make sense to companies. Companies thought flexibility was about working less or that it was a special accommodation for women. Through our research, content and tech solutions, we’ve helped companies understand that flexibility is about working better. By making flexibility an integral part of the modern workforce, we’ve helped to spark one of the biggest cultural shifts of the past century. As women, sometimes we’re reluctant to give ourselves credit. But we did this. Of course, we wouldn’t have gotten this far without our team of powerhouses. We get to work with the best and brightest every day, and I have to keep pinching myself to make sure it’s real.”

Dean: “Whenever things get tough, I go back and reread some of the emails we’ve received from individuals throughout the past couple of years. Individuals who’ve openly shared their flexibility stories. Individuals who’ve spoken up about flexibility at their own organizations. Individuals who’ve told their bosses about our company and the important work we’re doing. I’ll never stop being grateful for their support.”

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