By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Werk is Sri Lanka’s first online professional network dedicated solely to women, created to connect a mix of entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, creators, and influencers. It is set to launch on 15 February from 3.30 p.m.-6 p.m. at Hatch Works, No. 14, Sir Baron Jayatilaka Mawatha, Colombo.
Werk, which is also an app, will be a large online community for females professionals, creating a space and the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with other women.
We spoke to Yusra Aziz-Eliyas – the Founder of Podi Jobs, one of Sri Lanka’s largest communities for freelancers – who founded Werk together with Amrit Rupasinghe of Click.
Yusra shared that she and Amrit, having been in the tech space for some time now, observed that women often tend to be ignored, be it at a pitch, meeting, or a WhatsApp group of tech personalities.
“Tech, especially, is a boys’ club and so it’s hard for a woman to break into. However, while discussing this matter, we soon realised that even within other industries, we have no idea what other women are doing.
“There is a disconnect between the corporates and entrepreneurs; these two do not mix and meet to exchange tips with each other.”
The app was initially set to launch in April last year, but due to the tragic circumstances of the Easter Sunday attacks, they chose to push forward the event and are now set to go ahead with the project this year.
About the app/platform
Talking about the app, Yusra said: “Think LinkedIn and Facebook groups.” The space will have women from all professions, ranging from home baking to start-ups, and the platform will not only provide a space to share what’s new with your work, but will also offer its members various perks, which are courtesy of the organisations that have partnered with Werk to provide members with numerous discount codes and other opportunities.
An interesting feature of the platform is the real-time chat option which is essentially a mass group chat which will allow women from any and all fields to market themselves, network, and share their knowledge and experiences.
Currently, members undergo a vetting process carried out by Yusra and Amrit themselves and each lady is made a member after being vetted. This is done because the founders wish to maintain the value of the group for its members by taking great care on as to who is allowed into the community.
The community currently has around 320 members, and according to Yusra, they started with just 100 ladies who they had to pretty much chase down. The community has grown since.
The organisers of the launch event have gone to great lengths to present a fresh take on the launch, allowing for more free-flowing interactive sessions as opposed to panels, especially considering that many of the invitees are ladies who often sit on panels on the regular. They wish to stay away from the superficial nature of most meet-ups and networking events.
Yusra also shared that she hopes they would be able to bypass the traditional “how did you get started” questions and really get down to it and talk about people’s journeys in their professions, and discuss the steps taken to tackle obstacles they faced in getting to where they are now currently.
She believes that Werk will offer support for professional women and would hopefully be a place they call home.
“It’s never been done before, there is no place for women in Sri Lanka to learn from each other,” she said. The founders are hopeful that while it may take some time to familiarise oneself with the platform and tech layout, it will be beneficial to Sri Lankan ladies in the long run.
The only rules of court are to stick to business and be respectful. The app will be accepting Lankan ladies residing in Sri Lanka and also Lankan women employed abroad and diplomats engaging in activities within Sri Lanka.
The organisers also hope to gather valuable feedback from the attendees with regards to further improvements they can make for Werk.
3.30 p.m. – Registration
4 p.m. – Welcome note
4.15 p.m. – Member benefits and app demonstration
4.30 p.m. – Never have I ever
4.50 p.m. – “SMARTUP” session
5.15 p.m. – Community growth brainstorm session
5.30 p.m. – Nibbles and networking
Free professional headshots taken at the event
Guest list – 103 guests attending
Women are constantly asked how they maintain their work-life balance. Yusra said they hope to change this narrative and give this question fresh angle.
Finally, Yusra said: “Amrit and I believe that while other countries have their movements in female empowerment, Sri Lanka has somewhat been lost in the fray and we hope that this may contribute in some way to getting women talking.
“We want to see powerhouse women working together, shattering glass ceilings, and inspiring the next generation.”
The movement just started and the app is live right now.
visit the WERK website for more information – https://www.werk.community/