by Elisabet Rodriguez
I have been involved in the consulting world for years, and have had the privilege of working with many interesting and progressive companies and institutions—specifically, by supporting them in the development of women’s initiatives that resonate with their culture and objectives.
Let me share with you the story of two such client organizations—the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators (INPO) and Microsoft–Czech Republic.
INPO has been my client for two years, and has just earned recognition for the having the Best Professional Development Program for a Large Chapter from U.S. Women In Nuclear.
Talk about an extremely male-dominated environment! Engineers, nuclear physicists, and chemists—these are roles held almost exclusively by men. Yet, I can tell you so many stories of women who not only enjoy their work, but also contribute with incredible zest and purpose. Over the past two years, INPO has increased the female talent pool, which supports INPO’s succession plan, and raised the number of women currently holding—or in line to hold—technical roles by close to 30 percent!
Then, there’s Microsoft. Four years ago, at the beginning of our engagement, the HR director voiced a strategic concern: He wanted to attract more female talent in the Czech market, as well as enhance the engagement and retention of the company’s current women professionals. We developed a comprehensive program that was so successful in Prague that it was launched in the Eastern regional markets, as well.
Two very different scenarios, and yet both have achieved a high degree of success in attracting, retaining, and advancing female talent.
So how did we do it? And how can your organization create a more successful women’s initiative?
I recommend following these seven key steps:
- Identify internal champions who will stand up for the idea of gender integration, and have the patience and vision to keep the process moving forward. Think about how they will overcome budget cuts, changes in management, criticism, and pushback. In both cases outlined above, I had the chance to partner with internal champions that were so visionary they saw the light at the end of the tunnel as clearly as I did. That helped us remain fully aligned, so that when objections arose, all parties had the resilience and resolve to overcome them.
- Identify key decision makers who will have the highest degree of influence—such as the CEO or General Manager—and make sure they are on board and fully understand the business rational behind this effort.
- Identify your audience needs. Once you have buy in from key stakeholders, take time to survey the population of women the program will serve. This will help you fully identify both their needs and any existing gaps currently hindering advancement.
- Identify the best channels for delivering information and support in order to meet those needs, such as workshops, executive programs, or other learning options.
- Make attendance a priority. Remind everyone of the strategic importance of attending these sessions. Agree to give the meetings as high a priority as you would give any important activity.
- Assess your progress. Send out short questionnaires or request mini-essays from participants that describe the value of the information received at your events and its impact on their work.
- Continually check in with HR and management to identify areas where more improvement is needed, and where you are seeing real success.
It takes careful planning to create a successful women’s initiative. It also takes conviction, intention, vision, strategic thinking, and, above all, resilience! Only when you bring these to the table will you see your initiatives thrive.