As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I wanted to share some of the events and takeaways we learned on behalf of the BenchShe+ leadership team. We had the honor of putting together programming not just for members of the BenchShe+ employee resource group (ERG), but also hosting events company-wide to help educate and inspire our team throughout the month. There was a great level of participation with over 100 BenchSciers joining our virtual event and 15 participating in a weekly scavenger hunt. However, it was the quality of the conversations, not just the quantity that stood out. There was an incredible amount of resources and personal experiences shared among our ERG members and beyond.
Commemorative moments like these exist to open up the conversation around issues that disproportionately impact women but these are issues that need to be considered year-round. BenchShe+ will certainly continue to run programs throughout 2023 but here are just a few launched this month that we’re proud of. We share this in the hopes that other ERGs can leverage and add to their programs as we all work together to tackle barriers that have impacted women in the workplace.
A few participants in the BenchShe+ Cafe for International Women's Day
BenchShe+ Cafe series
We celebrated International Women’s Day with a special edition of the BenchShe+ Cafe, a brave space for discussing topics impacting women in the workplace. Topics are submitted anonymously and range from dealing with 'prove it again' bias to how to advocate for promotion to how to deal with conflicts with coworkers. The intention behind the BenchShe+ Cafes is to create a space for women at BenchSci where they are free to talk about anything on their minds, get advice, and lean on one another for support. Our special cafe for International Women’s Day was our second one ever and the feedback on this virtual coffee chat was overwhelmingly positive! We’ve expanded it into a monthly series at alternating times to accommodate coworkers in different timezones–from the UK to the west coast.
Some of our trading cards featuring women in leadership at BenchSci
Celebrating great women in history and today
Women’s History Month is all about commemorating and celebrating the vital role of women in history. But there are so many women making waves today in all types of industries from sports to science. That’s why our team created a series of trading cards with facts about women like Indira Gandhi, Marsha P Johnson, Madeline Stuart, and so much more! We also created cards dedicated to the impressive women leaders we have at BenchSci and shared the template with the company so that people can make cards celebrating the women in their lives. We hosted a scavenger hunt based on the facts open to everyone with weekly quizzes and a $50 gift card prize. It was a fun way to encourage our teammates to learn more about the women who have blazed trails ahead of us in so many ways while spotlighting the amazing talent we have in-house.
Hosting Hady Mendez on Breaking Barriers
McKinsey's 2022 Women in the Workplace Report shows that while women make up nearly half of entry-level employees, the representation drops at each level of seniority. Women and particularly women of color remain underrepresented in leadership positions. At BenchSci, we work at the intersection of both science and technology, which are typically male-dominated industries. Our representation of women across the company is about 47% (40% in STEM roles) and 20% at the C-suite which while ahead of industry averages is an area we strive to keep improving.
We felt it was important to host an event called Breaking Barriers with Hady Mendez, a DEI expert to foster discussion about the role we all play in advancing gender equality in the workplace. Hady is a seasoned professional with a diverse career spanning over 25 years in multiple customer-facing roles in tech and financial services. She is the former head of Equality at Slack and has volunteered as an international champion for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. She's also a founding member of nFormation, which is a welcoming community by women of color for women of color.
“I identify as a Latina woman of color and that lived experience also drew me to DEI. I had to learn how to advocate for myself over time. That's not something, at least I wasn't born with that skill so I had to learn how to do that. And then once I learned how to advocate for myself, I realized, I could use the same tools and skills to advocate for other people and really have a much broader impact.”
- Hady Mendez, Founder & CEO, Boldly Speaking LLC
The conversation was open to all team members at all levels. Hady had so many wonderful insights to share with us and these are a few that resonated the most with our team:
- DEI work and tech share skills in common: you have to be curious, want to solve problems and help people, and value trusted relationships
- Everyone needs a “brag sheet”: it’s a document that tracks all your accomplishments whether they are big or small–any work that you’re proud of–to show the value you bring both to your leadership and to yourself
- Nobody likes talking about their achievements – it’s uncomfortable so you need to build that muscle over time
- Don’t forget to also build out a development plan of everything you want to accomplish next so you have targeted areas of growth
- If you’re a manager give specific feedback to your reports so they can continue to develop and invest in plans that support that development
- ERGs are important to providing safe spaces where people can share their concerns, but they are a ton of emotional labor so you need to support those leaders and reward their work for the high-value high impact work that it is
- Acting in allyship is often in the little things - speak up on behalf of your coworkers, even if it’s as small as amplifying their voice by giving credit to them and validating their ideas
- Most importantly, be brave, be bold, and don’t be afraid to take chances!
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