How Organizations Can Champion Women in the Workplace Throughout the Entire Year
Women’s History Month may only be one month long, but Rocket is committed to championing gender equity throughout the entire year, infusing the lessons learned this March throughout all we do. We know that, while there have been many advancements to celebrate to date—particularly for women in the world of tech—there is still a lot of change that needs to happen to create workplaces where all members feel empowered to succeed.
This past International Women’s Day, I spoke with Sharra Owens-Schwartz, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Rocket Software, and Jess Von Bank, Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Leapgen, for a Women Leaders in Technology coffee talk on how organizations can fuel meaningful diversity and inclusion efforts year round. Watch the highlights here, then keep reading for Sharra and Jess’s advice and other key takeaways from our conversation.
- Consider where you could reinforce—or establish—support systems
The pandemic put a spotlight on the cracks of our current work models, underscoring how employers could do more to support their employees. Jess kicked off our conversation by pointing out that while men have largely rebounded from pandemic layoffs, women are still struggling to catch up. In part, this is because many women left the workforce to care for family members when other support systems like school and care facilities shut down. Righting the balance will require employers to help their colleagues find coverage in the absence of these systems.
Employers can take the onus off women to enact change by proactively inquiring about what kinds of accommodations they might need to excel in their roles. As Sharra puts it, the Great Resignation is an opportunity for business leaders to not only make change, but to genuinely listen to employees on what they need. Hybrid work models, for instance, are already helping working moms who now don’t need to take time off to pick up their kids from daycare. Now is the chance for employers to establish workplace infrastructures that genuinely support female professionals, accounting for needs that happen outside of the office.
- Be strategic with inclusion efforts
Many organizations prioritize checking the “diversity” box when hiring but fall short in then creating a work environment where those hires feel comfortable, let alone empowered to succeed. Sharra expands that inclusion needs to be strategic and intentional. Employers must consider how they can make a multitude of individuals, whether they are women or people of color, feel psychologically safe in their work environment. Put simply, only once people feel safe in their surroundings do they feel confident to voice their ideas and move business forward.
Employers must put in the work to create this environment before they can successfully hire diverse talent. Again, business leaders should reflect on how they’ve been operating historically and identify the opportunities for change. Do they provide equal access to growth opportunities within the company? Are they leading with empathy? A lot of considerations go into creating a psychologically safe workplace; Sharra shares the tactical steps employers can take on Rocket’s Digital: Disrupted podcast, including how even a company’s website can influence how prospective employees regard the brand. After you catch up on this coffee talk, be sure to download the episode.
- Champion your workforce
To make the biggest impact, diversity and inclusion efforts need to have everyone at the organization’s support behind them, as allies relieve the burden of constant self-advocacy. “Everybody can be an advocate and an ally,” says Jess.
Most importantly, women in the workplace need senior leadership’s support. Systemic change happens in conversations that marginalized individuals have typically been left out of, and while colleagues across the organization can be impactful allies, it’s up to the business’s decision makers to drive lasting change. Jess explains that these decision makers are the ones capable of setting the standard they will hold the business accountable to and defining what the commitment to change looks like for those across the company.
More than speaking up when something isn’t right, allies should work to proactively provide growth opportunities to those deserving of them. Is there someone on your team who is better suited for a role in a different department? Consider recommending them for that role; you might lose a direct report, but you’re helping that individual accomplish their professional goals and making sure their talent contributes to the organization in the strongest way possible. According to Sharra, championing coworkers “helps our teams and ultimately our organizations by bringing people’s names into rooms where they are not present.”
Rocket’s Women Leaders in Technology coffee talks will keep these conversations going throughout 2022 and beyond. To join in upcoming talks, read blogs and join our Women Leaders in Technology Community, visit Rocket’s website.