Forget Lean In.

Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead never sat well with me. Sure it was a massive best seller. And at the time, Sandberg was the most admired and most famous woman in tech, and one of the most powerful in American business. Back then, Facebook was well loved and Lean In became a bit of a manifesto for working women.

In Lean In, Sandberg suggests (among other things) that women are leaving the traditional workforce to have children too soon, that female leaders need to simply be more confident, and women should help each other succeed. Lean In circles became a thing. And it felt, to me, like a whole generation of new graduates were being brainwashed into thinking that the problem with inequality had nothing to do with men. Worse, the message of Lean In seemed to be that women needed to act more like men to get ahead.

I had just had my second child and speaking out against the Lean In phenomenon while working for myself didn’t feel right. Having long left the corporate world (was I ever really properly in it?!), I knew I wasn’t Sandberg’s intended audience. But my gut told me Lean In was flat out wrong.

Sandberg’s belief that most companies are benevolent and that the world was meritocratic didn’t align with the world as I knew it. And the message that that women and their self-doubt was the real problem? B*#%sh$@. I’ve always thought that the real problem was the bro-culture. Over-confident, shamelessly self-promoting bro-culture — which led to catastrophic problems at Enron and led to the financial crisis of 2008. And to the withdrawn IPO of WeWork.

And what about women’s strengths? Our ability to connect with people. Our preference (whether natural or nurtured) for consensus building. Our instinct for taking responsibility. Couldn’t our strengths be harnessed to help us all get ahead, without losing ourselves? What about discussing how insecure men are intimidated by smart women (and the side effects of that cultural problem)?

Or as Tina Brown wrote in the NYTimes, “Salvation doesn’t lie in pursuing traditional male paths of ejaculatory self-elevation. In drawing on women’s wisdom without apology and pushing that wisdom forward into positions of power, we can soothe our world and, maybe, even save it.”

Sure Lean In had some insights — I’m not arguing that it didn’t. Yes, women should advocate for themselves (at work and at home). Yes, women should champion their own projects and ideas. Yes, women should negotiate for better salaries and benefits — and do so unapologetically. And yes, for certain women in certain corporate cultures, I’m sure Lean In is inspiring and effective.

But on a whole, it’s a load of crap. It doesn’t work for single mothers, as the premise of Lean In requires supportive, high-earning husbands. It doesn’t work for women of color, who face additional hurdles / challenges. It doesn’t make space for women who have interests outside of work and kids. Even former fan girls have been abandoning the movement and some scientists have started to argue that Leaning In leads to dsyfunctional leadership.

In fact, one of the main findings of the 2018 Women in the Workplace study, produced by McKinsey & Co. and, was that Leaning In is not the problem. Women had already been leaning in! Women have made clear their desire to advance in the workplace and to achieve gender equality.

It is up to companies to step up.

In the meantime, I’m grateful that Melinda Gates is pouring her time and energy into women’s equality via Equality Can’t Wait (not to mention investing $1 Billion in solving this issue). And until we get to gender equality (both in and out of the workplace), project-based work is a viable alternative for women who want a meaningful, challenging career but also want more out of life. In the long-term, I believe project-based work will continue to be a path to career success and work-life fit, even after companies implement changes to advance more women.

Maybe I’m just being naive, but I’m feeling confident that I’ll see gender equality in my lifetime. After all, the Women in the Workplace report (and many other reports) have clearly presented the business case for diversity. Having women leaders is good for business, good for the economic bottom line.

So throw Lean In out the window. Find your strength. Carve your own path to a fulfilling and successful career.

And let me know what you think we can (and should) be doing today to solve the problem Lean In intended to solve — gender equality in the workplace.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

What is FlexTeam?

We’ve been working on FlexTeam for nearly four years now, and sometimes it still feels like friends don’t understand what FlexTeam is.

Hopefully this will clear things up.

Here’s what FlexTeam is not.

FlexTeam is not a job board.

