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Investing in developing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.

As an organization, Women Accelerators aims to help advance women and promote gender equity though creating a centralized network and community where women can access resources to help achieve their career goals.

Women Accelerators welcomed Dr. Alexis Stokes in February to meet their community to discuss issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Dr. Stokes serves as the Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at the Harvard School of Engineering where she creates systematic changes to support the success of unrepresented minorities, nontraditional students, and education programs.

Below is a summary of Dr. Stokes presentation with information and tips that can be discussed and utilized in your workplace.

Why are diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations essential?

The world demographics are changing which impacts all environments.  This creates a need to change and innovate the way that organizations have always done things.  Organizations can empower their communities to get involved and create an environment where the culture values diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Inclusive practices benefit everyone within an organization, not just diverse employees.

How can organizations help create diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces?

It is much more than just hiring an individual for a diversity position.  It is about influencing the organizational culture to move beyond simply working in an inclusive environment to contributing to an inclusive environment.  Understanding the culture (beliefs, customs, acts) of a group helps develop a strategy to invite and encourages individuals into a conversation and create connections to what is valued.  The process should allow individuals in a group to use their privilege and powers to help others.  Organizations need to prioritize this as important work that they do as individuals as well as teams.

It is essential that organizations are clear and transparent with employees as to where they currently stand in the journey to become diverse, inclusive, and equitable environments.  Sharing a process and timeline can be helpful to allow individuals to visualize how getting involved can impact this work.  Being open and honest around data and decisions can allow people to feel more included in work that is going on and to start conversations and help make connections.

For an organization to work on diversity, inclusion, and equity, what resources are necessary?

Organizational culture is a shared responsibility where everyone needs to contribute.  Creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment requires ongoing commitment and resources to make the initiative successful.  Necessary resources include: budget, staffing, a communication plan to internal and external groups, connection to those who hold influential positions in the organization, visibility within the organization, access to data and resources, and training that enhances knowledge and action.

What steps should an organization take to create action around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

An organization needs to include these values as part of their mission. All departments and groups should be held responsible for reporting on their progress and success. Creating accountability as individuals, teams, and organizations helps to develop a culture where expectations, commitment, and reporting become the norm.  Additionally, organizations need to share data with people as this knowledge helps to influence actions.

What are some suggestions around how reporting can be done to understand the impact on efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

There are several ways that impact can be evaluated.  They include:

  • Develop initiative into an organizations strategic plan and create a congruent diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan that supplements the larger plan.
  • Develop/implement a community standard or code of conduct.
  • Goal setting on measurable activities or tasks.
  • Include in employee evaluations a way for each induvial to share what they have done to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Track progress on initiatives implemented and shared findings with the organization.

What can individuals do to support the creation or further development of diversity, equity, and inclusion through their work?

Individuals have the power to influence and create change in many ways:

  • Provide micro affirmations of positive things you see and experience. These can be very effective and help others create a culture that respects diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Give credit to others when appropriate and try to use “we” more than “I” to create a group culture.
  • Ask others for opinions and feedback, especially if you notice that they have not had an opportunity to speak.
  • Use the preferred pronouns for individuals and work to use inclusive language and images.
  • Make eye contact with those you are working and speaking with to create a connection.

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Greater Lowell Community Foundation Announces Fiscal Sponsorship of Women Accelerators

Lowell, MA – The Greater Lowell Community Foundation announces the recent fiscal sponsorship of Women Accelerators, an organization passionate about promoting the advancement of women and bridging the gender gap. Women Accelerators is based in Massachusetts with chapters in Lowell and Cambridge.

The mission of Women Accelerators is to provide a centralized network where career-focused women can access resources tailored to their career goals. By offering educational programs, networking and mentoring, they help women navigate opportunities that nurture female leaders efficiently. Their vision is to generate a community of like-minded, high-achieving women, who help each other succeed in the workplace.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Greater Lowell Community Foundation as the fiscal sponsor for Women Accelerators. The GLCF has a wealth of experience and the necessary resources to assist us in our mission of helping women with their career advancement. By pairing with GLCF, we gain valuable insights into fundraising and learn the tools for being more efficient in managing a nonprofit. Teaming with GLCF will help us to build a stronger community,” said Susu Wong, co-founder of Women Accelerators.

