Most business leaders recognize that the benefits of diversity are tremendous however its often difficult to articulate what steps can be taken to actually do something about it. This article outlines insights from three female leaders on how men can lead the way.
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On October 18 and 19th, S.H.E. Summit will be hosting its seventh annual conference at the 92nd Street Y. The rows will be filled with women and allies looking for inspiration and to inspire. Connecting and motivating people is the reality that I worked towards manifesting when I imagined the first S.H.E Summit in 2012. Now, close to 6 years later, I’ve shifted my focus but not my purpose.
I still wholeheartedly believe that true change comes from empowering people. In fact I am convinced that the energy of empowered people is how we shift society in a positive direction. When I started S.H.E. Summit my focus was on unleashing female power to change the world. Today women everywhere are starting or participating in important movements that help us create a more equal and inclusive world. But after years of working with and listening to so many women inside workplaces, our approach has evolved to embrace what I believe is an even greater energy source for creating change — the power of employees inside companies who understand what’s possible when they engage their agency and the infrastructure at their disposal.
Research shows that 51% of US workers are employed by a firm that has at least 500 people or more, when multiplied by the countless number of corporations that exist in the US alone, we’re looking at an enormous potential for impact. By shifting S.H.E. Summit to activate and empower those corporate employees, I’m dedicating energy to making sure that they recognize the power to create change that they have at their fingertips as corporate professionals.
Here are the four reasons I give whenever someone asks me why S.H.E. Summit is shifting unleashing employee power in the private sector:
1. Companies can propel change at a colossal level…
It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in the power corporations have to enact change. When viewed as micro-societies, corporations can empower their employees to contribute to issues bigger than themselves and therefore to contribute to the solutions helping move society forward as a whole. My goal is to use the S.H.E Summit platform to ensure that everyone in our audience or watching via livestream understands that whether they’re an entrepreneur or a employee that they can have an impact and feel purpose driven in their work.
2. Helping corporate talent find purpose in their job not only drives retention, it creates more inclusive cultures …
Too many employees believe that the only way that they’d be able to make a change is by volunteering their time with nonprofits or to start something on their own. For instance, a 2016 Deloitte study found 86% of women surveyed left their corporate jobs to start their own companies, while 43% said they left because they weren’t following their passion.
When corporations encourage their teams to step into their power, they can help shift the narrative. The more corporate employees feel like they’re change makers, the more inclined they will be to continue to invest their passions and skill set where they are. Ultimately, this will help create a more inclusive and diverse company culture.
3. Companies can do a better job of retaining women and diverse talent when they have offsite forums to speak and listen with their guards down
I’ve heard so many stories from friends, colleagues, and in the media, underscoring how company culture makes it more difficult for women to stay in the workforce or in a career. Knowing this, I wanted to be a part of the solution not of the problem. Inviting corporations into the “whole self” leadership conversations happening at S.H.E. Summit offers these employees an off-site experience where they can be fully who they are to speak and listen. They have a forum where they can share feelings they may not feel like they can share at work—this offers great insights for leaders in thinking about how to retain and advance diverse talent.
4. I believe now is the time…
When I started shifting the S.H.E. Summit focus, I knew in my gut we were keeping with the conversations already happening at brunch, by the water cooler, and in HQ elevators. The signs are everywhere — wherever we look corporations are being appropriately challenged by their stakeholders, the media, and audiences alike. The atmosphere around corporate organizations is inviting a deeper conversation around what sustainable change actually looks like. It’s true that change happens from the top down, but it’s also true that empowering every level of the corporate ladder to feel invested in the mission of the organization that creates long-lasting change.
Though many tech companies struggle to hire a diverse workforce, Lyft is trying to improve its record on gender and racial diversity. Although women hold 37% of senior positions, 10 department heads and 42% of their workforce – they don’t believe it’s enough.
Click here for a great interview with NPR and Lyft’s co-founder John Zimmer and Valerie Jarrett, a member of their board.
McKinsey states that diverse companies are 33% more likely to outperform others. ADP believes this is critical to their growth, as evidenced by ranking number 21 on Forbes list of “America’s Best Employers for Diversity”.
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