We are not like a women’s job board like PowerToFly, The Mom Project, Inkwell Talent, or Après. Nor are we like (a job board for remote jobs) or like (an aggregator of legitimate jobs with some form of flexibility such as telecommuting, part-time or flextime schedules, or freelance contracts). We do have independent consultants, working as 1099 contractors, available for work. However the work is almost always project-based, remote, and flexible. And more importantly, the workers don’t work directly for the companies; our members work as contractors to FlexTeam, on highly specific projects for our clients.

FlexTeam is not a staffing or recruiting agency.

We are not Corps Team (formerly Mom Corps),, Prokanga, or The Second Shift (Though like Second Shift, FlexTeam membership approval depends on completing a rigorous onboarding and vetting process.) These are mostly staffing or recruiting agencies for full-time jobs. Some of these sites have some project-based work opportunities but most are still focused on traditional employment. Moreover, FlexTeam members aren’t charged fees to gain access to projects. And again, the difference is also that FlexTeam manages the projects for both the clients and the consultants.

FlexTeam is not a marketplace.

We love marketplaces. We are frequent users of Lyft and Uber. But we are not like Catalant or Graphite (formerly SpareHire). Our consultants don’t bid on projects or write proposals, and our clients rarely scope out their own projects. Clients tell us their needs via email, phone calls, or our mobile app and FlexTeam sends back a clearly defined scope of work with pricing (and when approriate, also, hours estimates). While clients are reviewing the scope, we reach out to FlexTeam members who are a match for the scope so that we can start the project upon client approval. FlexTeam’s matching algorithm select consultants for projects that align with their particular skills and past experiences.

FlexTeam is not a provider of or a connector for returnships.

Returnships are an important path for women returning to full-time work. And we are fans of iRelaunch and Path Forward. And there are more and more companies focusing on matching women to returnships (OnRamp Fellowship, for example).

And oftentimes our consultants work for us for a short period before finding a full-time job in the traditional workforce. We love to see that happen! But we don’t have partnerships with companies to provide a clear path back to the traditional workforce. We are leading the way to create an alternative to working in traditional jobs.

FlexTeam’s focus isn’t covering maternity leaves.

Again, we aren’t a recruiting agency and we certainly aren’t focused on the niche of parental leave coverages. That said, I was disappointed to hear that Emissaries shut down in January. It was a unique business model and I hope someone else can make it financially viable.

FlexTeam’s focus isn’t retraining or reskilling.

It’s true we’ve done some training sessions for our existing consultants. And our consultants gain and refine their skills through our projects. And some consultants specifically choose to work with FlexTeam to gain experience on projects or industries outside of their skillset.

But that isn’t our business model. There are plenty of other options for highly educated women who want retraining / reskilling (reacHIRE and Reboot Accel, for example). And, by the way, there are tons of options for people in general who want to gain new skills (Coursera, EdX, Udemy, Skillcrush, and many others). As an aside, I love taking classes and gaining new skills (and I’ve found that women who are lifelong learners are better suited for working with FlexTeam).

FlexTeam does not teach companies how to provide flexibility for their existing employees.

While this is certainly an example of work that FlexTeam might do (helping a company assess their current policies and making recommendations), this is not the core of work FlexTeam does. Werk “provides flexibility insights and data into the hands of companies to help them work smarter.” That is not our core business.

So we’ve covered what FlexTeam is not.

So what is FlexTeam and how does FlexTeam work?

FlexTeam is a trusted network of executive-level women working in teams on project-based work to enable business leaders to accomplish more. (Some other phrases we’ve used to describe ourselves include: Brainpower without boundaries; Brainpower beyond your time, knowledge, and resource constraints; and Your time is valuable.)

We are a mission-based micro consulting firm whose most requested projects are competitor / market research; financial models / analysis; and business strategy. We also do investor decks. Our clients are mostly US based companies of all sizes and across all industries and sectors.

Our independent consultants are highly accomplished and highly educated women who have left the traditional workforce for a variety of reasons (often to spend more time with their young children, or to care for their elderly parents, or simply to live life more fully).