“We see the foundation’s support of Women Accelerators as an important opportunity to optimize the excellence of this organization that serves women in all stages of their careers,” said Jay Linnehan, GLCF President and CEO. “We are proud to partner on their vision of equity in the workplace.”

For more information and a full event listing, visit: womenaccelerators.org.

Donations to any fund at the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, including the Women Accelerators, can be made online at www.glcfoundation.org/donate or by mail to the Women Accelerators c/o GLCF, 100 Merrimack Street, Suite 202, Lowell, MA 01852.

For more information on the Greater Lowell Community Foundation please visit www.glcfoundation.org.

 

About Greater Lowell Community Foundation

The Greater Lowell Community Foundation is a philanthropic organization comprised of over 350 funds, currently totaling over $39MM, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life in

20 neighboring cities and towns. The Community Foundation annually awards grants and scholarships to hundreds of worthy nonprofits and students. It is powered by the winning combination of donor-directed giving, personal attention from its staff, and an in-depth understanding of local needs. The generosity of our donors has enabled the Community Foundation to award more than $15 million to the Greater Lowell Community since 1999.

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The Women Accelerators 2019 Mentoring Program Wrap-up

Written by Huan Rui, Ph.D., a computational chemist at Amgen. Huan is currently the president at Women Accelerators. She served as the program chair during the 2019 mentoring program. 

No one can deny the benefits of having mentors who lift us up and help us in our careers. There can be times when it feels uncertain who could guide us through difficult situations.

But remember, mentorship does not have to be formal and you can have more than one mentor. One of the informal mentorship models I like is peer mentoring. It happens more often than you think. Think of a time you asked a friend or a coworker about something that you did not know well but they did. Usually, you get the answer you need. You come to them because you think that they are the experts in the topic and this is often well perceived and appreciated. Another way to get mentoring opportunities is to talk to your manager or advisor directly and express to them your needs. Many companies and academic institutes already have a mentoring program in place, but in case yours do not, it is absolutely OK you ask. 

If you are too shy to ask for help from people you know, there are also many mentoring opportunities online or in-person offered by different organizations that can fit your needs. At Women Accelerators, we have been running a mentoring program for seven years. We have an extensive network of mentors and our graduates are in a variety of fields like academia, biotech, law, and management. The program starts in January and ends in June of each year, but the applications start in October the year before. (That is if you want to be part of the 2020 program, the application is coming up.) As a mentee of the program, during each month you meet with your mentor for an hour to discuss the issues you need help with. Some popular topics include effective job search, salary negotiation, self-branding, and so on. Many of our previous year participants have expressed their appreciation of the program:

“My mentoring experience has been great so far! I feel so lucky for being matched with my mentor. She has introduced countless helpful resources in career building and was so supportive when I told her (halfway through the program) that I have decided to make a career change. I think we have made a relationship that will continue on far after the mentoring program has ended.”  – Candace Anderson, 2019 program mentee

A lot of efforts have been put in by our passionate volunteers to improve the program each year. For example, in the past year, we implemented a matching algorithm based on the common interests of the mentors and mentees. It follows the work done by the 2012 Nobel Laureates in Economics, Dr. Alvin Roth on market design and game theory (Roth and Peranson, 1999). It works by matching the parties by their preferential rankings of each other, therefore maximizing the overall commonality between the mentors and mentees. We have also started a Slack channel for the mentees to communicate with each other and share what they have learned. We will keep on testing new ideas and make the mentoring program experience better. 

Roth, Alvin, E., and Elliott Peranson. 1999. “The Redesign of the Matching Market for American Physicians: Some Engineering Aspects of Economic Design.” American Economic Review, 89 (4): 748-780

Check out a Mentee’s Perspective of the 2018 Mentoring Wrap up

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My personal journey of mentoring

Written by Huan Rui, Ph.D., a computational chemist at Amgen. Huan is currently the president at Women Accelerators. She served as the program chair during the 2019 mentoring program.

