Shannon Jackson and I crossed paths when our little ones were in kindergarten. Her sweet child brought back so many wonderful childhood memories that I had shared with my sibling. I felt like we were fated to meet. Shannon has that super cool vibe. When you meet her you wish you could rock the super short bangs and instantly know all the great artists, musicians, authors too. She has an easy way of addressing heavy topics or ones that most people shy away from. Her charisma makes you want to join in the activity or discussion. So, it didn’t surprise me that she was leading up a women’s group at her work. As 3 Bossy Bees dives into more women and parent-focused topics, I wanted Shannon’s advice on how to start a women’s group at work and what it would take to make it successful.
Starting a Women’s Group at Work
Kim: When did you realize your work could benefit from a women’s group?
Shannon: The 2016 election sparked this idea. I felt incredibly vulnerable right after the election, as did a lot of women I worked with. Everything felt so uncertain. I wanted a way to give support to those experiencing the same thing. It was important to find a way to feel empowered and make an impact.
Kim: How did you know your work would be open to a women’s group?
Shannon: Luckily, my workplace already had resources in place that offer support to the employee, but usually it was centered around healthcare initiatives. The Human Resources team was receptive, and they had general guidelines to follow to ensure the group wasn’t exclusive. We identified a way to create commonality and focus on subjects that impact areas each employee may find beneficial, such as mental health or women’s health.
Kim: Given that your workplace has diverse skill sets, how did that play into your vision for this group?
Shannon: I worked closely with a coworker that had a different motivation for creating a women’s group. We partnered to make sure we were inclusive in order to avoid smaller teams branching off – when our goals are ultimately the same. It was important to make it relevant to all departments in the organization.
Kim: How did you gain executive support?
Shannon: I have a strong history of developing proposals, which means I came prepared with a lot of relevant talking points and data. We had developed a mission statement, we had goals, we knew we wanted the audience to be more than just women, but to include the men at work who have sisters, mothers, wives, daughters, aunts, etc. We made sure that specific activities were identified and could be accomplished within the first year. I made my pitch to the executive team with information and data to help them reach a positive solution.
There are also so many positive outcomes from developing a support network at work. I came with numbers for how many people would be impacted and what opportunities come with this initiative, such as peer-led discussions, leadership roles, or learning new skills by just developing a program.
Kim: What are the top ways you recommend someone go about implementing a women’s group at their work?
Shannon: The first place I would start is leveraging current employee resource groups (ERG) at your organization. There are so many studies out there on the benefits of an ERG for the employee and to the organization. Secondly, I always recommend bringing data with you on how many people in your organization will be impacted and will benefit from this resource. Third, bring your implementation plan. This shows you’ve really thought out what the time, effort, and energy will be given to. It demonstrates how you’ll use the organization’s resources in a smart and effective way.
Kim: So, what’s next for your women’s group?
Shannon: We are in year two, which is such an accomplishment. Our attendee numbers were incredibly high and the feedback to HR was extremely positive. These two factors increased our budget for the second year. The organization is investing in this support network, because they see the impact it has on the audience.
Kim: What advice can you give to someone thinking about this for their organization?
Shannon: Do it. Be the innovator and don’t be afraid to ask.
Start your women’s group with these takeaways
- Don’t be afraid to ask
- Leverage your current HR resource groups
- Bring data with you on organizational impact, growth opportunities, and stretch goals
- Develop an implementation plan that demonstrates realistic and achievable goals