Michele Laza has been at the forefront of recruitment for two decades and currently serves as the Founder and CEO of Work Wider. In the course of her career, she grew increasingly frustrated by the systemic challenges faced by many underrepresented communities in securing employment and growing their careers. She also experienced first hand the value a company realizes when employees can bring their full selves to work. To address the issue head on, she founded Work Wider, an inclusively diverse professional community, convening the workforce needed by the workplaces of today.
Michele is passionate about deploying recruiting processes that foster diversity and inclusion. Well before founding Work Wider, a keen interest in innovative strategies led Michele to develop the ground-breaking online blind selection process for entry level talent work at Ketchum called LaunchPad that was featured in Fast Company.
Michele’s background allowed her to understand the diversity challenge from both the candidate and the company perspectives. With Work Wider, she is bringing both sides to the table and bridging the gap that helps underrepresented talent find opportunities and grow their careers and for companies to successfully build a workforce reflecting true representation.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
Raised in LA, I now call Oakland home, where I live with my husband, two brilliant daughters, and my two beloved cats (I'm a full on crazy cat lady).
My journey into corporate America wasn’t linear. I dabbled in several careers before finally finishing my degree in my late 20’s and entering the corporate world. My twenty year old self would never have guessed that I would spend the majority of my career running HR and Talent acquisition for one company (Ketchum Communications) and certainly wouldn’t have fathomed that I’d have a start-up in me at 50. Yet, a little over two years into the official launch of Work Wider, I left my fulltime job and am working full time on Work Wider.
Work Wider officially launched in January 2020 with the mission of helping make diverse teams a reality and the work world more inclusive. We are an inclusively diverse professional community, bringing together the workforce needed by the workplaces of today.
Whether you’re looking for a career at a company committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) or a professional community where you can be your authentic self, Work Wider is the place for you. We have content, resources, and services to support your career journey.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Work Wider?
I like to say I’m the spark of Work Wider, but by no means am I building this alone. So many amazing humans have contributed to creating this company. The concept of Work Wider came out of the fact that I was tired of begging other companies to come up with a way for organizations to find, engage with, and hire all underrepresented talent on one platform. More importantly, Work Wider helps underrepresented talent be sure they are engaging with and considering opportunities at companies truly committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion. All companies on Work Wider have signed the Work Wider pledge and are committed to creating cultures of belonging. Work Wider is unique in that it allows members to align themselves with their communities and their industries, while enabling companies to convey their brand, culture, and jobs to the targeted groups they specifically want to reach.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your firm?
I’ve definitely tapped into the network I have built over the last 20 years in the talent acquisition space. The reality is that most companies now understand the importance of having a diverse workforce. Diversity is not a nice to have, it is a business imperative. Because of this, we now have companies proactively seeking out Work Wider which is exciting. Additionally, our member base is growing everyday. Check us out!
Q: What are your goals for the future?
I hope that one day there is no need for Work Wider, or at least a need for us to focus on underrepresented communities. My wish is that the work world starts to Work Wider, that all underrepresented communities (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, People with Disabilities, Neuro Differences, Veterans, Women, and 50+) are adequately represented in all industries at all levels of the organization.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
Such a hard question, so many potential answers! I’m going to leave this one at, I’ve overcome some obstacles in life as have many other women, who like me are over fifty with a neuro difference!
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
I recently read that only about 2% of funding goes to female founders. That has to change. So my advice to female founders is just do it! Go for it. Work Wider is truly the hardest, most challenging, and time intensive thing I’ve ever done (aside from parenting :)) and I’m so glad I’m doing both! The rewards to Work Wider and parenting are profound. I’ve grown in countless ways. I’m a better human for having done both jobs.