How the Global Women’s Employee Network has grown to embrace equity all year long
- Posted on March 1, 2023
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
For as long as I’ve been at Avanade, I’ve been a member of the Global Women’s Employee Network. Not joining was never an option: I have a daughter, and I often think about what life will be like for her once she grows up and has a career of her own. Will she have to fight for pay equity? How much will she struggle for a seat at the table? Is the term “glass ceiling” something she’ll need to worry about?
As we approach International Women’s Day, which carries the theme #EmbraceEquity this year, these questions become even more salient. Full gender equality is something we’re still working toward – a reality I’m acutely aware of in my second year as the Global Chair of the Women’s Employee Network. In this role, I’m proud of the ways we’re progressing on a path toward ensuring a brighter, more equitable future for my daughter and so many kids just like her.
That’s not to say WEN’s success been an easy journey, or that there haven’t been times when we’ve felt overwhelmed by the pressures of our charter. Running an Employee Network is both an immense honor and an immense responsibility. During the early days of Covid-19, we faced challenges that sometimes seemed insurmountable – everything from membership attrition and lack of structure to the stress of living and working through a global pandemic. To get WEN up and running at peak capacity, we had to bring together a diverse group of people from around the world, all while navigating different personalities, cultures, talent communities and time zones. And to make matters even more challenging, we needed to do everything virtually, on top of our regular jobs.
I won’t lie – it hasn’t been an overnight process. In the wake of the pandemic, we set our sights on a fresh start, centering our initial focus on tightening governance and rebuilding our membership. Taking cues from our friends at Prism and INSPIRE (the LGBTQ+ and Black Employee Networks, respectively), we treated the process like a project, with all the rigor and planning that goes into good project management. The team’s hard work paid off massively, and in FY22, we expanded our board to more than 30 talented members from across the world and grew our membership to three times its previous size.
With an air-tight structure in place, we’ve been able to do so much more to accomplish our evolving vision of equity. For FY23, we’ve established goals to drive meaningful community and impact across all regions. We’re leaning into moments that matter by planning bigger, better and more impactful programming throughout the year, empowering our regional partners to take our global strategy and bring their own perspective into localized programming.
From a global perspective, we’re also focused on listening to our membership base and making sure we pay attention to what types of events and programming people want to see. Recently there’s been a demand for networking and career-building, which has been channeled into a series on navigating your career at Avanade. We’ve also added new programming called Men as Allies to engage our male colleagues, and our moms’ group – which I founded just shortly after I started Avanade almost four years ago – has evolved into a parenting group to help parents from all walks of life navigate the difficulties of juggling a career and raising kids. It’s been incredibly gratifying to listen and learn from one another.
In addition to our work as a board, we’ve gotten incredible support from senior leadership thanks to Avanade Chief Financial Officer Sonia Webb, who’s our Executive Sponsor, as well as our Executive Sponsor for Men as Allies, Avanade South Region Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Summers. Our progress under their guidance has reinforced just how important it is to have buy-in from the top to set strategy, lead with a growth mindset and permission to try something different.
Last but not least, we’re going all-hands-on-deck for our upcoming International Women’s Day programming, covering a range of events that will run throughout the month of March. It’s our hope that Avanade people from around the world will feel inspired to engage with this important commemoration of women’s rights.
Reflecting on our growth over the past several years, I’m beyond proud of what we’ve achieved as a network. When you celebrate International Women’s Day this March, I encourage you to envision the equitable future you want to see – and how joining an Employee Network might help us all collectively work toward those goals. The pragmatists among us know that issues of equity won’t disappear overnight. But whenever I feel overwhelmed by the scope of all the hurdles left to jump, I think of my daughter and all the other young people who deserve to live in a more inclusive society. I want to make sure I’ve done all I can to fight for their places in the world. If you feel the same way, come help us #EmbraceEquity and make a difference.
Love this! So happy to be working with you and the team on the WEN!
Julie, you have been such a joy and such an inspiration. I have learned so much from you in such a short period of time. We need more leaders such as yourself who are willing to coach, mentor and lean into helping change the conversation. I look forward to learning more from you!
This blog is awesome and inspiring.
Thank you so much for your comment and for your support!
Love this blog Melissa! We've come a long way thanks to an incredible group of women and men as our allies!
We certainly have come a long way! Could not done it without our fabulous team and your support and leadership. Excited to see where we go next!
I love this perspective, Melissa. I too, think about gender equity in the workplace, as a mother of 3 boys, I find myself pointing out to my boys how moms also work and have careers not just dads. We have had a healthy dialogue about the impact women make in the business world, government, and in areas of engineering and technology. While they see that I am a "mom" who has a career in tech, they still need to be reminded that women contribute as much (and more in some cases) then men.
Very well said, Claudia, and such an important topic that we've broached in some of our parenting sessions, but need to continue to talk about and collectively address. I too experience this at home - my daughter talks about "daddy working" (yet I'm the one on the computer and the phone all the time!). Thanks for the perspective. Interested in what others think? How are you addressing/solving?