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Evolution of Women's Networks

As we align our business to meet the demands of women, we are often called in to strategize with leaders of Corporate Women's Groups. We hear real frustration from on the ground employees that there is not enough L&D, training and work to help level the playing field for women. And Diversity and Exec teams are already partnering with consultants - but is there true headway being made? What we find is that women on the ground - the women who represent women's groups - they are the ones who bring us in and are trying to get truly impactful programs off the ground that benefit all levels of women within an org.

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As the women’s movement continues to evolve so do volunteer women’s groups within corporations. Historically, these groups focused on connecting and building networks within an org. Overnight their mission changed due to Weinstein and the #MeToo movement; a new urgency felt. It is women’s groups who are rising to meet the new demands of corporate women.

The mission is shifting from ‘connect’ to ‘catapult’.

Many organizations realize there is a pressing need to do more. According to Women in the Workplace 2017, by LeanIn.Org & McKinsey “company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row. Despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow — and may even be stalling.”

This certainly holds true for the companies we partner with. Volunteer women’s groups are taking on additional responsibility and advocating for women where other teams have stalled. These women’s groups provide value directly back to those they serve through workshops, training and one-to-one coaching. On some level this makes sense — women’s groups are run by on-the-ground-employees. Women who span departments and tenure, who come together because of a shared passion. They are like many women in Corp America — overlooked, undervalued yet offer immense impact.

We now know that diversity positively impacts the bottom line. When women’s networks boost women into leadership, they become a revenue driving force for their org. Morgan Stanley collected and analyzed data from 1,600 stocks globally. They’ve found that, “more gender diverse companies offer similar return with lower volatility. Gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction”

I call on Diversity, HR, Executives and Boards to connect and learn from their women’s groups. Attend their meetings, support them with L&D budgets, understand their concerns and plans. Leave the ‘corner office’ to deeply understand the needs of the women who work tirelessly for you. What concerns them? Do women feel they have the same opportunities as men? What skills do they need to succeed and join Exec teams? Help these groups accomplish their ‘catapult mission’ because it will benefit you as well.

And, I call on women’s groups to follow your passion and remember that your work is important and lofty and also contributes to revenue and reducing risk. Align your goals with your organizations to prove the impact you provide and don’t stop until you get to 50/50.

Alli Young