After more than twenty years in school, I finally landed a job that I like and pays well. I moved to Boston with loads of ambition and an open mind. When Susu Wong, the cofounder of Women Accelerators approached me at a networking event and told me about her non-profit that helps women succeed in their careers, I instantly took a liking of her and her organization. I decided to volunteer. Once I found out that Women Accelerators has an annual mentoring program, with my academic background and my enthusiasm in helping others, I became the program chair for 2019. 

Coming from an engineering background, I understand how hard it is to not have a mentor to guide you through difficult times. I studied bioinformatics in college. It is one of those majors that have a severe skewed male to female ratio. On top of that, the school I went to was an engineering school and that did not help restore the ratio balance. Almost all my teachers and peers were men. It was very difficult to relate to them. But still, I finished my degree with a reasonably good GPA and moved to the US in pursuit of a Ph.D. in computational biology. Again, I had the same problem finding a role model. This is also the time I realized that I am not only woman, I am a queer woman. At the time, marriage equality was only in a few states and many members of the LGBTQ community in academia were not publicly. I could not find a single faculty member in my department or any related departments that is both woman and gay. I was lucky that I found a community of folks who support LGBTQ rights in the small college town. We became friends; we supported each other. We organized “Food Not Bomb” events feeding the homeless and the poor. We went to underground art shows and concerts. We participated in marches demanding women’s rights. It was through these events that I learned how to organize and lead. These people are my friends and also my mentors. We helped each other grow.

Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

Often times we may find ourselves in situations where we are the only ones and there is no place we can turn for answers. When this happens, do not be afraid. Instead, we should give ourselves a pat on the back, because this means that we are on a road that no one else has traveled before and we are truly the pioneers. There is a Chinese saying, “to be the first one eating the crabs”. Imagine if you have not seen a crab before, would you be willing to eat it? Only after you taste it that you discover its deliciousness. The moral of the story is that being brave and having an open mind can lead to pleasant discoveries. Be brave when you are on your own. 

Continue to read Huan’s next blog on Women Accelerator’s Mentoring Program. 

 

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5 Simple Self Care Tips for Fall

With a summer that surely expired quicker than we all would like, it’s almost time for the weather to change again. Fall in Boston has so many redeeming qualities: colorful leaves, cozy sweaters, apple picking (see: apple donuts) and your favorite warm drink.

Unfortunately, this time of year can also bring extra anxiety and sometimes an overwhelming increase in items on the ‘to-do’ list. As we plan for the upcoming start of classes, new jobs, and whatever else may be on the horizon, it is important to remember that it’s not all about the hustle. Slowing down and taking time for YOU is vital for well-being and long-term productivity.

When you are happy and managing stress, you are performing better overall – so, to help our followers stay at the top of their game we compiled these 5 tips for self care. 

  1. Take time for soul-searching before taking action

Something often overlooked in self care is the importance of individual consideration. No number of spa days will cure the overwhelming stress of working in a role that is a major mismatch; or, working within culture that mismatches with your own personal beliefs. 

Taking some time to clear your head, identify a root cause or a personal need can be the best gift to yourself. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work or in personal matters and aren’t able to quash the stress or anxiety, take time to soul search. If there is something or someone in your life causing you pain, and you are able to distance yourself, then that may be the best self care possible. Similarly, if you used to love to paint (or name a hobby) but haven’t had time for it lately, maybe it’s time to pick up that brush and see if it is the escape you needed.

Our leadership team is composed of a diverse group of women and we all have different self-care rituals. You must find what works for you. 

Have trouble slowing your mind down long enough to think? Sometimes the best way to think is to pause long enough to catch your breath & be present – Try one of these guided meditation apps to find your zen:

Headspace

Calm

Insight Timer

Ensō 

& for the skeptic who is not sure that they want to meditation, read this

 

  1. Hit the weights

Getting into an exercise routine can be the hardest part with a busy schedule but blocking time on your calendar and following through is worth it! There is no prescribed time for the positive results of exercise so just get your blood pumping even if that means taking 10-15 minutes each morning to do push ups and sit ups before your morning routine. 

Research shows that exercise can relieve stress, reduce depression and improve cognitive function. But don’t just take our word for it:

Harvard Health on exercising to relax.

American Psychological Association on the stress and exercise link.

