If you’re new to this series, you may want to check out our recent posts about women’s initiatives: What Are They? and When Do You Need a Women’s Initiative? before digging in here. If you already know that your organization needs to start a women’s initiative but you don’t know how to get the ball rolling, keep reading! You’re in the right place.
How to Start a Women’s Initiative in Your Organization*
*Even if you aren’t the boss.
Below are three steps that we recommend following if you have the drive to make the important change within your organization to start a women’s initiative. It might be a good idea to mention that you are exploring the idea to your direct supervisor before getting started, just to be sure you aren’t rocking the office politics boat. If you share that you plan to follow this simple guideline, they will more than likely be on board (and excited to hear what you find!)
Have Meaningful Conversations (and document them):
Chances are that if you think your organization is overdue for starting a women’s initiative, you aren’t alone. However, before it’s time to march into the CEO’s office and demand that their employees’ time and company’s money be poured into a new initiative, it’s best to get a general consensus from the constituents you hope to serve: the women of your organization.
The key to successful conversations, where you are able to collect great data, is to be purposeful. These conversations should follow a structure so that the data is easy to organize, and you should record the responses carefully. Be sure to have conversations with women representing diverse roles and levels within the organization, and be sure to ask all of the women you speak with similar questions, such as:
- How interested are you in participating in a women’s initiative?
- What would you like the women’s initiative to focus on? (Networking, professional development, philanthropic causes, business challenges, or impacting policy change)
- What current trends have you observed within the organization that makes you feel that now is the right time to begin a women’s initiative?
- How much time do you think is appropriate to dedicate to a women’s initiative?
Once you have spoken to a representative sample of women, go through the data and pull out common themes. Organize these themes in an easy to read, one page document that scans easily and drive the point home. We’ll come back to it later.
Do Your Research (or let us do it for you):
Beyond recording internal data through purposeful conversations, it is important to rely on the many experts and well-funded research out there to make a strong case for driving the start of a women’s initiative within your organization. Luckily we have gathered together more information than your leadership possibly has time to cover in our site’s new resource page. All of the articles here have the Gild Collective stamp of approval, and we think they’ll be a powerful tool.
Make a Case to Leadership:
Once you have had several purposeful conversations with the women in your organization (and formatted the data in an easy-to-digest one page document) and pulled the most impactful statistics from our resource page, it is time to schedule a conversation with the appropriate leadership within your organization. Finding the appropriate person can be tricky, and it will inevitably vary from company to company, but your supervisor should be able to help. Most likely, the person you want to speak with in leadership, at least initially, will be housed in human resources or diversity and inclusion.
When you find the appropriate leadership within your organization, set a meeting with that person and send them your documentation in advance so that they have the chance to review and digest it. When you have the conversation with this person, rely heavily on data, both internal and external. Your passion and the data should speak for itself, and the meeting should come to a close with this person understanding the need to start a women’s initiative in your organization.
If your organization is like most, this conversation won’t be where the buck stops. There will be further meetings, and budget approvals, and hurdles to jump before the group can be formalized. However, for many, this will be a time where you can begin gathering informally as the ball gets rolling with leadership. Don’t be discouraged if you need to speak to multiple leaders before you feel confident that the women’s initiative is coming- this is very common.
And, as always, if you would like to chat through strategies (or simply need a pep talk), we’re here.