With our roots firmly planted in promoting women in business (“CFW” stands for our original company name, “Careers for Women”), CFW has been dedicated to the mission of creating an equal workforce for over 40 years (43, to be exact!). After hosting our event, Changing the Conversation: Women in Leadership, last month, CFW Careers President, Cynnie King, reflected, “the hiring and promotion process for advancing women into higher level positions needs to be intentional.” We’re certainly not alone in our attention to this topic. The 2015 McKinsey Report, Women in the Workplace, revealed a significant difference between the perceived paths to senior leadership positions between men and women, explaining that women are facing greater obstacles on their way to the top. More recently, Hillary Clinton joined Glassdoor in their #ShareYourPay campaign, speaking out on the importance of pay equality across genders and giving concrete suggestions that would improve workforce equality.
One great example of a company that has adopted a more intentional approach to creating a more equal workforce is AppNexus, the cloud-based software platform that powers and optimizes programmatic advertising. During the past four years, AppNexus has developed a tight-knit community of women within the organization. They’ve already begun to see an up-tick in the number of women taking on leadership positions. We spoke with the co-chair of the AppNexus Women’s Network (AWN) and Senior Director of Strategy, Lisa Shukovsky, about how they’ve made this program so successful.
3 Key Steps Towards Equality in the Workplace
- Create a community. AppNexus has a number of “affinity groups” including the Women’s Network. According to Shukovsky, “Many of the committee members are junior employees, and a subset of them co-lead committees,” giving them exposure to higher level members of the company and a greater voice in the decisions that affect them. By involving everyone, Shukovsky says they’ve created a community. “A lot of women find it helpful to be able to talk things through with another woman. Having female counterparts in different departments that you can go to when you have questions or need advice has been integral to our success.”
- Set a clear focus. The mission statement for the AppNexus Women’s Network is, “Igniting personal and professional growth through networking and education.” Under that umbrella, AWN designates a specific theme for the year. This year AWN members are focused on increasing the number of women in senior positions. With this theme in mind, events, panels, discussion groups, and book clubs are developed. Shukovsky points out that they’ve already seen results. The group of women who started this organization (including Shukovsky) “have significantly advanced in our careers since then…the support that we’ve gotten from the group has been a big lever in our ability to grow.”
- Think big. “Executive support and a budget—however small—immediately legitimizes your program,” says Shukovsky. AWN started off with small meetings that included the CEO, followed by Q&A sessions. The presence of the CEO signified to others that this was important. The group’s budget allows them to pay speakers for panels and workshops, which further establishes the program.
Pro-tip: Money isn’t everything, and there a lots of ways to save when creating these programs! Shukovsky reminds us that “a lot of people want to help. Speakers may be willing to lower their fees because they share a common goal and want the exposure.” Additionally, Shukovsky suggests creating partnerships with outside organizations that are mutually beneficial. “We’ve partnered with a lot of women’s organizations around the city, including She’s the First, AWNY, and Girls Who Code.” These partnerships can elevate the impact of both groups by facilitating the creation of co-produced special events and partner marketing that leverage their combined set of resources.
There are lots of ways to help promote a more equal workforce, so there is no need to stick to these suggestions alone. If you’re seeking to positively impact the culture at your company and you’d like more suggestions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To join the conversation, or to attend our next women’s event, check out our event page.