On November 24, Half the Sky gathered 9 leading corporates which included: Microsoft, Accenture, Equinix, Dupont, AkzoNobel, Avanade, Yara International, Johnson Controls, and Ciscofor our inaugural roundtable series: “DE&I Challenges & Opportunities for Corporates in a Post-Pandemic World.” This event was moderated by the HTS Founder & CEO Sabrina Hoand HTS advisor Duncan Hewett.The small group size and selective attendance maximized the opportunity for candid sharing, networking and learning value. We certainly got a lot of insightful pointers to share with you read on for a recap of the days event:It was noted throughout the roundtable that Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have the power to transform business by creating a truly inclusive workplace culture — which, in turn, drives employee satisfaction and retention. In fact, significant polls show that today’s jobseekers prioritize inclusion and want to feel like they belong over financial incentives.Although many companies believe in a DEI strategy many find they run into certain challenges that can complicate the process or keep it at a standstill.Here are the five key challenges identified during the roundtable: 1. Availability of diverse talent Ms. Irnizah Khusaini, of Johnson Controls, shared that one of the key reasons for such a scarce availability of diverse talent is because the industry is mostly pipelined by men. In the 2022 statistics, men are still dominant in the tech industry posing 73.30% over women that has only 26.70%. In addition, women who manage to work into a male-dominated tech companies are often met with lower pay for the same grade of work.Ms Khusaini also added that hiring managers should be encouraged to build more diverse teams and have more women in senior positions. Encouraging managers to view talent through a diverse lens, including the perspective of female talent, can bring valuable dynamics to teams in male-dominated industries, ultimately adding value to the business.2. Lack of initiatives for system changes For Ms. Lynn Dang of Microsoft, she mentioned that it is imperative that a system change should be implemented within the organization to create better roles and opportunities for female talents. “So, for industries like technology, we need systemic changes to enable a more inclusive workplace environment and it really starts from an early age so that young girls are encouraged to pursue careers in STEM” Ms. Dang said. Ms. Lynn also noted that one of the key challenges in implementing DE&I in today's corporate environment is the difficulty in maintaining the flow of female talents joining the tech industry. 3. Cultural challenges Ayaka Yamada, Senior Manager of Culture & Change at Yara mentioned that Japan is also facing cultural challenges when it comes to its female workforce. She shared that, “In Japan, it is unfortunate that women are not given the same level of appreciation for their work in the workplace.” Ms. Yamada also explained that in some cultures in Japan, women tend to stop working after they get married. “They think that they need to contribute a lot to the family and they need to dedicate their lives to housework and caring for their children and husband.” It was noted that Japan is ranked 120 out of 156 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) in 2021 the worst ranking for an industrialized nation. 4. Nature of industry For Ms. Tiffany Chan of Accenture, one of the antagonists in improving gender diversity in the workplace is the nature of the of the industry. “I think all leaders are really supportive of having diversity and inclusion in our recruitment but I think the challenge is that the nature of our business makes it really hard to do so.” Ms. Tiffany explained. Further, for industries that focus on manufacturing and industrial work like Dupont, Ms. Angielina Tay noted that the real struggle for their industry is to find female professionals that fit in an operational manufacturing environment. “In our industry, it’s a real challenge to find field scientists, there are only a few female talents who are willing to be part of that kind of environment.” Ms. Angielina shared. 5. Hiring to fill not hiring to fitHiring quickly pose risks and possible detrimental outcome-- it may cause high turnover, lost time and wasted training resources. But most importantly, you might miss on diverse talent that’s critical to a company’s success.For Ms. Jalene Liu of Equinix, she shared the data that shows that female candidates should be nudged 7-9 times before they decide to join a company. Further, she said that hiring managers shouldn’t be in a rush to hire talent. “If the hiring manager is always in a rush, there's very little chance of onboarding diverse talents. So, they have to slow down and be focused on driving diversity, and you know, considering the diversity of candidates before deciding to hire.” Finding the right balance between speed and effectiveness should always be in the process of hiring managers. A lot of challenges on diversity and inclusion has been discussed but there are also key opportunities that were tackled in the roundtable. Here are 5 key opportunities that were discussed during the roundtable: 1. Remote work setup