How can Upstate businesses create a culture where women can advance?

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Verizon’s Krista Bourne (standing) moderates a panel discussion with (from left) Philip Kilgore of Ogletree Deakins, Maurie Lawrence of Wyche, and Chip Wiper of GHS.

By Marion Mann, Marketing & Communications Director, Greenville Chamber

This Greenville Women at Work breakfast event featured a presentation by Krista Bourne, south central market president at Verizon Wireless, who also moderated a panel of past recipients of the Chamber’s ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award with Philip Kilgore, attorney at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart; Maurie Lawrence, attorney and chair of Wyche’s executive committee; and Dr. Chip Wiper, chair of Greenville Health System’s OB-GYN department.

Bourne frames her work necessities as “Fit,” “Commitment,” “Action,” and “Make It Count.”

Fit

Bourne noted that while we may not always pick our boss or colleagues, we do choose the organization we work for, so need to make sure it’s a good fit for our passions. She found several of hers in Verizon’s commitments to providing tools, skills, and resources to young people in underserved communities; sharing technology to provide an essential lifeline for at-risk women and children; ensuring customer privacy and data security; and driving best practices in diversity and inclusion, including employee pay equity. “Don’t just look for a logo,” Bourne advises. “Research the company’s mission and values to find your fit.”

Commitment

Bourne’s three avenues to commitment are:

  • Clarity – Know the “why” to your “what.” The “why” is the passion. Bourne noted that she could have lots of jobs at Verizon, but not all of them directly affect the customer experience, and that is what she is passionate about.
  • Choices – Make choices that align with where you are in your life. If you can’t work full-time, go for a position that allows you to work part-time. If you don’t want to travel or move with your job while you raise your children, etc., go for a non-mobile position.
  • Consequences – Always anticipate the outcomes. Bourne noted that while we often consider consequences as negative, they are really just the outcomes to the choices we make and should be considered in our decision-making processes.

 

Action

  • Be a Student of the Business – Insights matter. Always continue learning about your business. And don’t expect to be fed information; look for it yourself.
  • Build a Network – Don’t just build a network of people you like. Focus on influencers and experts in the fields you want to advance in.
  • Earn a Sponsor – Mentors speak with you; sponsors speak for you. Earn sponsors by letting them know the value you bring, and they will want to communicate it.

 

Making It Count

  • Performance Reviews – Everybody gets at least one. Make it a two-way dialogue to be sure you are capturing real feedback.
  • Meetings – It took some major effort to get to the table, so don’t sit back. Engage in the conversation and have a voice. People know you are different simply because you’re there. It’s how you make your difference count that matters.
  • Training – Utilize training opportunities to connect with new people, not only to learn from them but also to see who your competition is and how you measure up.

 

Panel Insights

The panel discussion with past winners of the ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award brought a great range of insights on how organizations can create a workplace culture in which women can advance. Some that stood out:

  • When hiring, simply try harder when it comes to getting a more diverse pool of applicants.
  • The case for diversity and inclusion not only makes business sense; it’s the law.
  • Don’t make life responsibilities barriers to work. If flexible schedules are needed, offer them and watch productivity abound.
  • If you can be open to different perspectives and be vulnerable, you will get better results. Having honest conversations about work-life balance takes trust and a level of friendship.
  • Many women are too hard on themselves as mothers, colleagues, leaders, etc. They often overestimate their inadequacies when the people around them think they are rock stars. Be proud of doing you.
  • When asked how they carry the idea of advancing women from workplace practices to real discussions among their peers, one panelist noted challenging the idea among his peers that you have to work full-time to be offered a leadership position. Just because someone works less hours in a week doesn’t mean they can’t provide leadership and valuable insight, and dismissing that based on work hours makes for a lost opportunity.

 

A recurring theme from our diversity and inclusion events popped up when Dr. Wiper noted, “We are all far more alike than we are different.” Bourne noted that we are all very much alike, so we need to make sure to let what makes us different stand out and provide our value wherever we go.


Learn more about the Greenville Chamber’s Women at Work program and future events at greenvillechamber.org.

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