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Reflecting on Women's History Month programming

As we close out Women’s History month, employee resource groups (ERGs) and affinity groups are looking back at a month of events, panels, appreciation posts, and swag packages showing support for the women in their communities. While the month of March was officially designated as Women’s History month back in 1987, the fight for Women’s Rights began long before and has a long road ahead. This dedicated month gives us the space to think about how far we’ve come, how far we need to go, and what we need to do to get there.

Women still face many challenges when it comes to the workplace: gender biases, wage discrimination, lack of representation in management and C-Suite, etc. - we also know that these challenges are even more severe for Black, LatinX, and Indigenous women. For companies supporting ERGs and ERG programming, there is typically a group or community focused on the empowerment, advocacy, and support of women. For Women ERGs, March programming often focuses on creating awareness of key issues facing their community and while Women’s History Month isn’t the only month we should celebrate women and their accomplishments, ERGs spend approximately 40% of their total budget on programming for this month alone.

We wanted to highlight two employee resource groups and share how they approached programming for Women’s History Month. There’s a lot of creativity and effort that goes into planning a month of programming, let’s walk through a couple of great examples of Women-centered ERG events.

Justworks - Square1

The women at Justworks community, known as Square1, has a thoughtful and well-defined Purpose, Mission, and Vision for its community. This helps focus their programming efforts on events and projects that align with their overall mission.

Purpose: To create a safe space and community for all women at Justworks.

Mission: Our mission is to ensure that all those who identify as women at Justworks are heard, supported, and treated equitably.

Vision: To create a greater support network and opportunities for those that identify as women at Justworks. Through mentorship, programming, and partnering with outside organizations we will give our ERG the tools they need to succeed and feel empowered in the workplace.

How does this translate into programming? For Square1, a crucial part of celebrating Women’s History Month is shining a light on issues and challenges women face in the workplace. This included a panel discussion on Intersections with questions like:

  • What does advocating for others mean to you?

  • What advice do you have for allies who want to lend their privileges to non-men in their workplace?

  • What are some cues or situational markers that would indicate to an ally “my voice would do more harm than good”? What should they do instead?

Planning a 3-person panel is no easy feat and requires coordination across co-leads, panelists, and community members. Square1 was able to lead this panel with 98+ participants from the company. Some key drivers of event attendance:

  1. Seamless scheduling and event reminders

  2. Announcement and reminder during All Hands

  3. Influential panelist from the Justworks leadership team

  4. A mix of both internal and external panelists

Does that type of event sound easy? It’s not. We simplified our description of the process for the sake of this blog post but we know planning, scheduling, running, and measuring an event like this is anything but simple. But it can have a big impact:

Co-Lead of Square 1, Vika Kareva-Lipari, shared

"We've been hosting the intersections panel for a couple of years, but each time I'm reminded of why. Each time I walk away with a new perspective, understanding, or realization. I can see the impact on our Square1 community. My inbox is filled with notes of thanks and appreciation for creating a space for having necessary conversations. We're having more than a conversation - we're creating a shared vocabulary of experiences."

Kudos to the Square1 leadership team (Arlene Contreras, Vika Kareva-Lipari, and Bethany Nicole Smith) for making an impact and executing meaningful programming to celebrate Women’s History Month. Up next, let’s talk about Women at NextRoll.

NextRoll - RollWomen

The community for women at NextRoll has a mission centered around inclusion and development:

Mission: Cultivating an inclusive and intersectional environment at NextRoll to support and encourage women to advance their skills and leadership potential.

In addition to panel discussions and sourcing speakers from outside of the company, RollWomen board members looked ‘inward’ and selected a few women from within the company to lead a fireside chat.

From Phoebe Maio, one of the leaders of the women’s community at NextRoll explained:

“It’s a panel discussion of our own women leaders in the company to share their journey and wisdom on developing leadership. I think having outside speakers is great but we already have so many amazing women leaders in the company that we work with closely, why not invite them for a conversation to talk about women leadership and how they overcome challenges along the way?”

The RollWomen leadership team was able to source questions using resources like 45 Female Leadership Panel Discussions; creating an environment where women on the panel can speak to topics like challenging your comfort zone and creating opportunities for others. Asking questions like:

  • As a leader, how do you stay mindful of who’s at the table and who’s missing?

  • Is there a time when you were the only women, the only women of color or the only mom in the room, how was the experience and how did you navigate these “only” situations?

  • Have you ever experienced a situation where being a women was holding you back? What would you do to change that situation as a leader now?

NextRoll’s programming, including the fireside chat, was able to facilitate meaningful connections and discussions by:

  1. Offering different types of events that work for different audiences - Podcast, Events, Circles

  2. Combining external and internal speakers and events

  3. Demonstrating executive commitment and support

NextRoll is another great example of the impact that comes from empowering ERGs and employee-led communities. Learn more about NextRoll’s Women’s History Month programming here.

Going beyond

Events are important drivers of engagement and connection across the organization but there are many other ways to celebrate months like Women’s History Month that require less planning (and less budget). Some light-weight programming options:

  • Recognize women within your organization - with internal and external posts on LinkedIn and Slack

  • Create a high visibility forum to recognize/discuss the issues women are facing in the workplace - A few dedicated slides at All Hands or an email from the CEO

  • 1:1 outreach from senior leadership to express appreciation and gratitude

While recognizing and celebrating dedicated months is important, the journey to empowering women and other underrepresented groups in order to create equity in the workplace won’t happen with just one month of activity a year. Real change and impact come from:

  1. Establishing DEI and Belonging OKRs - for Board Members, C-Suite, and all Managers

  2. A commitment to measure and report progress

  3. A commitment to support efforts that have the biggest impact on belonging (ERGs)

  4. Providing the right tools and technology to support 1, 2, and 3

  5. Advocating for, and highlighting accomplishments, of underrepresented groups throughout the year

To those leading ERGs, DEI, and/or an employee community: thank you for putting your passion into practice. You are having more impact than you realize.

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