American Heart Association on working out to relieve stress.

 

  1. Indulge in a spa day

A spa day doesn’t mean you need to take an entire day off (unless you can – then treat yourself). Instead, choose a service that makes you happy and relax. Taking an hour to get your nails done or get a massage could be “your” meditation.  Changing up your hair or nails can be a boost of confidence. A spa day isn’t going to fully change your self perception BUT it gives you a chance to step back and refresh your look (& hopefully outlook on life).

Having a positive self image can impact your daily life and part of that is how you feel in your skin. Think through these positive thinking strategies as you pick out your new fall nail color (helpful for perfectionists like me!). 

  1. Take a walk

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out and aren’t able to take time off (yet) –  sometimes the best thing to do is take a walk. Even taking a walk around the office or around the building outside can do wonders for clearing your head or helping you cool down from a tense situation in the classroom or boardroom. Walking removes you from the stressors and the stressful environment and can give you much needed fresh perspective. 

For even more value on your walk – take a friend. Use the walk to vent or get feedback on an issue you are facing. Or use the time to connect with someone you may not normally talk to and make a new friend in the process. 

 

  1. READ

If time off of work for travel & relaxation is out of the question, take your mind on vacation. One of the easiest ways to escape is to dive into a good book and feel immersed in its pages.

If you have a long commute (shout out to the MBTA), you can take 10-15 minutes to step away from your stressors and imagine a different world or learn something new. Once you reach your destination, you will at least have a fresh perspective on your environment and maybe even a few ideas to tackle the day’s challenges!

 Check out these 24 reads under 200 pages (both fiction and non-fiction).

 

“Self-care is how you take your power back.”

– Lalah Delia

 

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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Essential Management Skills for New Managers

Written by Susu Wong based on Etta Jacob’s How to Improve Your Management Skills Webinar.

Etta Jacobs, Founder of Hermes Path and an Executive and Career Transition Coach has a  passion for helping people reach their highest potential.  We were honored to have Etta as a speaker for two webinars in January where she shared  “How to Improve Your Management Skills.”

The webinars were highly interactive and the attendees were encouraged to chat about their challenges and experiences as managers. Many attendees said that one of the hardest adjustments was delegation because they were used to being individual contributors. Why do new managers have a hard time delegating? An underlying reason is managers think they can do it faster and better than their team members. Training people takes time and can take as much as eight months but the time is worth the reward.

 

Why Delegate?

New managers are no longer being judged on their own merit, but rather by the performance of their entire team. They also have other responsibilities and assignments from their supervisors creating a wedge in the ranking file. When a new strategy rolls out, such as a new product, programs, or service offering from their supervisors, the middle managers have to make sure it gets implemented on time, on budget, and on top of everything else on their plate. Delegating tasks and setting expectations for their team will make it easier for managers to get their jobs done because they can no longer do everything.  Let your team figure things out on their own and guide them along the way. Be clear about communicating your expectations and the outcomes you are looking for— this will help them know if they are heading in the right direction.

One of the observations Etta made was that no matter how you think of yourself, your title will precede you into the room. Your team is constantly watching everything you do and sizing you up. You should assume competence, and fake it until you make it!

 

Can friends be your employees?

This is especially challenging if you become your friend’s boss after a period of acting as peers. Your new status can make it difficult for you to remain friends so you have to consider your day to day roles and may have to change your behavior and interaction. Set boundaries between you and your friends to help avoid conflict of interest issues and even perceptions of favoritism. Needless to say, you don’t want to give your friends—who are now your employees—the impression of any special treatment.  While at work, always keep it professional.

