How We Can Reach True Global Gender Parity Together — Actionable Advice From Galvanize 2022

Sponsored by Fairygodboss Inc.

Image showing screenshots of Galvanize speakers.

Image showing screenshots of Galvanize speakers.

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Caty Fairclough31
Marketing and Content Manager at Fairygodboss
May 20, 2024 at 3:50AM UTC

According to the World Economic Forum, we’re still 132 years away from true global gender parity. If you find this timeline unacceptable — you’re not alone. We at Fairygodboss want to help reduce this number, and that’s where Galvanize (and you!) come in.

Galvanize by Fairygodboss is the leading summit designed to convene leaders of employee resource groups (ERGs), executives, diversity leaders, talent leaders, and allies to discuss how — together — we can accelerate the path to gender equality in the workplace. And, in Galvanize’s sixth year, we expanded our focus to also discuss how promoting allyship and intersectional identities can benefit and connect all ERG leaders.

Read on for some highlights from this event — from inspirational stories to actionable advice that you can use to help us achieve gender parity in our own workplaces and across the entire world of work. 

How ERG members can help achieve gender parity while prioritizing their own professional and personal needs, too.

Figuring out how to make your ERG not only a welcoming place for members, but also an impactful and powerful part of your organization is not an easy task. However, Jocelyn Williams, the Director of DEI at Raytheon Intelligence and Space, Raytheon Technologies, is here to help. During Galvanize, she shared three key pieces of advice to help your ERG succeed while supporting members: 

  1. Leadership acknowledgement.

    • “There’s always an opportunity to recognize the tireless effort of our ERGs,” shares Williams. You can achieve this in a variety of ways, such as creating opportunities for ERG leaders, advertising their events, empowering them, viewing ERG participation as leadership experience for their day-to-day job, and intentionally calling out ERG membership during performance reviews.

  2. Engagement.

    • Don’t leave anyone behind and enhance engagement by making sure your mission and connectivity are aligned.

  3. Allyship.

    • Be unabashed about who you go to for help, Williams tells us. “Present your case, then you will find people who support you, who will show up as allies — when they didn't even know they were allies for you.”

Beyond this, as an ERG leader, remember that “you stay in the fight,” Williams implores. The work you do matters. “People will forget your name, but they won’t forget your story,” she elaborates. You may get tired, but don’t give up. Start pulling in the village, and move your causes forward, together. “At the end of the day, it will be worth it,” she says.

Of course, to be able to stay in the fight and make a change, ERG leaders and members need to ensure that they are prioritizing themselves and striking a balance between professional goals, personal needs, and ERG involvement. But, as we know, that’s easier said than done. As Nicole Terry, Associate Director of Sustainment Operations and Global Enterprise Co-Chair for the RTX WISE ERG at Pratt & Whitney, notes, “we've heard time and time again that ERG participation can be taxing for members.“

To find out how we can address this challenge, we asked a few seasoned ERG leaders how they’re trying to strike a balance between these priorities. Here’s some of their key advice:

  • Make sure to add your ERG work to your calendar. “We need to give ourselves permission to invest in the things that are important,” says Tamara Payne Alex, Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at KinderCare Learning Companies.

  • See how your ERG work can help in your own career development, and “align the work in your affinity group with the work you’re doing as part of your day job,” says Carley Desillier, Assistant Branch Leader and ERG Lead at Fidelity Investments. For example, ERGs can help members learn new skills to advance their career.

  • And Tameika Jones, Associate Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UnitedHealth Group, reminds us to make sure that we're not doing this alone! The time commitment you need depends on the support you have from executive leadership, sponsorship, and what your members are willing to do, she says.

And, more than anything, “remember that we cannot do everything as ERGs,” says Jones. Avoid overextending yourself and losing members, be strategic with your plans, and build your allyship. At their most powerful, Alex tells us that ERGs help “feed your spirit… [and] share wisdom and strength from one another to help those around us.”

The role of ERGs in diversity recruiting and DEI.

Everyone has a role to play when it comes to achieving true diversity and gender equality in the workplace — and this also holds true for diversity hiring. The specific roles we can all play and how to enact change, however, aren’t the easiest problems to solve. 

For instance, in regards to diversity hiring, Tanya Spencer, the Chief Diversity Officer at GE Gas Power, says that a desire for speed, resistance to change, and a lack of consistent processes can harm efforts in this area. As such, intentionality and setting clear expectations and processes are key when looking to improve your company’s diversity hiring.

