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May 26, 2021 // A+P Staff // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

A+P Women’s Leadership Program Empowers and Inspires

The Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) at Allison+Partners is a career development program focused on women-specific leadership development topics and activities to enable its staffers to reach their full potential. The goal of this program is to improve leadership skills at Allison+Partners and is open to both men and women. The program includes quarterly speaker sessions with a female leader outside of the company, as well as a group mentorship program that brings together senior Allison+Partner female leaders with small groups to discuss a specific leadership topic. 

One of our most recent sessions focused on how to better promote diversity in the workplace and create more opportunities for women of all backgrounds, races, ages, and sexual orientations to have a seat at the table. Following our guest speaker Natasha Bowman’s webinar “Being a Woman of Color in the Workplace,” each mentor/mentee session in the program held breakout discussions on diversity, allyship, challenges and stereotypes that we have faced in our careers. 

With varied backgrounds and experiences, our amazing A+P mentors have so much insight to share on these topics -- each woman has faced her own unique challenges, and come out stronger because of them. Here are a few key insights and tips coming out of those breakout sessions:

  • Move away from evaluating“culture fit” when recruiting new talent. Instead, focus on the candidate's qualities and hard skills appropriate for the role, bring in diverse interviewers and interviewees and incorporate a more structured process for interviews. 
  • Exceptional allyship is about empowerment. It’s not just about advocating for others, but coaching them on how to speak up for themselves too. Listening is also critical to being a good ally - you need to truly hear different perspectives, not just prepare to refute or respond. Pay attention and course-correct immediately if you’ve shown unintentional or unconscious bias.
  • Stereotypes around strong women is an ongoing issue. Many women feel the need to adapt different parts of their personalities in the workplace to earn a seat at the table. This can be anything from speaking at a higher volume, being more assertive with opinions during meetings or altering our body language. We have the difficult job of customizing how we present ourselves depending on who we’re engaging with -- male or female managers, peers, direct reports, clients, etc. Misconceptions about what being a strong woman means are perpetuated in pop culture, workplaces and more, and we’re tasked with challenging and disrupting them on a daily basis. 
  • Look for ways to build meaningful connections. Connection builds empathy and empathy helps us understand one another on a deeper, more personal level. Empathy also helps us consider how our individual privileges shape our unconscious biases. Consider starting meetings with ice breakers and more casual conversation. Prioritize coffee meetings--this can be virtual--in which you take the time to understand your colleagues’ ambitions, passions and challenges. The better we can empathize with one another, the stronger our teams will be. 

These initial discussions and takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg, but having group mentorship sessions to regularly have these open conversations has been incredibly helpful. Connecting with others across the agency on a deeper level exposes participants to a wider range of potential career paths, diverse insights on topics that matter to us and actionable tips for growing as both A+P employees and as women in the workforce. 

The Women’s Leadership Program Content Committee manages all things content for the agency-wide initiative. This includes sharing inspiring or thought-provoking articles, podcasts and videos with members of the program, organizing discussions around this content and more. Members of the committee include Molly Luby, Lauren Bayse, Kelly Kenney, Rachel Busch and Taylor Rearick. 

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