In our working lives, it’s not uncommon to often share “key wins” around our career goals and progress with our colleagues. Today was a milestone day for me, because I shared this message:
_I’ve been pulling together the marketing strategy with the goal of presenting to Mark from the board. With a heavy workload, I haven’t been able to put the time and focus to get it to the point I felt comfortable sharing. I made the call yesterday to push out the meeting so I wouldn’t have to work into the night to get it down.
- I’m proud of myself that I’m starting to put my health first, knowing the impact it would have had on me to work until midnight last night.
- Mark didn’t judge me for pushing our catch up out, it was me judging myself.
- It’s important for me to set goals but I need to continue to be realistic at what I can achieve and that I need to continue to find balance
It seems standard, right? Sharing a win with your team. Notice anything a little different? This was my “win of the week” as shared in the dedicated channel for a PaperCut initiative - Women Better Together.
In November last year, we held our first meeting for WBT - a program to help women better support each other in the work environment.
What is WBT exactly?
Essentially, it’s an ongoing conversation where PaperCut women have the opportunity to connect and build each other up. It all started with something as ordinary as that - just talking. I’ve spoken openly at PaperCut about my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression, and there was a time at PaperCut where I felt very alone.
One day I was talking to a particular PaperCutter lady about my experience in the workplace, and she shared her story with me. It was such a simple event, just a conversation, but we both found sharing our experiences beneficial and transformative.
While sitting at my desk, following that simple conversation, an idea struck - perhaps there was an opportunity of introducing a company initiative supporting women at PaperCut? I’ve mentored women in various workplaces in the past but never had a program specifically for women supported at a company level.
It inspired me to learn more!
Research and inspiration: The Shine Theory
I found two quotes which formed the basis of Women Better Together:
- The Shine Theory **- “**When you help another woman rise, we all shine. Build other women up!”
- “Having people tell me ‘this is something you can do’ built my confidence.” - Candy Duncan Chair, KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit
With those two quotes, the idea started to pick up some steam, as did the research. I scoured through books, webpages, blogs, and Ted talks on how women helping each other in turn help their individual careers.
One particular KPMG Women’s Leadership study caught my eye. In a study exploring the different workplace experiences of 3,000 professional and college women, there were some key stats that made me think that one conversation could become something bigger:
- 67% of women reported that they’d learned the most important lessons about leadership from other women
- 86% of women reported that when they see more women in leadership, they’re encouraged they can get there themselves
- 76% of working women plan to take active steps to help other women advance in their careers
After finishing my research, that one conversation became multiple. I spoke to lots of our women at PaperCut across different regions and parts of the business and got their thoughts. Many of them were excited about an official program supporting women at PaperCut, and so were the rest of the leadership team!
WBT was born
With PaperCut’s blessing, we created WBT: Women Better Together - a collective by PaperCut women for PaperCut women.
We started by creating our purpose
Connect. Learn. Amplify. Support .
Connection - Engaging with women we may not normally connect with and build a community. Also providing opportunities to connect with each other outside of working on projects.
Learning - Creating a space to bounce ideas around so we can guide and inspire each other
Amplification - Helping to raise each other up, to celebrate one another and our wins
Support - Providing a safe place where we can share our challenges and support each other
We then crafted four goals
Goal #1 Every woman at PaperCut regardless of position or role feels they have someone they can connect with in a safe and non-judgemental environment
Goal #2 Find a mentor figure they can resonate with
Goal #3 Everyone to proactively take a risk
Goal #4 Increase female representation in influencer roles within the next 12 months
What we’ve done so far
WBT Slack Channel: A place for us to share learnings, events, really anything and everything we find helpful to support each other. Some of the regular contributions include shout-outs and kudos to each other as well as asking for feedback or perspective on individual experiences.
WBT Learn & Connect meetings: While we set out to hold a forum for discussion and support, our meetings have a wide range of themes from sharing personal experiences to learning sessions i.e. imposter syndrome, difficult conversations, understanding and setting boundaries, providing constructive feedback.
External learning sessions with external influences: One exciting venture was having LRG (Leadership Resilience Group) learning sessions with Paula Rashio, who also provides 1:1 coaching and training at PaperCut.
Group Coaching: The entire purpose of our group coaching was to focus on 3 specific topics in small groups including women ranging in roles and regions across the business. These sessions covered the topics of how to manage our worries in our current environment, understanding and setting boundaries, and how to give constructive feedback. Most importantly, the value of these small groups was so strong that many continue to connect on a regular basis.
How are we tracking?
6 months into the program we conducted a survey to review how we were tracking against the goals we’d set for ourselves. There was no expectation that all PaperCutter women commit to WBT, some members pop in and out at different stages when they feel comfortable.
Across all of our goals, we received positive feedback, but with areas for improvement which we are working towards for the next 12 months. But overall the results are very positive:
- 100% feel they have someone they can connect with in a non-judgemental environment
- 62% have found a mentor figure with whom they resonate
- 93% have felt confident/supported enough to proactively take a risk (no matter how big or small)
- 60% believe they’ve seen an increase in female representation in influencer roles over the past 6 months.
The most important thing about the Women Better Together program is that it’s not about big things persay, it’s about small things. Simple moments and conversations are just as, if not more powerful, than the big platitudes we sometimes find ourselves drawn towards.
The simple idea of Women Better Together is reflected in how it found its inspiration - by an innocent seeming enough conversation with a fellow PaperCutter woman. It’s about having someone you can talk to other than your manager. So you can say to yourself, “Huh, it’s not just me. I’m not alone.”
That’s what led me to sharing my key win in our Slack channel. It was small and simple - putting my self-care before my project. But it was monumental. That’s why WBT was formed. It’s easy to suffer in silence, but much harder to have a conversation.
But WBT’s mission isn’t over yet, we still have a long way to go. We’ve realised that what we’ve experienced in our work and discussions is bigger than one group.
We’ve started to extend our conversation broader to the rest of PaperCut and we now have men who have joined the WBT Slack channel. This speaks to our wider goals: it’s about building up our community.
Everyone, regardless of role, gender, or seniority should have a safe and non-judgemental environment where they can connect, learn, amplify, and support each other. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s strength. It’s courageous to say, “I’m not okay.”