Celia Harper-Guerra, the VP of Recruitment and Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Sprinklr, agrees. For diversity recruiting to work, Harper-Guerra emphasizes the importance of including everyone in your organization in this process, leading with data, looking inside your own organization’s diversity, and sharing the work your company is doing. “The more human you can make your organization, the greater the appeal,” says Harper-Guerra.

Telling the story of your organization and the people within it is where ERGs come in! As Spencer says, through telling their stories, ERG members can help “show what the workplace looks like from all dimensions of diversity.” And that’s not all ERGs can do to help in diversity recruiting either.

“ERGs are really critical to activating the members of their communities to participate in recruiting activities like referrals and interview panels,” shares Anna Simon, Consulting Manager at ZS. A few ways that ERGs can help with diversity recruiting are:

  • Reading job descriptions to make them more inclusive. (Simon)

  • Using ERG member networks to promote positions out to wider, more diverse candidate pools. (Spencer)

  • Utilizing ERG members on the interview teams when possible and aligning ERG objectives to recruitment. (Harper-Guerra)

Throughout this, we must be careful to avoid a minority tax, emphasizes Simon, which is when you’re asking for more help from diverse employees and overburdening them. 

And, of course, diversity recruiting is only one aspect of including everyone in your organization’s DEI goals. As Harper-Guerra tells us, “you need to weave [diversity] into every step of your processes.” So, how else can we as ERG members help advance DEI?

The answer to this question begins with having grit. Anne Brocchini, Women’s Leadership Strategy and Innovations Lead at ZS says that grit isn’t just working hard. “Grit takes passion and perseverance and puts them together moving toward a goal,” explains Brocchini. And this goal may not be the same for everyone. 

You need to find the path that works for you in DEI work, shares Aleta Howell, the Leader of Talent Acquisition at Cisco Systems. For example, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Cisco created 12 social justice actions, including supporting historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), increasing the representation of Black talent, and working with Black-owned businesses. While this worked for Cisco, each company and ERG should figure out their own DEI goals by prioritizing what they, as individuals, think they can achieve.

In addition to defining your own goals, DEI requires putting resources, including financial resources, behind this work, states Howell. ERGs can get these resources by gaining support from internal leadership, building trusted relationships with these leaders, and aligning your passion and goals with the mission of your organization. Brocchini notes that one way to build these relationships is through one-on–one coaching with senior leaders to help them visualize their DEI vision and why it matters to them and the business. 

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that DEI is a journey. “This is a huge boulder, and you can’t break a boulder in one big strike — you have to chip away at it,” emphasizes Howell. You have to keep at it. “Find those advocates in your organization who have passion, who will be supportive. Partner with them, and then just continue to navigate,” Howell says. In this way, your ERGs will be able to make real progress.

What you need to better support diverse communities: from benefits to making space.

When thinking about employee attraction and retention, you can’t avoid the topic of benefits. “Employee resource groups, executives, diversity leaders, talent leaders, and allies can really play a role in advocating for and raising new benefit ideas within organizations, particularly those that might be important to an increasingly diverse workforce,” states Stephanie Schomer, Editor in Chief of Employee Benefit News. But how can we go about determining what employees need?

One way to do this is through ERGs. As Shayla Thurlow, Vice President of People and Talent Acquisition at The Muse, tells us, “ERGs should be a part of the decision making in organizations, making sure people's voices are being heard at the tables where decisions are being made.” Having access to these leaders is key, since, as Thurlow notes, “the best way you can ensure that you are giving people what they want is to ask.”

“ERGs exist to amplify the voices of the people up to leadership,” agrees Elizabeth Porter, Enterprise Employer Brand Specialist and Co-chair of the WinG ERG at Glassdoor. At Glassdoor, she notes how ERG Co-chairs are included in leadership meetings, enabling leaders throughout the organization to hear what people need in real time and enact change.

As an example of this in action, Markita Jack, VP of DEI at Iterable, shares how after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, her ERG discussed what it would mean for their benefits. Their leaders then took this feedback in real time and ensured that all employees had access to reproductive health and could get the help they needed, no matter their location.

