Serial entrepreneur applies lessons learned after Hurricane Harvey and creates high-performance workwear for women
SeeHerWork, a new apparel company launching mid-September with pre-orders available August 1st, aims to put female workers in clothes that fit and perform. The number of women in non-traditional careers, such as construction, energy, utilities, logging and emergency response is on the rise, according to US Labor Statistics. The need for protective clothing and equipment is greater than ever. According to a data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 150 women per year lose their lives to work activities that can be prevented through properly fitting personal protective clothing and equipment.
“We want to empower working women,” says Jane Henry, founder of SeeHerWork. The seeds of the company were sown in the wake of the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to Houston, Henry’s native city. Like many in her community, Henry — literally — lost everything in the storm, from her house, and most of its contents, to her cars.
In the hurricane’s aftermath, she served as general contractor on her house, helped by volunteers of both genders, until her insurance money arrived four months post-devastation. Henry immediately noticed a huge gap — there were no well-designed, well-fitting work clothes for women. Gloves did not fit. Work pants were made of yoga material and tore easily. Overalls, designed for men, required women to undress almost entirely when they took bathroom breaks. Researching the issue, Henry found that tradeswomen all said the same thing — “It doesn’t fit.” Safety was a huge concern with extra material flopping around and putting the women at risk of getting caught in machinery. So was performance. The root of the problem: while there is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) “expectation” for fit, there are no required ANSI tests to ensure compliance.
Then an MBA student at Rice University, Henry convened over fifty focus groups, from market segments such as construction, emergency response, food service and military. The results were unanimous. “All these ladies needed basic stuff,” she says, from tops that close higher to protect against dust and debris falling into their undergarments, to kit bags that would allow females to quickly change roles from field worker to office worker to mom with a “grab and go” approach to organization. “Clothing and equipment matter.” Henry hired a product designer and got to work. Fit and ability to perform were their highest priority.
SeeHerWork’s line includes just about everything an industrial woman would need, from eye protection to tool belts. Clothing options include the basics to high visibility, with vibrant colors and reflective materials. It is also lightweight with moisture absorption, so it can layer for shifting climate conditions. “We are sticking to the standard and making it highly effective from a fit and performance perspective,” Henry says. “Most of the women say that they are tired of ‘pink it and shrink it’! They want to perform.” And these products do. Gloves fit the female hand and close tightly around female wrists. A sleeveless work shirt called a ‘Modified UNI’ perfectly fits the female form.
SeeHerWork is currently seeking companies with existing programs promoting women in the workplace to help create the necessary industrywide changes. Products are scheduled to launch in September officially. Samples will be ready in the 4th quarter 2018 for deliveries with subsequent quarterly new product releases to cover the remaining gaps in the market.
SeeHerWork designs, manufactures and sells workwear, safety equipment, and other job-specific products to help women in commercial and industrial careers stay safe and aid them in performing at their highest level. Most options available for women today are for men. Items that work for both genders are rare, yet women need properly fitted clothing and equipment to be safe. Besides protecting them from hazards, well-fitting products inspire greater confidence, allowing women to feel strong and unrestrained while performing day-to-day job duties. For more information please visit: https://seeherwork.com