Source: Whitney Herrington / KITH REPUBLIC
I don’t know about you, but there have definitely been times over the course of my career when I felt like I was getting the run around by Human Resources (HR) and/or that my concerns weren’t be taking seriously. In other cases, I didn’t feel like I was actually listened to, and more importantly, heard, let alone understood. In asking around among my colleagues, I found that my negative experiences were unfortunately extremely common, most especially with my fellow female colleagues of color. The question then becomes, how can you take advantage of the full benefits of services provided by HR when you can’t access or don’t receive proper treatment when reaching out to the very office that is supposed to serve you? That is where Whitney Herrington, CEO and founder of the Kith Republic app comes in. I had the pleasure of asking her some questions about the Kith Republic app and what sparked her inspiration for creating it. However, before we dive into that, we should know what the app is for, am I right? The application’s LinkedIn page states that “Kith Republic is a real-time chat app that focuses on helping women navigating complex career challenges. Whether it’s sexual harassment in the workplace or how to get a raise, Kith connects women to HR professionals committed to professional success.”
After understanding what the app was all about, I wondered if Ms. Herrington had experienced some of the same negative experiences I, along with my peers, had encountered with HR. When asked what sparked the idea, she replied that anytime someone – family, friends, friends of friends, etc. – learned that she worked in HR, they would ask if they could get advice on something they were facing at work. She said it could be anything from, “My job is trying to fire me and I think it’s racially motivated. What can I do?” to “What questions should I ask in my interview?” or “How can I get a promotion or a new role?”
“I realized that people are always seeking advice for how to handle things at work, but not everyone has a ‘Whitney’ to ask,” she says. “So, I wanted to create a platform that would give every woman a ‘Whitney’ or an experienced HR professional who can give them the “real” and help them figure things out at work.”
Since Black women are disproportionately mistreated and misunderstood in the workplace
, how does the Kith Republic app help Black women specifically? Herrington told me that “while there’s been a ton of research that shows Black women have it the toughest of any other demographic in the workplace, if you’re a Black woman, you don’t need data to tell you that. Considering several factors including Black women are more likely to be the ‘only’ at work, Black women face the bulk of microaggressions and overt, blatant discrimination, and that Black women rarely receive sponsorship or mentorship, Kith Republic is one of the only places where Black women can get critical advice and guidance to help them navigate the very hostile workplaces they experience in a safe and welcoming space.”
When she said that, I wanted to know how much the app cost, because you can’t put a premium on that type of access to HR professionals and 24-hour support.
“For a small $9 fee, women receive direct, text-based interaction with an experienced HR coach to help them with any HR or career-related issue they are facing,” she says. “Additionally, all of the user’s past sessions are saved to make it easy to refer to while you’re implementing in real-time.”
As for how Herrington made the jump from the non-profit and for-profit sectors into technology, which ultimately led her to create the Kith Republic app, she said it came from a desire to protect employees who look like her.
“Honestly, there was never really a ‘plan’ to transition into technology. I love HR, regardless of the sector, but wanted to find a way to transition my expertise from protecting the companies I worked for, to becoming an employee advocate,” she says. “Technology provided the vehicle to make it more widely accessible. So, I learned on my own – through lots of Google searches and talking with a lot of folks – how to build an app in service of that goal. And now, here I am. I am also still doing my part to implement real change at an institutional level, including consulting with non-profit organizations seeking to transform their HR departments to be more employee-centric.”
With someone like Ms. Herrington who has a wealth of knowledge out here advocating for Black women to win, I was curious about what other words of advice or comfort she might offer to those of us who are struggling at work right now. Her words really resonated.
“Protect your peace, by any means necessary, including leaving a job that doesn’t serve you well. Never feel guilty for doing so,” she says. “I know that we all have to make money, but our mental health can take a huge toll on our ability to do that effectively. Don’t just settle for a job that pays you if they don’t respect you or treat you like a valuable member of the company. Keep searching for that opportunity that feels good until you find it.”
You can download the Kith Republic app through the Apple store. Follow the app on Instagram @kithrepublic.