As for other specific benefits that employees really want, the panelists discussed:

  • Focusing on “benefits that matter” to people’s unique needs, such as how being remote-first supports people who would have been marginalized otherwise. Other benefits Iterable offers that people love are a learning and development stipend, a sabbatical, and balance days. (Jack)

  • Offer benefits for parental leave that include all parents, and be sure to use more inclusive language in your benefits (e.g., birthing parent and non-birthing parent.) It's also important to give people time off to volunteer and do good in their communities. (Porter)

  • Mental health support, caregiver resources, commuter benefits, and flex spending are all key benefits. And, at The Muse, they also offer a company-wide winter and summer break for employees to decompress. (Thurlow)

Throughout Galvanize, we also repeatedly heard about how important it is to give employees space and time to decompress. This key benefit even received its own panel, focusing on how WPP took this chance to better support their people by launching WPP’s Making Space Initiative. This benefit acknowledges that, to be our most creative, reach our full potential, and look after our wellbeing, we all need space to breathe, recharge, and reflect.

 “If you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of anyone else,” says Jennifer Remling, the Global Chief People Officer at WPP and leader of this initiative. WPP’s Making Space involves providing days off for employees to refresh (including collective four-day weekends for all employees) and then returning to the office for a week-long celebration to reconnect, have fun, and be creative (including things like rooftop parties, speakers, and meditation) .

Not only was the initiative well received by employees, but WCC’s customers were also happy to hear about it, too! And now, Remling shares that they’re working with ERGs to bring people together using what they’ve learned from this successful benefit. 

The all-important role of empowering intersectional identities in ERGs to help us rise — together.

Women, and especially Women of Color, often face challenges and inequalities in the workplace. A key part of Galvanize is seeing how we, as individuals and as ERGs, can empower each other with a focus on intersectionality — because when one rises, we all rise. 

This idea was emphasized by Jorge Corral, the Senior Managing Director & Dallas Office Managing Director of Accenture who says that “if you give everyone a chance to succeed and thrive, great things can happen.” Causing this change starts with each and every one of us becoming bold. “Being bold is being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” elaborates Corral. “And sometimes it’s seeing what’s possible through the eyes of others.”

Nellie Borrero, the Managing Director, Senior Strategic Advisor of Global Inclusion & Diversity at Accenture, emphasizes this point. “Without us infusing [boldness] into our being, we cannot possibly affect change,” states Borrero. Everyone can take action. Know what change you want to see, and then find the steps to take, together.

But how can we become bold and create the sort of change that helps everyone rise? One way to gain boldness is to foster relationships where you can have trusting conversations and learn about other points of view and intersectional identities — such as within ERGs. Trusting conversations also help us be more introspective and empower us to grow.

For example, it was through one of these open and honest conversations that Carolina Z. Cardoso, the Associate Director, North America Inclusion and Diversity Relationship Management at Accenture, began to reframe the concept of “competitive,” which can be seen as a negative word in the Hispanic and Latinx community. Despite this perception, competition does not need to be thought of as a bad word! Ask yourself, “how do we compete with good intentions in a healthy way where we are showcasing our skills, our credibility, our brand, our positioning, and [acknowledging that] it's okay to want to pursue a  goal that someone else has as well,” shares Borrero. 

Beyond being healthy — Corral explains that competition can also be necessary to become the best you can be. “Success is multidimensional,” says Corral, and you need to define what that means to yourself and your development. Openly discussing and analyzing the aspects that make up your worldview is important to being bold, growing, and helping others do the same. 

At the end of the chat, Corral reminds us that, “diversity is the fuel for innovation… I firmly believe that if you give everybody a chance to give input, you'll end up with a better outcome.” 

Accenture’s own research further reinforces this fact. “Representation leads to innovation,” states Yesenia Reyes, Accenture Managing Director. And a key area where this innovation is needed is in the digital workforce. Accenture’s research on more than 1,200 Hispanic American and Latinx professionals revealed significant opportunities for job and career growth in emerging technologies with a focus on developing digital skills. Despite this, a low percentage of Hispanic and Latinx individuals feel confident in STEM careers. 

So, how can ERGs help in this area to ensure that we are rising together? Well, ERGs and organizations as a whole should provide exposure and training when possible. Networking, mentoring, and showing your true self are also key in helping others build the confidence to try new skills. As Reyes states, “confidence is an essential ingredient.” 