 

Team dynamics

Here are some tips from Etta:

  1. Do not reprimand your team in front of your boss, it will make them look bad and lose the respect of your authority.
  2. Watch your body language. Don’t make eye rolls when you’re unhappy with someone!
  3. What if I make mistakes as this is common for new managers? The important part is what can I learn from this? Don’t bury your mistakes and don’t blame someone else for your mistakes. You need to own it and come up with a plan to improve the situation.
  4. Encouraging questions will help you to understand what the underlying issues are so you can come up with a solution or work-around.
  5. It is important to set aside time to manage your budget and hiring. Sometimes it is tempting to hire someone quickly when you are short on staff and your team is working extra hours.
  6. Remember to hire the right people that compliment your strengths and weaknesses.  Making thoughtful decisions in terms of hiring talent will go a long way.
  7. Stress, what stress? Etta said that a lot of stress is self-induced and it is helpful to shift your mindset. Your Inner Critic is really watching out for your best interest not trying to undermine you. Learn how to interpret the signals from your Inner Critic.
  8. Say to yourself, I got this and quiet the noise. Visualize positive outcomes, and ask yourself – what is stressing me the most? Please stop trying to be perfect!
  9. You can’t fix your boss but you can change some of your approaches to him/her and take a different view.  Try to think of the boss as a teacher or a mentor. Keep listening and be open-minded to suggestions.
  10. Your boss hates surprises and hates being blindsided.

Here are some strategies to de-stress:

  1. Find what works for you such as a to-do list, exercise to de-stress, etc.
  2. Ask for help –  self-care is the “secret sauce” to be very effective at work.
  3. Find a safe space – a circle of peers who you feel comfortable talking to.
  4. Embrace risk and try something new.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up over trying to be perfect.
  6. Learn to see your mistakes as opportunities to be better.

 

Etta recommends reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck to get more in tune with your mind.

For more middle manager tips from Etta, visit her website at: https://www.powerinthemiddle.com/

Check out our blogs and visit our website for upcoming events and webinars.

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How to Make the Most out of your Mentorship: PART 2, Mentoring Resources

Last month we shared some tips to make the most out of your mentorship. If you missed it, read it here. This month, we’ve compiled a list of resources to help with the journey- whether you’ve joined our Women Accelerator’s mentoring group OR just want to strengthen a mentoring relationship you already have in place, these links will help!

In many cases, a mentor’s advice and the mentor/mentee relationship has an impact that lasts long after the official mentorship ends. To preface the resources, we asked the Women Accelerators leadership team to share some of the best advice they’ve ever received.

“I try not to sweat over little things that are not that important. The other thing is I stop myself when I start becoming a perfectionist because no one is.”

“If you aren’t LOVING your current role, look around for the resources available to you within the organization – ask the question if you aren’t sure you can take courses. Take as many classes or accept as many opportunities as you can. Learn as much as you possibly can. Continue to work hard in your current role but exploring resources and learning may make you more qualified for your next role or ignite an old passion for your current position. ”

“Sometimes you will just not be a fit – for an organization’s culture or a specific role. That is OK. If you don’t get the job, walk away from a job or lose a job, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. Keep your head up and remember some of the best things in life are found after someone failed. Press on and find a spot that clicks – you’ll be much happier.”

“You’re mad because you suck and you don’t want to suck. You’re used to being the best. But you need to understand you’re going to suck for awhile and that’s OK. [in context of starting a new role and the learning curve that comes with it].”

“I used to get burned out very often. One of the best advice I have gotten is to “not lose sight in the current and always remind yourself of what you want” because work requests can be endless and some of them don’t necessarily lead to anywhere career wise. It is important to remember what excites you the most and follow that.”

Can you think back to advice you’ve received from a mentor that still impacts your life today?

Mentoring can be an incredible opportunity with SO much gained but it can also be SO much work especially if you don’t know where to start or what to ask. Check out the resources below to help guide you as you navigate through a mentorship as a mentor or mentee:

Mentee

  1. Demystifying Mentoring
  2. 40 Questions to Ask a Mentor
  3. 12 Powerful Questions to Ask a Mentor about Career Path
  4. What mentors with their Mentees knew
  5. Tips for Mentees
  6. TED: The Career Advice you probably didn’t get
  7. TED: Why we have too few women leaders

Mentor

  1. Top 10 tips for mentors
  2. What the best mentors do 
  3. How to mentor someone who doesn’t know what their goals should be 
  4. A quick exercise to explore different life paths
  5. Good Mentors help you work through strong emotions
  6. Demystifying Mentoring

Want to learn more about our annual mentoring program? Find out more here.

 

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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Do you self-promote enough?