For Ms. Carole Hung of Akzo Nobel, she claimed that remote setups are especially conducive to working moms who are trying to get back in the workforce. “Remote work setups really help, it’s an encouragement to working moms to come back to society.” Ms. Hung said. Aside from working moms, Ms. Tiffany of Accenture also shared her learning experience on people with disabilities. She said that the option of being able to work from home opens a lot more opportunities for persons with disabilities. “They can have the flexibility to work from home now and I think this is an area that we can look into with more effort,” Tiffany said. According to Forbes, remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023 and it’s been projected that more companies would move to remote setup.2. Culture of empathy in the workplaceForging a culture of empathy takes many shapes and forms in the workplace, even in a remote setup, this type of culture is supported by Ms. Jalene Liu, of Equinix. She said that having an environment with empathy makes a difference when it comes to mutual respect among employers, managers, and employees. She said “Being a good company also has something to do with the company culture, it should build a healthy environment for the employee, there should be.” 3. Right to disconnect Studies have shown that burnout and stress are the effects of an ‘always on’ culture on employees that are checking messages after work. Expert says that knowing how to disconnect after work is one way to resolve it.For Ms. Lynn of Microsoft, she shared her experience of learning the need to delay when it comes to reaching out to employees via email.“I realized I need to delay sending emails after working hours, it’s a way to respect and have empathy and not to disrupt other people's time.” Ms. Lynn explained. 4. Support for Diversity and Inclusion For Mr. Duncan Hewitt HTS advisor mentioned that men who supports women in the workplace are also the kind of allies the industry need to build diversity. On the same discussion, Denise Naidoo of Avanade Asia, added that leaders have the responsibility to ensure that the company represents the communities they live in. “It's about just rebalancing, everyone that comes there [should] feel like they can be their authentic selves and have a sense of belonging,” Denise said. In 2022, there has been a lot of progress when it comes to inclusivity at work. Progressive industries are now creating diversity campaigns to attract and welcome diverse talents around Asia and even the whole world.5. Better recruitment practices For Cisco’s, Mr. Gary Chua, in order to achieve a diversified pool of talent, one effective strategy is to encourage the participation of female talent from early career stages."We've just deployed techniques to start doing internships with female talent and we also started looking at cross-company mentoring of junior talent,” Chua said.In an article from the Guardian, it stated that gender-neutral job descriptions would reduce impostor syndrome among women looking to enter a male-dominated internship. When screening potential interns, companies should have diverse hiring panels and gender-neutral interview questions.The roundtable ended with a fruitful discourse of the challenges and opportunities each of their respective industries face. This discussion will surely reshape the culture of the corporate world to a better, more diverse environment. Join us on our mission to level the playing field for women at work and prepare for the future of work and become a company that cares.
Brittany Valdes struggled to find her place between two sometimes conflicting identities: motherhood and professional life. Now, she’s rewriting the narrative about working mothers.It’s approaching 10:00 PM on a Tuesday. The house is hushed, and the family is sleeping. All except for the mom. Brittany Valdes sits in her bed, laptop open, face lit up by the screen. She’s catching up on emails for her side business, a nonprofit organization called The Mom Economy that supports moms while they navigate their careers before, during, and after having children. She’s heard that working from bed can affect her sleep—but she does it anyway. An email comes in from a new mother who’s feeling overwhelmed and discouraged after her first week back at work. She cried during a meeting and missed her baby’s rolling over for the first time. Brittany chokes up, remembering those feelings all too well. “It’s okay,” she types, nodding her head with confidence. “You are doing great! I cried too.” She encourages the new mother and then connects her to one of The Mom Economy members, who started a support group for this very situation. As she closes her laptop, Brittany’s mind flashes back five years ago to when she discovered that she was pregnant. “That’s it,” she thought at the time. “My career is over.” She believed that if she wanted to raise a family, she couldn’t be a working mom. Chapter One “When you’re pregnant, everyone wants to give you advice, but you have to do what your heart tells you is good for you and your family.” Brittany has always been driven by her career, she explains. During college in West Palm Beach, she ran multiple student and community activities. Then