To help Boston businesses address workplace issues that may be holding female professionals back, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network and Babson College are pleased to partner on a new year-long, custom group leadership program designed to support organizations as they shape and shift their culture towards gender equity and inclusivity. Caitlin Fisher and Alyson Weiss share lessons learned from the pilot year of the program.
Think about an instance where you felt authentically and fully included – when your supervisor actively sought your feedback during a meeting, or a colleague took you out for coffee and asked you how you were really doing. Moments like these activate us and those around us to bring our best ideas to the table and live a more fulfilling, balanced life.
Our first-ever graduates of All in for Advancement dedicated the last year to piloting an initiative that will create moments like that for their community at their employer. This is no small feat, and it is clear that their leadership has made their organizations an even better place for women to work. But the work of an inclusive cultural influencers is never over. To support their continued work, and yours, we have summarized some of tools and frameworks we explored together.
Change requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
All in for Advancement opened with a puzzling and quilting exercise where participants got to experience firsthand the shift from a managerial, problem solving mentality to an entrepreneurial, learning through experimentation and iteration mindset. It is only when we stop looking at culture and inclusivity as a problem to be solved and start viewing it more fluidly that we can begin to take small actions to make huge improvements.
Change must be made in community.
When we look at a picture like the one above, it is natural for many of us to make a snap judgement about what this woman needs – a ladder, a tall person, another few inches of wingspan. However, we can’t truly know what this woman’s needs are without asking her - perhaps she just needs the shelves to be fully accessible. Likewise, it is up to us as cultural influencers to observe our surroundings, and then to do discovery work to find a solution that works for everyone. In All in for Advancement, participants started by observing and interviewing an outgroup, which steered their design thinking process.
In addition, they also designed the initiative in partnership with their team members (each participating company sends up to four participants) and with the support and buy-in of key leadership. Together, they selected a project at the intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability.
Lastly, they designed their culture change initiative in community with the other participating organizations, and gave each other the gifts of feedback, advice, and connections.
Change is worth it.
Though change can be difficult, and more of a quilt than a straight-forward puzzle, it is worth it. Organizations with more inclusive cultures report greater innovation, smarter teams, more market competitiveness, an easier time recruiting talent, and higher levels of engagement from staff. Right now, inequality in women’s work is causing the world’s economy to lose $28 trillion in value.
Everyone is on a journey to be more inclusive – we can’t get it 100% right all the time. However, these tools can help to advance the crucial, entrepreneurial work of making your organization, and the region as a whole, a better, more inclusive place. With our collective power, we can make Greater Boston the best place for women to work.
Thank you to our 2019 INfluencers:
2020 Statements of Interest are being accepted now and are due by February 17. To learn more contact Caitlin Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-557-7358 to set up an info session.