“Do we need a Women’s Forum?” This is exactly how the conversation started when the idea of launching a Women’s Forum in Centelon was brought up by our CEO. The immediate reaction was an unanimous and emphatic “No. We are all empowered, and we don’t need a women’s forum to empower us”.
How was then - “Women in Centelon” (WIC) launched?
The answer to that question was a journey involving women in Centelon from different backgrounds getting together to continue the conversation. While some with several years of experience already felt empowered, so did others with fewer years. However, the difference was in what they had to offer in terms of personal experience, viewpoints, and guidance.
Through the process of discussion, we also realized how different each of our expectations was from a women’s forum. Some had years of experience working in top IT firms in different roles and were eager to share their experiences and mentor the women leaders of tomorrow. Some were finding their feet in an industry in their first jobs and learning to navigate the world of IT looking for guidance. While none of this is exclusive to women, we realized that as women working in the IT industry, we had similar issues and concerns.
While not specific to Centelon, some of the common themes that women generally faced at the workplace were discussed, including safety, lack of opportunities, self-confidence, imposter syndrome, gender equality, mentoring. Geography, age, educational and socio-economic background, and experiences growing up played a role in our journey. We also realized that each one of us had a unique viewpoint to share that would help understand, learn, and grow from each other’s stories.
This led to answering the question of “Why do we need a women’s forum?” We all had something to learn, and to offer from each other’s unique journeys while supporting and nurturing each other. Additionally, it provided a unique opportunity to influence company policy when the organization is young and growing.
The next question we asked ourselves was, what should be the objective of the forum? We launched a survey which also included the one question that intrigued us, “Do you feel the need for a women’s forum?” We presented this anonymous survey to all the female employees in Centelon while encouraging them to provide additional feedback and suggest additional concerns to be addressed.
The Vision & Mission
Before going into the survey results, is a perfect time to pause and look back at why the need for a women’s forum was floated. The leadership had a vision to build a talent pipeline to achieve gender balance across all levels of the organization. Better gender balance in leadership would give us improved perspective for all through varying ideas, perspectives, and approach.
Increased company performance
As published by Gartner and Harvard Business Review, all highest performing Sales organizations have a 50/50 balance in both individual contributors and leaders/coaches. Study also says performance drops as female representation drops below 50%, especially when it’s at the coach level.
Lack of a clear career path and goal alignment for women employees can lead to inability in retaining talent at leadership positions in any organization. An organization should leave behind any conscious or sub-conscious bias while planning a growth path whether its about hiring or promotions.
To support, organizations must encourage and invest in workplace gender equality through personal and professional development opportunities that empower and drive growth for women within organization is the ultimate Vision & Mission of encouraging the starting of the forum - “Women In Centelon”.
It was very reassuring to hear that 96% of the women felt they were provided equal opportunities at Centelon irrespective of gender. That is huge! However, there was a dip on the gender equality specific question. Based on initial analysis, this could stem from the lower percentage of women in senior management positions at Centelon and across the industry in general. This is a recognized global workforce trend with less visibility of women at decision making positions in board rooms.
While 70% do not want to change their mentor, which is run at the overall organization level, there is the same percentage calling out for help in their career growth. The feedback for the need for assistance in professional growth is consistent with the company wide feedback and is in line with survey trends across companies of different sizes and industries. This, we believe, is a healthy trend for self-improvement and an indication that employees are constantly looking to grow and improve, in turn, improving the overall performance of the company.
About 61% respondents suffer from imposter syndrome which corroborates with wider studies conducted globally confirming that women suffer the imposter syndrome more than men. This is an area we need to work harder for a mindset change.
Overall, we are excited to report that the survey results establish that Centelon is indeed headed in the right direction and there are no systemic issues to be addressed just support and right guidance should do keep it moving.
The Launch and Outcomes
It was heartening to hear a resounding 100% agreeing to the need for a women’s forum. The women in Centelon had spoken, and the “Women in Centelon” was officially launched on September 18th, 2020 with the motto “Empower, Support and Nurture”. We chose this to encompass what each one of us wanted from the forum, the survey results, and the objectives of the forum.
The launch meeting was a huge success met with overwhelming active participation. What was initially planned as an hour-long meeting with a set agenda ended up being an hour and half long with the “meet & greet” session being the only agenda item covered. The idea of the “meet and greet” was to be a quick introduction and briefly talk about women role models in your life. It was a powerful moment for us to hear that women in Centelon itself were inspirational and role models to each other. It was encouraging and inspiring to hear how we had in some shape or form inspired each other and to realize that Women in Centelon had already been supporting each other. Now that WIC is set in motion, keeping up the same enthusiasm and active participation from our launch is going to be a healthy challenge for us.
Based on the survey results, the broad focus areas based on the results of the survey are:
- Professional growth plan
- Holistic growth encompassing – Technical and Leadership skills
- Help in identifying the growth areas
- Help in changing mindset about the imposter syndrome
- Publishing the company’s anti sexual harassment policy
- Create awareness of the policy
- Increasing women in leadership by
- Capitalising the equal opportunity that is made available at work
- Enabling women to feel empowered of being equal
- Hiring policy for women returning to workforce after a break
- Chart out plan, aim to provide tools for capitalizing the opportunity
- Publicize and attract talented Women across geographies
While we have just launched WIC at Centelon and have identified areas of focus, a lot of work needs to be done to translate plans into actionable items. As the company and the forum grows, we will need to revisit the focus areas each year to make sure we are on the right track. It is important to stay in line with the expectations and changes as the organization and forum mature.
This will not be an easy task given the globally distributed workforce. We strongly believe that, with the continued support of the WIC and our allies, we will be able to achieve our goals. As Gloria Vanderbilt said, “I've always believed that one woman's success can only help another woman's success.”
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