Believing that every woman has the power to transform her life, Rung for Women offers resources, space and community for women who are ready to work toward the career and the life they deserve.
The mission is simple, but the execution of helping women climb above their current situations is a passionate endeavor by the Rung team, each of whom is committed to the success of Rung members.
The idea of supporting women beyond surviving to thriving had humble beginnings in 2010 when Ali Hogan, founder and chairwoman, opened a nonprofit resale shop to help women dress for the jobs they wanted. “Growing up in the family that founded Enterprise (Holdings), I dressed up from a young age and knew about workplace dress codes. It’s really expensive (to dress well for work), so I wanted to offer a place for women to find affordable clothes for the jobs they wanted. It evolved over the years.
“Essentially, I was trying to bring women together in an uplifting atmosphere. We started hosting some events with transitional housing organizations in St. Louis, and I kept hearing, ‘I’m out of my situation (of homelessness, abuse or other) and I’m stable now, but I don’t know what my next step is.’”
Hogan began researching “what women need to move up to the next rung on the ladder, if you will, and what would give them sustainable independence and help them teach their children about hard work and success.”
And in 2017, Rung was born “as a place where we’re not just helping women get jobs. We’re offering coaching, therapy, and wellness and financial education, all in one place.” Leslie Gill, president, adds that “we began designing our program (in 2017) and welcomed our first class of members in March 2021.”
The women took their time to do things right instead of quickly. They created an intentional design model around collaboration, drawing on “an abundance of amazing nonprofits in the St. Louis area” that could provide a complete range of resources, working directly with Rung members in partnership with the organization.
“We didn’t want to be just another nonprofit,” Gill said. “We wanted to leverage existing assets to bring people together. All our support services are provided by our nonprofit service providers who are experts in their fields. Rung is responsible for the outcomes around getting women into jobs that pay a sustainable wage for a family.”
So who are the women who make up the members of the Rung community? “They’re from all different situations,” Gill says. “We work with women who want to grow in their current careers, but keep getting stuck or overlooked for promotions, all the way to women who are interested in a career change. We meet women where they are and design an individual action plan to help them achieve their goals.”
The women who make up the Rung member classes commit to a six-month program where they work with a coach to define their career goals as well as wealth-building and well-being. Along with building a community of support among members, each woman commits to completing her individualized path, which may take an additional six to 18 months and includes career services and personal development opportunities.
Classes range in size from 100–120, allowing the women to bond with one another and create their own community, Hogan says. “Even though they’re all going to end up in different places, they’re starting together, just like a college class. We’ve found this to be one of the favorite things among members – just meeting other women who may be in the same situation, but all of whom are supportive of each other. And that helps them gain confidence and a sense of security.”
In 2018, Rung became a client of Insperity, going through the journey with Rung as it grew from three employees to its current team of 33. Services used range the gamut from performance management to payroll to HR advice and support.
“It has been a pretty magical relationship for our organization. Having someone on the other end of a phone to answer your questions and help navigate complex HR problems has allowed us to grow seamlessly and given us the bandwidth to focus on other things,” Gill says.
Tyson Heisner, Insperity district manager, shared that he is a fan of Rung and, “their vision for positioning women to pursue their dreams as equal wage earners, entrepreneurs and leaders in the community is a perfect reflection of the Insperity mission to help businesses thrive so communities prosper.
“Rung is a powerful force in our community. They know that to make a lasting change, women must do that for themselves, and that is making a positive impact.”
The passion for Rung’s work is a personal one born from life experience for both Hogan and Gill, and the honor of being named Community Hero was humbling to both “when we realized that even at our stage, we’re making an impact,” Hogan says. “We’re so new that it was a surprise that someone not from the St. Louis community was recognizing a pilot nonprofit.
“We’re very clear with our employees that we can’t do this work without them, and this recognition is an opportunity to show them that Rung’s success is because of them. Working in nonprofit is hard and exhausting, and recognition helps you know you’re on the right track.”
Gill adds, “Any recognition of your work is meaningful, particularly when you’re recognized by another industry. It’s really a validation that people are paying attention to the work we do, and it’s very rewarding to receive that honor.”
“And I love how seriously Insperity takes this program,” Hogan says. “It’s not just ‘here you go, and we’re giving you a placard and an attaboy.’ This really means something.”
The $5,000 charitable contribution from Insperity that Rung receives as a Community Hero will help offset general operating expenses and program costs – particularly meaningful when you realize that the average cost per member for the Rung program is $24,000, and members do not pay for any of it. That is help that transcends the support Rung offers to women of St. Louis.