Women Forward: Local heathcare worker creates career catalyst program

Dr. Jill Vanak is a local healthcare worker and a budding entrepreneur. Her side hustle is all about helping women whose careers were impacted by the pandemic, and navigate a workforce that's dominated by men.

"I initially started this during the pandemic, at the height of it, as a little beta test. A mini project," said Vanak.

It was a passion project conceptualized in lockdown, and now it's a booming side business. Her career catalyst program has a waitlist of women looking for career guidance.

"I'm blown away by the success that it's become, but it's made me only double down more that women are responding. It just tells me that this is so needed," she said.

Working from her home office, Vanak says the goal is to educate, embolden and empower women to take charge of charting the careers.

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"Women are really coming to me at different stages. A lot are reprioritizing their lives," she said.

"I not only take women through a job search, I take them through career pivots as well and really build a foundation to set them up to start climbing those corporate ladder rings."

Vanak is a scientist and research practitioner for a pharmaceutical company based in Montgomery County. While she's been fortunate to avoid the mass exodus of women leaving the workforce during the pandemic, she couldn't help but notice that many are not.

As of last month, some 2.5 million women have dropped out of the labor force since last March. The shuttering of small businesses and increased child care issues are factors.

Vanak says the pandemic has set women back a generation.

"It's a crisis that women are losing their jobs at a hugely disproportionate rate."

At the moment, Vanak is juggling 15 clients in between two other jobs, but is hoping to reach more of her female peers on a growing virtual platform.

The endgame is to make them more competitive in a workforce that's currently seeing fewer and fewer women.

"The biggest thing we could do right this second is to support other women and to continue to stay in the workforce and climb that corporate ladder, and then really give this education, these skill sets, tangible resources to the women who need them who are going to re-enter the workforce," she said.

"Let's make sure there's a place for them, and let's make sure they're ready."
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