Remember we recently had a webinar with Melody Wilding on imposter-syndrome (See our blog post Tackle self-doubt: How to overcome imposter syndrome for more)? In the webinar, we learned that feeling like you’re not good enough or you don’t have anything important to say is a common psychological pattern amongst women.

But let’s be reminded: no one should feel that way.

And so our message continues. On Thursday, we had the pleasure to welcome Kim Meninger (pronounced Me-nin-jer!) to speak on Using Self-Promotion Strategies to Raise Your Visibility, Increase Your Influence and Advance Your Career. This interactive workshop encouraged fellow career-driven women to share their stories with each other and to take a step forward using self-promotion techniques and strategies.

Kim is a certified executive and leadership development coach empowering individuals and organizations to reach their full leadership potential (bio here). There is something about her that instantly invites you to open up. Perhaps it’s the business casual (vs the full-on corporate) attire styled-up with her warm smile. Welcome to the no-judgment zone. So tell me, she begins, “how many of you self-promote at work?” Still only 5 minutes into the workshop, the audience is shy and reserved. One hand goes up, and another slowly. Kim chuckles and nods: “Well, everyone at your office should know who you are and what you do. So promote yourself!”

Kim then asked the audience to turn to their fellow attendees (everyone is sitting at round tables) and ask each other, in what ways are you/am I self-promoting at work already? One person said “I sit in the front at meetings and try to ask questions”, another said, “I usually try to reach out to people from other departments to seek collaborations”. Few minutes into the group discussion, the room became gradually vibrant with audiences lending their ears and opening up to each other. “Let me ask again”, Kim said, “how many people are self-promoting at work?” This time, majority of the attendees raised their hands. Turns out, once the audience verbalized their experiences, they were able to recognize that they do self-promote. What does this tell us? Do we, women, need affirmation in order to feel comfortable or safe to self-promote?

Kim doesn’t miss a beat and poses to the group: Why is self-promotion difficult for women? One audience said she’s tired of the bad reaction she receives from male colleagues, another added, “you fear of negative labels by men so you’d rather not talk”. It’s as if self-promotion feels insincere to us and so you fear to act on it. Unfortunately, this tends to be the mindset that is taught to us women at a young age.

So let’s change that mindset!

Kim says “promoting yourself is actually a service to others because you’re letting them know what skills you have and how they can utilize you”. If you don’t feel comfortable self-promoting, remember to focus on your strengths, not the other way around which apparently we all tend to do.

With that in mind, Kim shared below key to success and strategies for self-promotion.

Keys to success:

  • Self-awareness – What is your strength?
  • Confidence – You must believe in yourself!
  • Courage – Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone
  • Authenticity – Be you!
  • Consistency – This isn’t an annual practice, do it consistently throughout the year!

Key Strategies:

  1. Get a weekly facetime with your boss. If not, proactively send her/him weekly updates, highlighting your accomplishments of the week.
  2. Identify and own your expertise.
  3. Speak up at meetings.
  4. Offer to help/teach others.
  5. Build strategic relationships.
  6. Volunteer for cross-functional projects.
  7. Take advantage of casual opportunities.

At the end of the workshop, Kim asked the audience to turn to their tables one last time and share what the takeaway from the workshop was. Many said, “I feel more confident”, one said, “you might think you’re under the radar but you never really are, you just think that”.

A common theme in this workshop seemed like the majority of the audience felt hesitant to self-promote in fear of negative perception in the workplace. But after the 2-hour workshop of verbalizing one’s strength and sharing stories, the audience appeared ever so vibrant and confident.

So perhaps it’s not that we don’t know how to self-promote but simply need to remind ourselves why we should.

After all, we’re all rockstars and must never shy away from that spotlight because we deserve it.

Do you want more? Here are some resources and follow-up notes from the event!

Using Self-Promotion to Advance Your Career Slides 
Using Self-Promotion to Advance Your Career Post- Event Worksheet

Our next event is on March 7th, Thursday with Elaine Blais on 3 Secrets to a Kickass Life. We look forward to seeing you there!

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How to make the most out of your Mentorship

First things first, what is a mentor and what does mentorship mean?

