By Megan Markley3/6/2020

ADVOCATE–ing for Women

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Diversity in the workplace matters. According to Deloitte, when employees “think their organization is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included,” their ability to innovate increases by 85%. As a woman in the workplace, diversity, and an inclusive culture have always been important to me and something I want to improve for others.

Part of the reason I came to work at Brunner was the commitment to people – and of course the great creative and data-driven client work. My personal passion led me to create and present a plan for a cause I feel deeply committed to; an evolution of the core values of Brunner to support diverse perspectives. This plan promises to ADVOCATE, Amplify Diverse Voices, Open Communication, and Advance Talent and Equality. Building on past experiences in affinity groups, we started to work toward a pilot group for women in the workplace.

Getting Started

Developing a framework for women to elevate concerns, cultivate careers, support one another, and grow as individuals is important to me – and to the leadership at Brunner – so we got started. In 2019, we kicked off the program and hosted an inclusive ADVOCATE brainstorm. One thing I knew from the start was that while I wanted to create a space for women, I didn’t want to kick anyone out or silence any voices. I wanted to create a template that future affinity groups could leverage, and to help elevate diverse voices outside my own experiences.

So, we opened up time in our Pittsburgh and Atlanta offices to talk about our goals and desires, and active ways to bring them to life within our company. Ideas ranged from non-profit support to mentorship programs to book clubs and more. We knew not all of these would fall to ADVOCATE to bring to fruition, but we wanted to hear from everyone and look for ways to champion new ideas. It created an inclusive framework for what would come next.

Won’t You Be My Mentor?

Take a look at Lean In statistics and you’ll see some startling numbers on mentorship of women in the workplace – particularly formal sponsorship by male leaders.

  • “Women are less likely (sic: than men) to have a sponsor who advocates and opens doors for them. – Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “The Sponsor Effect, Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling
  • “Women get less support from managers and less access to senior leaders, especially women of color: almost 60% have never had an informal interaction with a senior leader.” – LeanIn.Org
  • “Senior men are 3.5 times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior-level woman than with a junior-level man—and 5 times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior-level woman.” – LeanIn.Org Survey 2019

Women are also less likely than men to ask a superior to mentor them and to champion their own achievements. So, in 2020 we developed an internal mentorship framework to pair junior women with men and women in senior leadership positions. In 2021 we’ll be pairing mentors and mentees based on communication styles, personalities and the ultimate goals of both parties. I’m excited to nurture this program as it grows and look forward to exploring the new elements that evolve as we strive ahead.

Reaching Beyond Brunner

We’re just getting started, but the opportunities to engage with our communities in Pittsburgh and Atlanta, partner with clients, and lend support to women in and beyond Brunner are growing. Elevating the voices, concerns, and careers of women is something I’m passionate about, and I’m grateful for the support of a company and coworkers who see the importance of this initiative. As we learn from and expand the ADVOCATE program, I hope we can set an example outside our walls and provide guidance and support to others looking to lift up diverse perspectives.