It’s a Win-Win: How Amplifying Women’s Voices Benefits Colleagues, Organizations, and Society
Kathleen Geraghty, Vice President of Sales North America, ToolsGroup, shares the insights she’s gained on her career journey and tactics for creating a connected and equitable work environment.
International Women’s Day began more than a century ago, and while the business playing field has improved, it’s still not balanced. There’s more we can do to level it, not just for the sake of women, but for the sake of everyone.
Harmony in the Workplace: The Good, the Bad, and the Getting Better
I was often the youngest and the only female at the table many years ago. Today, I smile quietly to myself when I walk into a meeting and the ratio is more balanced. Although I am still asking, is that enough?
Conversations with female professionals from my generation confirm that we did not always have power in numbers or the wisdom to seek one another out as sounding boards.
Instead, we believed that good work alone would level the playing field. Performance was table stakes, but it did not ensure a voice to shape the strategy or have a final vote in the decisions.
Over time, connections made and nurtured helped women collectively and individually find the formula that would change the dynamics.
A concerted effort to build networks is the new table stakes. More all-women networks are coming to the forefront. In my first all-female networking event, I was overwhelmed in the most positive way by the constructive energy and commitment to share knowledge, contacts, and advice with, in many cases, strangers that shared one goal – to be part of a community that will achieve balance and equality at work.
Collecting the perspective of women in the next generation was encouraging and enlightening. The starting position of young men and women I have spoken with affirms a more open and less biased mindset at work. That said, career paths (and career velocity) still have some catching up to do.
The make-up of the workforce is heading in the right direction, but in this moment, finding female candidates is critical, especially in high tech.
While HR and recruiters seek and present candidates, there is an underutilized avenue in many companies to contribute to the percentage of women in positions of influence. The ability to recommend women from our own networks is literally at our fingertips. We studied with one another, learned valuable lessons in our first couple of jobs out of school, and are ready for bigger roles and more responsibilities.
How often are we finding the time to look at our own job boards and connect the opportunity to a talented woman in our network?
Many companies, including ToolsGroup, have programs in place to reward employees that leverage their relationships to bring quality candidates forward. There isn’t anything new here – just another opportunity to match the velocity of our male counterparts.
Turn Up the Volume
Crowded inboxes, virtual meetings, and disruptions may be muting great ideas from all corners of the organization but especially from women. None of this intentional, it is just an unfortunate side effect of the frenzied state of business today.
Society hasn’t always encouraged or rewarded women for taking the microphone, presenting an unconventional idea, or ensuring that someone just finding her voice is not interrupted.
Today, I recognize this as my responsibility to the next generation, starting with my seven nieces and extending to the colleagues and women in my network.
The process of amplifying female voices is already underway, and it starts with women themselves. An encouraging insight from young women at work who are making their way to the table is the increasing frequency of other women (and men) clearing the airwaves to let a fresh idea be heard.
We should also recognize that good ideas sometimes need sponsorship to become reality. This is a little more challenging in our dispersed workplaces. An email holding a breakthrough thought can easily be overlooked. Without the casual opportunity to pitch this idea to someone in an elevator or over coffee that can help build support, it dies an early death.
So we have to consciously tune into voices that don’t shape the conference call agendas or have the last word. There is a personal and organizational responsibility to seek out the voices and turn up the volume.
Women in Stereo at Work: The ToolsGroup Women’s Network
The best companies make it easy for employees to make connections based on common ground while exploring the unique perspectives that flourish in a space designed to appreciate the whole person. They encourage a better understanding of each person’s contribution and energize the community as a whole, forging powerful, personal, and professional connections that lead to real world benefits.
This kind of progress starts with setting aside time with women (and all colleagues) to develop the channels to bring ideas forward. That is easier said than done, but we raise the bar one conversation at a time.
That’s why I was so excited to be a part of the ToolsGroup Women’s Network initiative.
I was already working with brilliant and committed women in a receptive culture. We just needed a little organizing to unleash the potential. The chance to do that with support from ToolsGroup is now.
Within days of a conversation with our CEO, a few women were connecting globally to create a mechanism to connect female colleagues and share ideas across regions. The shared goal is to find simple ways we can strengthen relationships, highlight work contributions, and attract the next generation of talent that walks into very diverse conference rooms.
These conversations are the foundation for those that will follow, expanding to include everyone and ensuring the best ideas have a voice.
4 Ways to Foster Connection that Contributes to Equality And Why It’s Important to Everyone
I’m no longer the youngest at the table, nor the only woman, but depending on the room, there’s still a lack of parity. Here are four concrete ways companies can ensure equitable advancement opportunities and a more inclusive work culture across the board.
- Create channels to connect employees. Using a new email distribution, Teams or Slack to make it easy for people with common interests to connect. ToolsGroup has started with a Women’s Network email and roundtable and is adding regional, functional, and common interest groups. This makes it easier to find camaraderie with colleagues with similar interests, creating a place to be heard at work.
- Shine a light on good work, especially for positions that are often behind the scenes. The power of recognition can be overlooked. ToolsGroup has a platform to give a “shout out” to colleagues and our CEO shares the good work observed every Friday through a broadcast email. We can’t let our busy calendars stand in the way of an earned compliment. Women and men at all levels can and should look for and highlight large and small contributions. These simple gestures build confidence that fuels another person to bring even bolder ideas tomorrow.
- Invite ideas from the quieter people at the table and make sure there are extra chairs. Women don’t need to replace men, but men and women must be at an expanding table. Guard against the tendency to talk over the younger, quieter voices. Be the colleague that politely intervenes when a colleague inadvertently cuts off or diminishes a contribution. ToolsGroup Women’s Network used a Google app (Jamboard) at their roundtable to ensure that everyone’s input to our first brainstorm was preserved. Make room for valuable ideas.
- Expand the hiring pool. Be deliberate about hiring from a diverse pool of candidates. All recruiting efforts should begin with the criteria to identify female and other minority groups as a first step. Encourage employees to find and introduce women from their network to consider applying for open positions. Expect the candidates to look and sound different and break the mold of look-alike candidates to build a high performing team to meet the diverse challenges ahead.
Together working women and their advocates can knock down barriers faster and in good company. Bringing more women into the conversation or the room changes the tone and discussion for the benefit of everyone.