On February 1, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce announced the kick-off of new initiative All in for Advancement, led by the Chamber’s Women’s Network in collaboration with Babson College.
All in for Advancement focuses on gender equality in the workplace and is meant to mentor professionals in leadership positions who can have a positive impact on their own office cultures. Over the course of its year-long programming, All in for Advancement will provide participants with necessary tools to foster inclusivity, and the goal is to ultimately create happier, equitable and respectful working environments across the Boston business community.
“We wanted to think about the … work we need to do to ensure that all women have safe and inclusive office cultures where they can thrive,” said Yvonne Garcia, chair of the Women’s Network Advisory Board and senior vice president at State Street.
Gender equality in the workplace is a rising issue, and organizations across the state and the globe are addressing it.
In fact, a more gender-balanced world is the 2019 campaign for International Women’s Day, upcoming on March 8. “Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue,” quips its website. “The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
Closer to home, higher education lends its voice to the cause.
Simmons University operates the research-based Center for Gender in Organizations, which “addresses the ways in which deeply embedded cultural assumptions about gender decrease the productivity of individual workers and the performance of organizations as a whole. Coupled with identifying and studying the underlying problems, of course, we also develop, test and evaluate specific strategies for change.” The Center also regularly hosts speakers and seminars.
Likewise, All in for Advancement partner Babson College features its own Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, which champions the potential of women in C-suite and other leadership positions.
The #MeToo movement has also made an impact, although with surprising spin.
Katrin Bennhold recently reported in The New York Times that mentoring women in the #MeToo era was a prime concern for male American executives attending the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland at the end of January. Bennhold writes, “Companies seeking to minimize the risk of sexual harassment or misconduct appear to be simply minimizing contact between female employees and senior male executives, effectively depriving the women of valuable mentorship and exposure.”
This is, of course, illegal. But, it demonstrates just one behavior that currently holds women back from achieving success that is equitable to their male colleagues. Education is key, and talking about the appropriate kind of behavior, the appropriate kind of leadership that we should all engage in is what can move us forward.
Ten companies across industries are participating in All in for Advancement’s inaugural initiative, including Comcast, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Google, Putnam Investments and Tufts Health Plan. Each will send 4-person, gender-race-discipline-mixed teams. Programming includes peer support and networking, exposure to top leaders of culture change, and tailored group coaching sessions. At year’s end, each company will have the opportunity to launch a scalable pilot effort at their company to support inclusion.
“For the past 25 years, the Women’s Network has connected, advanced, and celebrated women in business, helping to establish the Greater Boston Chamber as the leading business association for professional women in our region, and beyond,” said James E. Rooney, president and CEO of the Chamber. “All in for Advancement is our way of taking the work of the Women’s Network to the next level by calling on the business community to lead the way in removing barriers that are preventing equitable workplaces.”