You’ve probably heard the word mentor AT LEAST 25 times in your professional life – if not more, but it’s possible the reference could have been made in a variety of contexts. For all intents and purposes, how I will refer to it in this blog is as “an experienced and trusted advisor” – straight from Merriam-Webster.

It is important to understand that a mentor is someone that provides professional guidance and advise to help a mentee evaluate their professional landscape and grow in that realm –  even if they are a professional within a certain field, a mentor is not providing a mentee services to that end (ie. lawyer, doctor etc..). The mentorship is the period of time the mentor provides the mentee career and professional advice. The time period can vary from a very short period (a day to a few weeks or months) to years, depending on the relationship formed. The connection could be made through an informal or work connection or a more formal program, like our annual mentoring program (learn more here: https://womenaccelerators.org/mentoring-program/).

A mentorship can have a huge impact on your professional life IF you take advantage of what it can provide. In nearly all cases, a mentor is senior to a mentee and has a wealth of knowledge AND consequently, a strong network in a certain industry or realm. Most importantly, a mentorship is a relationship based on trust and respect. A mentor is someone, with experience, that you can discuss insights and issues. A space to discuss, without judgment, can help you sort through issues with a new perspective which can help you overcome those issues – reaching career heights you may not have thought possible before.

So you have a mentor, now what?

Take time for introspection

Take time to think about your ‘WHY’. The better you know yourself and your goals, the better you can navigate through the benefits of mentorship.

Think of this as a journey, if you don’t know the destination – how can you make it there?

To start, consider the following questions:

  1. Can you summarize your current professional experience? Make a list of highlights.
  2. What are your short and long term professional goals?
    1. If you don’t know – check out this HBR article for extra considerations: https://hbr.org/2018/07/how-to-mentor-someone-who-doesnt-know-what-their-career-goals-should-be
    2. Still struggling? Look at the career histories of people you admire or want to emulate, see if you can find anything that aligns with your passions and goals to use as a taking off point.
  3. Is there an aspect of business/professional life that particularly intrigues you or you want assistance navigating?
  4. Can you make a list of what you hope to achieve from a mentorship? (ie. are you looking for ideas to obtain skills, reach a new level, learn leadership tactics, increase your network etc…).
  5. Consider what your personality type is, are you an extrovert, introvert or analytical in nature?  And what kind of work environment or management style meshes best with your personality?
  6. Try taking personality tests such as Myers Briggs, Insights Discovery,or a DiSC personality assessment tool, etc. for additional insight.
  7. Think of anything else you may want to learn or know – professionally and personally.

Make a plan

As the mentee, unless your program dictates otherwise, you are responsible for driving the program.

  • Think of a few major topics you want to focus on throughout the mentorship and touch on them your first meeting.
  • Plan to bring your mentor up to speed as much as possible about your personality type and communications preferences.
  • Keep a list of things you are interested in discussion for quick reference.
  • Consider the timeline of the program and how many interactions or touchpoints are specified. If there is not a concrete schedule, draft one and have a discussion with your mentor to see if it works for them.
  • Pre-plan meetings! Have questions and topics ready before you meet with your mentor. Send them a note or email in advance with those topics to help facilitate conversation.
  • Write a summary of your discussions or key points, and plan for action items for the next meeting.

Take Action

Mentorships are WORK.

They take coordination and investment of both time and emotional capital from both parties. As the mentee, it is important to set the schedule in advance. Plan the meetings, follow up and facilitate the discussion. No one understands what you are seeking out of the mentorship better than you. Use the time wisely and act on the above guidance to make the most out of your mentorship!

We’re excited to see you grow and reach new heights – Be sure to stay tuned for more mentoring resources coming soon!

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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3 ways to spot a glass ceiling BEFORE you take the job

According to a recent joint study from McKinsey and Lean In, progress towards gender equality in the workplace has not just slowed down but stalled completely. “Only about 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 25 is a woman of color.” Contradictory to the typical arguments, women are earning comparable education and experience, asking for promotions and also staying in the workforce at similar rates to men.

So why is there still such a large disparity?

