Let's go ahead and get something out the way. What comes to mind when I ask you to conjure an image of the classic “private investigator?" If I had to guess, I'd say that you're thinking of a man, maybe in a trench coat, hiding in the bushes while peering through binoculars to spy on some sort of social deviant.
You're picturing that because that's how film, television and literature defined the profession for hundreds of years. In fact, until I became more familiar with the industry I couldn't name one female PI character. A little research reminded me of the female PI pioneer Nancy Drew, and then I learned how ahead-of-her-time author Sue Grafton was writing about Kinsey Millhone in 1982.
Like these strong females, I also seek to solve the world's problems. When I moved into the entrepreneurial world, I promised I would take with me the values I cherished as I advocated for the world's most vulnerable children at a large international child welfare organization. If I was going to start a company, my stipulations were clear: it must solve a meaningful need for an underserved population, and whatever we do we must do it better than anyone else.
Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew
In terms of diversity and inclusion, I promised to cast a wide net to build a talented, passionate and diverse team. How else could we truly create change without different perspectives informing our decisions and direction? I knew that's what it would take to make us scalable and able to do the most good.
As a mom of five, I'm constantly reckoning with the need to raise five mindful, conscientious and kind children and the need to just let them be kids. It's a daily struggle but we match it the only way we know how and that's by modeling behaviors that we want them to emulate when it's time for them to go out into the world.
With three young girls at home, I can't wait for their turn to change the world. Every day, strong women are fighting for their future. Our young kids might have no memory of a fight for equality among men and women. I believe it's thoughts like this that keep us women-focused.
If I zoom in on my corner of the world and take a close look at the intersection of tech and private investigation, I see a wave coming. With thousands of private investigators in our network at Trustify, we're seeing a surge in female PIs. Right now we're at nearly 20 percent female, but research indicates that will continue to rise. A male-dominated industry for hundreds of years, soon to be shattered by women!
Then again, should we really be that surprised? A woman's natural instincts are perfect for solving complex and deeply personal issues. Perhaps the most important trait an investigator can have is empathy. And research points to the fact that women simply are more empathetic than men. When people come to a private investigator for help, they're feeling desperate. They've usually tried everything and are searching for peace of mind. You need to understand what they're going through, see how hard it must be to walk in their shoes, and commit yourself restoring relief to them.
And let's not forget a woman's innate ability to read a room, listen for cues, look for signs and follow her intuition. I saw one of our PIs locate a family's mentally ill missing son on the West Coast who went missing in Florida. She had little to no clues or leads to work with from the outset. She traced a minimal paper trail, talked to everyone, questioned a feeling and followed her gut. Trustify's PIs will tell you that there's nothing more satisfying than closing the loop for a client, especially when you've witnessed their grief and heartache firsthand.
We've created a career choice that's gratifying and flexible for anyone, but especially working moms looking to stay in the workforce, make a difference and create their own schedule. We only ask our PIs to do what they're best at, investigating. We handle finding new clients, collecting payment and other administrative duties. In return, they save our clients from whatever problems they're facing and serve as the face of Trustify across the country.
When I set out to start a first-of-its-kind company, I wanted to build something incredible and to do that you need to build a first-class team. As we were putting our team together at our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, I wanted top talent with diverse backgrounds, and I wanted to look beyond the people in our existing circles whenever possible. My husband, who is my Co-Founder, and I had met and worked with remarkable people over the years, but I knew we needed to look in other circles to find the right people for the job.
You need to be intentional about hiring in order to break the cycle and be exposed to new people. In a perfect world, Trustify would represent every gender, color, religion, and outlook. We're not there yet but we're getting closer every day. Based on a recent employee disclosure survey, 70 percent of our team identifies as female and 40 percent of our team is a person of color.
If 70 percent female sounds homogenous, then I'll remind you that we're a data-driven organization and research shows that female-led businesses are more profitable. We intentionally target females because we're willing to take a bet that productivity will be higher, culture will be stronger, workplace tensions will be decreased and revenue will increase.
It's really quite simple, if you value the women in your workplace then promote them. Don't just talk about it, demonstrate it with your actions.
Want to attract more women? Then forgo the office beer pong table (that never actually gets used) and offer a space designed with women in mind, including nursing-mother rooms. At our headquarters, we've been recognized by the DC & Maryland Breastfeeding Coalitions for our commitment to supporting working moms. Tech awards are great, but the working mom in me felt like Meryl at the Oscars when we were presented with that Gold Star award. Career high, hands down.
As important as it is for companies to commit to growing their female workforce, it's also incumbent among women to support each other in the workplace. Women believed in me before I even proved myself to anyone. I believe in women and the power of true mentorship as I have benefitted from the generosity of women who shared their time and insights and nurtured my own career development.
Try as we might, sometimes you hire the right person but for the wrong job. As a business owner, what you do from that point makes all the difference. The two most valuable traits in an employee are diligence and commitment to excellence. If I've found that in someone, I'll work hard to hold on to them and find a place and a role for them within the company where they will thrive.
Like never before, women are on the rise. Time's up on letting men take the lead. It's exhilarating to be at the intersection of two male-dominated industries where women are making their moves, leading with their voice and transforming the way business was once done.
And on the days when it's hard to see how the world is improving and that we, as women, are finally breaking through established good ol' boys clubs, let Trustify's team be an example. We're just getting started, we're thousands of people strong and we've reshaped a profession that was once only run by older, white males. If only Nancy Drew could see us now!
WRITTEN BYJennifer Mellon