Forbes recently listed Charlotte, NC (my home) at the bottom of the list of best cities in America for working women (#47 out of 50). Ouch! The city I've lived and worked in for the last 20 years is one of the worst places for me to be a woman in the workforce.
As I reflected on why this was such a surprise to me, I realized that my company, Torrent Consulting, is breaking the mold for Charlotte, NC (and many other cities). Looking back on the past 4 years I have worked here, I see we have been building a company that makes it easier for women to lead. After all, women currently make up 67% of our executive leadership team.
At a time when a lot of people are talking about equal opportunity, Torrent is doing it. A couple of years ago, we were asked to submit thoughts on something we were thankful for at Torrent. My response: "I am thankful to work for a company that values each and every person for who they are and what they bring to the company. I am also thankful that, as a woman, I have the same opportunities and voice at the company as the men."
In my 20+ years in the predominantly male-led technology industry, I have not usually found that to be the case. Torrent is different. Here are 3 reasons why, in case they can inspire additional support for the women at your organization:
3 Ways to Empower Women in Leadership
I came to Torrent through a staffing company that placed moms back into the workforce after taking time off to raise families. Brilliant! It was a leap for both me and Torrent, but I was ready, and Torrent said “yes.” I had held leadership roles before but wasn't sure if I could reach that level again after taking years off to raise my kids. Torrent has always pushed me to take that next step, sometimes even before I was ready for it. We’re focused on raising up leaders and providing opportunities for everyone.
When I had my first child 16 years ago, I didn't have many options in the tech space to build my career and have a happy family. I took a step back from a leadership role to work part-time so that I could spend more time at home. At Torrent, we don't just believe in work-life integration, we live it. We provide the flexibility, for women (and men), to be present in all aspects of their lives. It's not unusual to see a child smiling and waving at us on video during our daily company meeting. The ability to be a connected team player while having the option to work from home with a sick child, adjust a schedule to have lunch at school or leave early to make it to that important game without judgement — it allows working parents the ability to move their careers forward without sacrificing other aspects of their lives.
At Torrent, we talk about being vulnerable a lot — I mean, way too much for my comfort (if I can be vulnerable for a second). Being vulnerable as leaders gives every voice at the table the space to be heard equally. As a female leader, it can feel like a trap, like you may be seen as "weak," "emotional" or unable to make the hard decisions. Being vulnerable doesn't mean these things. It means speaking up without being afraid to ask questions, provide crazy ideas or share your feelings. This vulnerability can’t happen without mutual trust and respect, but Torrent works hard to build those values into its culture.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to close the gender gap. It can be overwhelming. Change is needed in legislation, policies, company cultures and mindsets. We can’t do it overnight, and we all have a role to play in making things better for our next generation of female leaders.
So the next time you’re in a meeting with your leadership team, take a look around, listen to the voices. Is everyone being represented? Is everyone being heard? Why not? Change won’t happen without asking these questions and acting on the answers.