According to the study, the management of talent pipelines might be to blame. From day one in an organization, cultural aspects will impact how minorities and women are seen. But also how they are interacted with (potential discrimination), grow (access to senior leaders and/or mentorship/sponsorship), and feel included (are you the “only” woman in the room?). Many companies talk the talk but do not walk the walk. In other words, we need leaders to show and consistently act on promises to create a more diverse workforce. Check out the article and link to the complete study here: https://mck.co/2ORF0Ob

For women and minorities seeking career growth, lets even say – at the speed of their peers, it is important to be cognizant of the organization’s culture and how it impacts our personal experiences and opportunities. While some organizations do not have a culture conducive to growing and nourishing female leadership and inclusion, there is a lot that DO. The trick is deciphering between the two. To do so, you need to pay close attention to the culture and the pipeline that shapes employee growth.

It is important to remember that a job interview is more than just an evaluation of your skills and credentials, it is a chance for YOU to interview the company.

 

 

Here are 3 tips to spot a glass ceiling before signing the offer letter to join ranks within an organization:

1. Take time for introspection

Clearly define your expectations and needs within an organization.

What is most important to you in order to thrive? Opportunity, networking potential, and sponsorship/mentorship are common needs for anyone in an organization but what does that look like for an inclusive workplace? Some organizations are lacking resources for minority and female employees so it is important to decide what you desire and need. Do you want pre-existing organizations set up or is it enough to have diverse backgrounds in the organization? Some may argue lean in circles are important for female inclusion. Is work flexibility important? Many organizations create more flexible work environments to help increase the retention of female high performers but that might not be a breaking point in your job search. How does the organization recognize and give feedback to their employees? For some, and in larger organizations, if feedback or ratings are not explicit, the role and progression can be difficult to navigate or question.

The bottom line to remember is that all women have different “ideal” work environments. Understanding what an ideal environment looks like to you will help you start the search, figure out what questions to ask and refine what companies to apply to.

2. Do your homework

    1. Dig deep into the organization’s public website. What information is available on the culture, mission, and vision? How large is the organization? Is anything listed about diversity and inclusion? If so, what does it tell you about the organization (statistics, business plan, action plan etc..)? Many organizations also have leadership profiles listed on their website, what does that tell you about the organization? If they do not have any diversity on the leadership team, that might be a red flag.
    2. Look at job review sites. Like any mass anonymous review site (see yelp), it’s important to take these with a grain of salt. However, reading multiple reviews may at least help you develop a list of potential topics to probe. An issue mentioned across multiple reviews may be indicative of a cultural trend within a company, especially if respondents are from multiple departments or locations. Some good large scale review sites to check out are: indeed, glassdoor, career bliss. Another site for women by women: fairygodboss.
    3. Reach out. This takes time. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool to find jobs and also to make connections. Before you even apply to a role, spend time finding a few current employees on LinkedIn. Reach out with a message and ask if they have a few minutes to speak to you about their job or organization- also known as an informational interview. While most people want to help, you likely won’t get a response to every message you send. Don’t get discouraged! If you aren’t getting any responses, adjust the message. It helps to be specific in your inquiry. Ask for what you want to learn about up front to shape the conversation but always remember this person may be a future co-worker. Tip: Find someone you have something in common with and you may get a better response rate. If you are able to speak with someone, ask them about their personal experiences. This genuine human connection will most likely provide more detailed insight than you can find online from any public site or anonymous review.

3. Ask the hard questions

*Certainly focus initially on questions about the role but don’t forget the important cultural and environmental questions! The formal interview is an opportunity for you to interview the employer too. Take note of how you are treated, how the office environment is set up, how employees interact and the body language between people.

  1. What is the culture like here?
  2. How is feedback provided or how is success rated?
  3. What are the daily expectations for a time in and out of office? Any flexibility of schedule? (be careful of when and who you ask this question but do include if important to you)
  4. Consider the environment of the office & ask to take a tour – are you comfortable with the surroundings/interactions?
  5. What is the leadership team like?
  6. How is inclusion encouraged within this organization?
  7. Do you have any mentorship programs? Or networking groups?
  8. Why is this position open?
  9. What makes you stay at this organization

Although most modern day companies speak to the value they put on diversity and inclusion, it isn’t always as transparent as we might hope. Learning to listen carefully and being brave enough to ask the tough questions can help female candidates identify gender inclusive employers.

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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