July 29, 2019

Fostering Women in Leadership at Your Organization

As a woman in the workplace, it’s incredibly inspiring to see how organizations are stepping up and giving those in underrepresented groups a chance to grow their careers. The push to improve diversity and inclusion has spun up tons of new opportunities to support different individuals within a company, such as women. In the tech space—an industry that struggles to hire and retain female employees—the importance of growing women is as necessary as ever. We need to create a place where they feel comfortable and show them that they have a future and we're here to help them navigate.

These past two years, I’ve had the privilege of working as a program lead for diversity and inclusion, partnering closely with other members of our HR team. I get a look at the behind-the-scenes activities put into motion and can see the passion our team has for our people. I hope other companies have a group of people who are as dedicated to creating an inclusive workplace as my team is. 

One of the most exciting initiatives I’ve seen come from this passion is our Inspired By Her program. This program is specifically designed to grow women leaders at Carbon Black. I believe other companies could benefit from implementing similar programs to support underrepresented employees.

How can you create one? Here are some things to consider.

Understand the “Why” 

Whether you have a formalized diversity and inclusion plan or if you're just getting started, it's essential to know the why of the program. Is it a way to retain good employees? Is it a benefit or perk that can help you attract new people to your company? Something else?

For Carbon Black, it’s a way for us to identify women who demonstrate traits for leadership potential. By developing this program, we give these individuals the tools and coaching needed to harness that potential and grow.

In addition to identifying why you should also determine what the program will do for the people participating. Be clear about what the participants can expect after they complete it.

Formulate a Program

What’s realistic for you or your team? Do you want to do a mini-pilot to get a feel for how the program can work or do you have enough experience to launch something robust? If you don’t have the knowledge or bandwidth to create a program, consider bringing experts in to facilitate.

At Carbon Black, we have a dedicated Internal Leadership Coach to help run our program. Additionally, we’ve partnered with Linkage, an industry-leading leadership, and executive development firm, that helped us formulate the right content and plan to accelerate the development of our women. 

Identify Key Traits

While figuring out the "why", you should also consider the key traits of the participants. Carbon Black’s goal is to advance our female leaders by providing coaching to female managers. Therefore, we had to determine which specific qualities show leadership potential. Once you decide this, you'll need to tap different people in the organization to help you identify who should participate. This could mean connecting with HR Business Partners and/or managers.

Also, you may want to consider setting strict parameters for attendees. Are you only opening this up to a specific type of employee, such as women? Does the employee have to work in a particular function, such as technology? Does an employee need to have worked at the company for a certain amount of time? If your program can only accommodate a set amount of people, having these parameters can narrow your list down and keep things consistent. It also provides you with clear answers in case other employees have questions or push back.

Launch, Iterate, and Improve

Once you have your program mapped out, you’re ready to launch. With any program—either brand new or tried and true—it’s wise to have regular check-ins scheduled. Be sure to survey the participants throughout the program to get a sense of their sentiment through each stage. Develop survey questions based on your program goals to ensure you’re hitting all key points effectively. And if you aren't, you'll have a clear understanding of areas of improvement to help you realign with your goals.

Expect your program to be fluid. Each cohort will bring unique perspectives and needs. Creating a program that can be tweaked to work with diverse personalities and expectations is essential. 

We’re living in an exciting time, where people who may not have had these opportunities before are now getting the support to take their career to the next step. I’m proud to see the efforts companies are going through to help the external community, as well as their internal employee-base. It will be interesting to see how this shapes the future of our workforce for years to come. 

Maritza Gamboa is the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at Carbon Black.