We were founded in 2015 by three MIT alumnae (that’s three female MIT alums) on a mission to create a #NewPlayingField for our colleagues and women everywhere. We believe everyone deserves #WorkLifeFit and we are also the team behind Liquid.

How does FlexTeam work?

Good question. FlexTeam provides clients with a scope with clear deliverables and pricing, after understanding clients’ needs. As I mentioned above, clients convey their needs to FlexTeam via email, phone calls, or our mobile app. The scope usually also includes estimates for time and an agreement on when the work product will be delivered to the client.

In parallel with defining the project with the client, our matching algorithm identifies the best FlexTeam member(s) to do the work and we reconfirm their availability (so that we are able to quickly start on the project once the client agrees to the scope). On occasion (when clients have very specific needs), we go out and recruit consultants for projects.

Unlike a marketplace, the client does not select particular consultants, nor are FlexTeam members bidding on projects. (In fact, as a general rule, we don’t share the names or background of our consultants with our clients prior to scope approval.) This allows FlexTeam members to focus on challenging, interesting, and paid work instead of spending time doing business development or writing proposals or bids.

We believe that time is valuable, that it is the most precious resource we have. So our projects help our clients maximize the value of their time, and our processes are aimed at making efficient use of our clients’ time and consultants’ time.

Clients find that working with FlexTeam allows them to focus on higher level tasks that demand their attention, freeing them up to do work that is both personally interesting & socially meaningful. Working with us allows clients to focus on the bigger picture, accelerating growth and impact.

What’s so special about FlexTeam’s consultants?

First of all, our consultants (mostly MIT alums) complete a rigorous onboarding and vetting process before becoming eligible to work on projects. We’ve found that soft skills are highly correlated to success with FlexTeam and our onboarding process reflects that. The onboarding process makes note of each consultant’s core competencies and skills, experience in different industries and company sizes, and experience working in startups. But it also looks for evidence of computational thinking and excellent writing skills. And it looks for evidence of “soft skills” like grit, resilience, persistence, being a good listener, empathy, a desire to learn, a cooperative attitude, resourcefulness, kindness, a “always do your best” attitude, optimism, ability to deal with difficult personalities, and more.

Morever, as I’ve written previously, project-based workers often bring skills and experiences from a range of challenging roles, often across many industries. This is true of FlexTeam members, many of whom have previously held C-suite positions. We are alums of McKinsey, A.T. Kearney, J.P. Morgan, Bain, BCG, Google, Disney, Nike, and many other distinguished companies. But we are also seasoned builders and operators of start-ups and many are also experienced angel investors.

Oftentimes, project-based workers have the ability to see innovation as a part of their working method rather than just a buzzword. This, too, is true of FlexTeam’s consultants. We have honed the ability to make sense of uncertainty and complex ideas, developed flexibility, and are experts in how to communicate new ideas and roll them out quickly. And we find satisfaction in working on challenging projects for companies with compelling stories or business problems.

In short, the insights FlexTeam provides are often worth far more than the hourly, daily, monthly, or project-based rates charged.

Our consultants aren’t just highly educated women with deep expertise in their fields across many industries. We are world travelers. We are mamas. We are philanthropists. We are investors. We are lifelong learners. We are doers. We care about making the world a better place and we’re here to help you make your impact on the world.

What’s the deal with the proprietary software?

As we’ve grown FlexTeam, we built software to manage clients, projects, and consultants (including onboarding, invoicing, receivables, and payments). We also built an iOS app for client productivity that integrates our software and allows clients to turn to do list items into projects to be completed by FlexTeam (by the way, look out for a new website soon!).

We have spun out the software into a separate company Liquid, which (from our own experience) solves a lot of pain points for working with freelancers and agencies. In addition, the original FlexTeam software may be available in a white labeled version soon.

Hope that leaves you with a clear sense of what FlexTeam is. Got questions? Let me know!

Co-founders of FlexTeam celebrating our alma mater — MIT

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.