May 3rd, 2022 | Sterling
Celebrating and Supporting Women in the Workplace and Beyond
March was Women’s History Month, and it was a meaningful period for all of us at Sterling as we continue to make a concerted effort to advocate for women’s rights within the workplace.
In the HR space, we know that diversity and inclusion is critical when building out authentic teams and work cultures. In honor of Women’s History month, we wanted to discuss and explore the unique challenges that women face in the workplace while they’re also managing work/life balance. With this in mind, we discussed what Sterling is doing to meet all these needs.
On a recent episode of Sterling Live, Katelyn Brower, Social Media Manager, had a candid conversation about women’s challenges and triumphs in the workplace with Jennifer Ketchens, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Vincenza Caruso-Valente, General Manager, Retail, Staffing, and Franchise at Sterling, and David Bloom, General Manager, Gig, Consumer, and Volunteers.
What Does Women’s History Month Mean to you?
Women’s History Month is meaningful for a variety of reasons. “For me it’s more about who you are.” said Jennifer Ketchens. “A woman like me has a lot of intersectionality. It’s always an opportunity to share, to educate. I am a mother of two girls, 22 and 20. And it’s important for me because they may not go into corporate America. So the things that I’m doing at Sterling, the things that I’m doing in the corporate world, may not reach them. So how do I ensure that these women (my little women) turn into good women in the world no matter where they go?” Ketchens said.
The month of March celebrates women, but it’s also important to note that women need the support of allies all year long. Women are powerful as they are, and we can help build them up with a strong network of allyship.
As a great example within Sterling, David Bloom is an active ally for women. He’s vocal about his support of diversity and inclusion. “Earlier this month, my 10-year-old son asked me while we were walking the dog one night, ‘Is it sexist that we have a whole month just devoted to women’s history?’ And then he asked me about Black History Month. And I told him…I said ‘It’s not that it’s sexist, and it’s not that it’s racist. It’s a recognition that there has been a historical imbalance.” Bloom said.
Bloom went on to say that Women’s History Month helps to correct this imbalance and helps raise our societal consciousness. By observing important events like this at Sterling, there’s been a purposeful effort to rectify these historic and societal injustices.
Ketchens has a unique perspective on Women’s History Month. She sees the value of it as a woman and also reflects on previous awareness months and how they relate to her own identity.
“Having these months where you recognize a Black person, a woman, demographics which have been marginalized throughout the history that we have is so important to me. If you don’t focus on young people, like David’s son in fifth grade, then we won’t ever change anything.” Ketchens said.
Breaking the Bias
Jennifer Ketchens talked about how Sterling took part in an external global campaign called “Breaking the Bias,” developed to fight against misogyny in the workplace. Highlighting this pivotal campaign, she mentioned the various podcast interviews being conducted at Sterling with women throughout the world. She’s noticed themes throughout these interviews: women have a common experience no matter where they live.
Sterling prioritizes women in leadership roles. Ketchens noted that Sterling has a strong female leadership team, with over 52% of women in leadership roles. One of the company’s core values is to have equal representation in the company. Having strong female leaders creates an environment for women to succeed and climb the corporate ladder. Ketchens also talked about the importance of the Women’s Network, an ERG (Employee Resource Group) at Sterling.
The Women’s Network ERG
“When I first started at Sterling, we had a female CEO,” Ketchens said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to work for this company.” Since then, Ketchens has worked tirelessly to empower women, including developing Sterling’s ERG, The Women’s Network.
The Sterling Women’s Network is an inspiring group. Jennifer Ketchens notes that there are over 600 members of this ERG. The Women’s Network demonstrates Sterling’s commitment to women. The network serves to empower and uplift women, for example by giving them a safe forum to connect and express ideas with one another. The Women’s Network provides women with a space to find friends, colleagues, and mentors. It also gives them a sense of community and family.
Ketchens hopes that The Women’s Network will unite women in the workplace and will also make a larger difference outside Sterling. She wants to change things within the company, but she makes her cause global. She urges people to recognize that women provide a vital place globally, including being mothers and leaders in business.
Ketchens isn’t the only member of Sterling who values The Women’s Network. Vincenza Caruso-Valente sees how necessary the ERG is for women at Sterling. “Being able to have a group of women and allies come together and be, for lack of a better term, unafraid and feel really safe about having perhaps some uncomfortable conversations or topics which, traditionally are really difficult to talk about,” Vincenza noted. She said the Women’s Network ERG is a safe space to discuss inequalities that women experience. There are few places where women can open up in a business environment. This ERG at Sterling is breaking that barrier and allowing women to support one another as they further their careers.
In these ways, The Women’s Network is a haven for women. It’s a space at Sterling where women can be authentic and learn from one another. It’s not a competitive environment but rather a safe place for women to be themselves.
“The ERGs, the Women’s Network in particular, affect and impact how we as a company operate in the wider world. It forces a kind of personalization and manifests the issues that women face in the workforce in a much more concrete way for allies than just the abstract awareness that there are issues out there.” Bloom said.
He notes that you can read studies full of statistics, but numbers aren’t as impactful as real people. When you participate in The Women’s Network, you can hear stories from real women who are juggling their family lives within the workforce. “Without the ERGs, it’s academic; with the ERGs, it’s concrete,” Bloom stated.
“Sterling has ‘People First’ as part of our core values. And I love that. This group is just an example of “they mean it when they say it.” Vincenza said.
Sterling supports a call-to-action for all our ERGs. These calls-to-action encourage our employees to commit to achievable goals for our organization. Specifically, we want to help women succeed at the company and feel like they fully belong. And it’s not just about women. Women need strong allyship at work. Sterling encourages men and others to be allies, and this is a priority for the company.
Working to Empower Women
“The focus on Women’s History Month enables everyone to come to the table and strategize exactly how to drive that continued empowerment and confidence for building women who are entering the workplace.” Vincenza Caruso-Valente said. She spoke about being a mother of two girls and how this issue is personal to her.
Vincenza also noted that she had learned a lot from working with mentors, both male and female. She especially stressed the importance of believing in yourself as you work with a mentor. “Invest in yourself, first and foremost, and then find an organization willing to invest in you.” Caruso-Valente noted,.
It’s crucial to foster an environment where women feel comfortable applying for roles at all levels. Sterling understands how important this is.
Bloom summed up the discussion by stating, “Make sure that your organization is writing inclusive job descriptions.” It’s crucial that women feel that they’ve got a chance at getting the job in question. As a company, you can help by providing inclusive language in your job postings. All in all, companies must strive to hire authentic people and prove their commitment to diversity and inclusion. At Sterling, we work to foster a safe and secure workplace for people of all backgrounds. To do that, it’s important to periodically ask ourselves, not “What have we achieved so far?” but instead, “What can we achieve tomorrow?”
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