she moved to Chicago and worked in marketing and events at a publishing company and a tourism group. By age 25, her professional achievements were mounting, fueling her growing ambition. “I was working 60-hour weeks in a big city, and it never felt like work,” she says, laughing knowingly at her younger self. “I thought I was invincible.” And then, she was contacted by a recruiter. Did she want to lead local community programs for a new Microsoft retail store in Miami? It was the career move she’d been waiting for. Three weeks later, Brittany received the job offer, but then her life took a twist. She found out that she was pregnant—and was immediately overcome with doubt and ambiguity. “I thought that if I wanted to raise a family, I couldn’t be a working mom,” she says, her cheery voice turning suddenly serious. The decision felt especially fraught for her, given the culture in which she was raised. “My dad’s side is Cuban, and my mom’s side is Puerto Rican. People from cultures centered on family like mine often particularly struggle with the guilt from wanting both,” she explains. She was tortured with questions: “Will I get to spend enough time with my kids? Will I be able to devote enough energy to my clients? My baby will only be little for a short time. . . . If I take a break from work, will I be able to pick up where I left off?” Even though she was uncertain and scared, she had a village around her and decided to make the leap. She took the position as a community development specialist with Microsoft and helped open the first Microsoft retail store in the Miami area. Chapter Two “A dream woke me up in the middle of the night, and I’ve been awake ever since.” Over time, through trial and error and many of what she calls “non-Instagrammable moments,” as well as with ample support from family, friends, and coworkers, Brittany learned to redefine success on her own terms. Once she found a rhythm, other new moms began to reach out for advice. What started as DMs and coffee dates soon became the inspiration for The Mom Economy. “The Mom Economy was a dream that I had. It woke me up in the middle of the night, and I feel like I’ve been awake ever since.” Working full time, mothering full time, and running her side job has raised a lot of questions for her about how she does it all. Her eyes are smiling but somber—a mother’s face just before a teachable moment with her child. Her answer: “I don’t. It’s just not possible.” [Two black and white historial photos showing a girl behind a counter in a small shop and a historical theatre in Chicago] Chapter Three “Entrepreneurship is in my DNA.” Helping other moms was one part of Brittany’s desire to start a side project. Entrepreneurship, as we call it now, or the side hustle, as her grandfather calls it, runs in the family. Brittany’s abuelito, Wilfredo, fled Cuba in 1945 and moved to Chicago with his new wife, Delia. In addition to working a full-time job, Willie hosted dances for the Latin community on the weekends at a theater he rented—and eventually bought—named the Aragon. He kept his side hustle a secret from his full-time work for nearly seven years; that’s just how it was done then. And it wasn’t just her grandfather who had this entrepreneurial spirit. His son, Brittany’s dad, Willy Jr., started his own vitamin shop in the early 2000s and later owned a financial planning business. “I worked at the shop,” Brittany remembers. “My brother worked there. After school, we were packing bottles, selling. I never even thought about it as something extra. It was just part of our DNA as a family unit.” Chapter Four “I wanted to show my children what my parents gave me and take it to the next level.” While she credits her entrepreneurial spirit to her grandfather and father, she also sees the women—her abuelita, Delia, and her mom, Irasema—working tirelessly to empower their husband’s careers and businesses. Brittany explains that in her culture and family, there can be covert (and sometimes overt) expectations placed on women to prioritize home and family life. But she wanted something outside of the home, too. She wanted both. “I wanted to shift the perspective and take all the beautiful things my mother taught me about prioritizing my children to the next level with my kids,” she says. “I want to teach them to really push themselves and go for their dreams.” “And I think that’s what we need to do at every generation, right? If we do exactly what our parents and our grandparents teach us, we’re not leveling up. We’re not changing. We’re not evolving. We’re not growing.” Chapter Five “And I realized we needed a community of women—a safe space to talk about the things that we were dealing with.” Six years after she accepted the job at Microsoft—and now with two boys—Brittany noticed that she wasn’t alone in her struggle to be a working mom. So she started The Mom Economy. The Mom Economy has several initiatives, but this year, her favorite program was the Mother’s Mercado—a weekend that brought together mother-owned businesses that started as side projects. It was like a boot camp for mom entrepreneurs to learn how to scale their businesses, and one person won a pop-up retail space in New York City. “I felt like this was a really great demographic because a lot of moms are super creative and started these things as a side hustle, and now it’s their full-time job,” she says. It was inspiring to her, and she wanted to get the word out. As president of The Mom Economy, Brittany answers emails, connects moms to resources, and focuses the big picture strategy for the nonprofit. The mission is to grow a thriving community of women supporting women. “You’ve heard the phrase, ‘shop local.’ I say, ‘shop mom.’ Let’s support these families. Investing in mother-owned businesses that are more likely to hire more women creates this amazing trickle-down effect in the ecosystem.” Chapter Six “Still, as a working mom, there are hurdles. There are things that people do not see.” Brittany knows that on the outside, it might seem like she has it all put together. Beyond The Mom Economy, she’s excelled in her career at Microsoft and was named Store Associate of the Year before moving to her current role as the southeast community engagement manager. While she acknowledges that she has an amazing life, she’s been through the fire—and has come out the other side. Her father had a near-fatal heart attack right when Brittany went back to work after her second pregnancy, during which she was also struggling with post-partum depression and working on her masters degree in Business Administration. She thought the stress was going to end her. “People only see the glamorous side, right? They don’t see all the hurdles,” she says, pausing with sadness. “I get emotional speaking about it because, when you’re an entrepreneur, when you’re a working mom, there’s sacrifice. There are things that people don’t see. No one wants to share those things on their Instagram highlight, but it’s part of who we are. We have to find joy in those seasons, too.” Chapter Seven “I’m not perfect, but when my kids look at me, they’re looking at a mom who’s giving them opportunity to see what their life could be.” Through struggle and support, Brittany crafted a lifestyle that could sustain both family and work and side projects: a worldview that honors letting go of perfection, staying present in the moment, and investing in things that last. “It’s not about doing everything in your life perfectly; it’s not possible. It’s about being present for the moment you are in.” “We really need to push the boundaries on what work-life balance means, because I don’t think there should be a balance. I think it should be a meshed lifestyle,” she says. “If not, no one’s going to be happy because you’re going to always feel like you’re compartmentalizing everything.” “I’m not perfect, but when my kids look at me, they’re looking at a mom who’s giving them opportunity to see what their life could be.” Photography and videography by Sebastian Demarco; Additional videography by Candace Whitney-Morris. The original article was published here.
Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing. By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career. The world is your oyster, and it starts with you. Enjoyed this article let us know your thoughts in the comments below:Learn about the basics of inclusive design and why all organizations need to prioritize it Discover how inclusive design affects employee retention and employee morale Discuss the importance of companies' focus on their diverse employees and their situational needs (Women with physical disabilities, psychological disabilities, special needs) Discuss options for women such as female-friendly offices, breastfeeding rooms, ways to increase women’s safety, considerations for pregnant women in the office Learn about how we can be inclusive in our day-to-day life What to expect Yee May Leong, Equinix Managing Director Angielina Tay, DuPont Talent Business Partner Imane Jamal Eddine, Microsoft Country Head of Customer SuccessDuncan Hewett, VMware Asia Pacific & Japan Strategic Advisor & Former-Senior Vice President & General ManagerOur Speakers Our panelists from Equinix, DuPont, and Microsoft will answer these burning questions and will show us why inclusive design is needed to build a better workplace and most importantly, why it is the key to a more sustainable tomorrow. In this fireside chat, three female leaders will discuss the growing importance of Inclusive Design. Why is inclusive design important? Where can we start? How will it help women be more productive in the long run of their careers? However, despite the proven connection between diverse and inclusive workplaces and business profitability and performance, the 2022 business world has still not leveled the gender equity playing field. Certain workplaces and work models are still not adapted to fit current standards for diverse women, who should be able to participate equally, confidently, and independently in their day-to-day. As employees all over the world are coming back to in-person offices, how can companies begin to create solutions for women, keeping an inclusive and open mindset of the diverse women in today’s society? The UN Women theme for IWD 2022 is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, recognizing the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.
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