Advice for thriving in the workplace as a Women of Color (and how intersectional ERGs can help).

As a whole, businesses have long prioritized making as much of a profit as possible; however, that can often lead to toxic results. To combat this, Dr. Evelyn Carter, the President of Paradigm, tells us that modern companies need to commit to leaving the status quo and becoming a better place to work. While, this means “you're going to have to grapple with some discomfort,” Carter notes, it’s an important step to making DEI a priority throughout your company.

A key part of this process is defining ERGs as spaces for community and connection. ERGs “can be a powerful source of insight for the business,” says Carter. And ERGs are at their most powerful when they have a clear goal and purpose. 

Further, to fully support Women of Color, ERG groups should include a focus on intersectionality and acknowledging that we are all made up of a collection of different identities. ERG groups need to include everybody that wants to be included — “That’s the only way in which we all get stronger,” says Mariela Dabbah, the Founder, CEO of Red Shoe Movement. For instance, including executives and ensuring that members have access to them is important for boosting engagement and impact, Dabbah tells us.

Carter also reminds us to be aware that marginalized groups are tired and that intersectional allies can help by taking on a more active role in supporting women of marginalized communities. Allyship is a verb, says Carter. “It’s an ongoing commitment to learning and taking courageous action to foster a more inclusive workplace and world… Allies need to take the role of educating people.” We’ll learn even more about how allies can help in the next section.

Exploring how allyship and behavioral science can help create a psychologically safe workplace for all.

“Allyship is something anybody can do,” shares Alison Cupito, the Senior Manager of Global Mental Health Program Lead at Accenture. And, “anybody at any level can learn to be a better ally.”  

To begin becoming a better ally, know that “if there is any action you can take, even if it's small, take it,” advises Mona Babury, the Director and DEI Business Partner at Pfizer. Start your journey today!

One action you can take today is telling your story. For example, Julia Fraser, the Senior Vice President, North America Customer Success at Lumen Technologies, tells us that the executive leadership at her company shared their personal experiences. This was a powerful thing to do and sparked important conversations. Cupito, too, notes the importance of telling your story. In her case, she recalls sharing her struggle with anxiety at a global marketing communications town hall. This courageous moment “was the best moment of allyship in my career because I finally stopped hiding the fact that I was battling anxiety,” says Cupito. Vocalizing her own experiences also let others know that they were not alone.

Another way to grow your ally skills is to expand your worldview by taking part in ERGs. For example, Babury points out that the ERGs (called CRGs) at Pfizer are open to everyone — and she’s actually been a part of all of them. “It's one of the best ways as a leader in DEI to really understand what I can do to be a stronger ally in these spaces,” says Babury. Further, Babury notes that having dedicated training on how to be allies to specific groups of people is an important part of growing allyship at your organization.

Fraser, meanwhile, emphasizes how we can use the energy of ERGs to create learning opportunities for all people. This includes using what we learn in ERGs to intentionally educate leaders on key topics so they can help drive meaningful change throughout the company.

For Cupito, being an ally is about behavior — building awareness and the ability to pause and reflect on your actions. She says that ERGs can help with this by equipping allies with the knowledge they need to actively listen and speak up when necessary. 

Of course, being aware of your behaviors also requires some knowledge of behavioral science, and that’s where Sharon Grehan, PhD, Executive Director of Business Strategy & Ops and Global Lead for Women @ Gilead comes in. 

Grehan explains that while biases aren’t always harmful, some can be harmful to ourselves and others — so it’s important to be aware of how bias can affect your behavior so that you can better face and combat inequalities in the workplace. 

For instance, Grehan brings up the confirmation bias. To combat this bias, “ask yourself if your assumption is based on external experience or your own, true internal experience,” she states. As for the perception bias, Grehan emphasizes being your own advocate, asking for feedback, and avoiding making decisions based on assumptions. 

Another thing to be aware of is that gender bias is not specific to women and can apply to anyone. There are subtle acts of bias against all genders, including stereotypes, perceptions of an individual, and gender-based comments and jokes, states Grehan.

We can all work together to combat harmful biases such as these by pre-committing to future behaviors like seeking out knowledge and learning from people of all backgrounds. Intersectional ERGs are a great place to come together and achieve these goals.

Moving the needle and creating a better workplace for everyone will take time, but through the efforts of us all, we can make great things happen.

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