Moving Together Toward Gender Equality

gender symbols on pink and blue backgrounds with the middle area peeled away to reveal an equal sign
Kari Sweeney Photo
VP/Supplier Solutions

4 minutes

Making enhancements for women in the workplace has the potential to improve business outcomes and make things better for men too.

Research shows that businesses achieve greater success when pathways to professional growth and leadership roles are equally open to men and women.

Below, Erika Hill, VP/marketing strategy at CUES Supplier member Origence, offers several ideas about how people of both genders can work together to make the world a better place for all—and drive business success.

Education and Mentoring

Educating both men and women on how to have confidence in their abilities and how to understand, recognize and appreciate the differences in one another is “incredibly key,” says Hill, who thinks having an organizational mentoring program can be an important driver of this learning.

“I have a mentor,” she says. “And he’s been incredibly valuable to my career. I think it is important to have some sort of mentor who can create a sense of awareness for you and accountability. They can provide coaching and insight through a different lens.”

Origence has a mentoring program for women that’s part of its Women In Leadership Development Employee Resource Group. The company began this program in 2022 to promote personal and professional development by connecting women to leaders within the organization for advice and support in specific areas of interest to the mentee.

“We talk about leadership skills. We have open forums. We talk about challenges that we have and discuss topics such as professionalism, effective communication, leadership, negotiations and others,” Hill explains. “It’s a safe space for us, and it’s an opportunity for other women to listen, provide advice, motivation, encouragement or even give each other a little push.”

In the Origence program, the mentor/mentee pair share goals, determine the cadence and structure of meetings and set expectations during an 8- to 12-week program.

Hill was among the mentors for the program that was run under the ERG. “We spent three to four months with this individual in 2022. Together, we talked about challenges and hurdles, accomplishments, and where she wants to go in her career. She asked me about what challenges I have, and I would give her real-life examples. I directed her to resources and books, and we would talk about it the next time we met.”

“We found the program very effective for our organization,” Hill says. “100% of our survey respondents from the 2022 program indicated that it was valuable and that they would like to participate in a similar program again in the future.”

As a result, the Origence WILD ERG implemented the second round of the mentoring program this year. “I want to encourage other credit unions and credit union service organizations to think about developing groups like this to offer resources to help women develop and expand themselves to build confidence.”

Equity in Pay

When it comes to thinking about equity across gender in pay, Hill cites a clip from Amazon’s hit series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” in which Midge gets a raise and responds with a gasp and tongue-in-cheek “Jiminy crickets!” to a male co-worker’s charge, “You’re making as much as the men!” (Check out the first 38 seconds of this YouTube video.)

“I think organizations need to evaluate their strategies when we’re looking at pay scales across the organization, making sure that it’s fair and equitable and hiring for the role,” Hill emphasizes, “no matter what gender the employee.”

If organizations don’t make the workplace attractive to women by doing such things as paying them fairly, they may lose top candidates to the competition, Hill asserts. She cites recent studies showing that fewer men are graduating from college while, at the same time, more women are graduating from college and getting degrees in leadership.

“If you don’t bring women along, you’re going to miss out on top talent that furthers and advances not only the individual candidate but the overall success of your organization,” Hill says. “So, embracing it is a positive thing.”

Everybody Benefits

Hill also believes that more equity for women can easily translate to more fairness for men too.

“In my role, I always encourage employees to take time with family,” she says. “I’ve had instances where some of the male team members have come to me and said, ‘I’ll clock in, I’ll figure it out, and then I’ll pop back in later.’ I’ll tell them, ‘It’s OK. Go to your child’s recital and don’t worry about it.’ There’s a reverse where society has dictated women must be there, and men don’t—but maybe men do want to be there, and maybe society has dictated to them that ‘No, sorry, you can’t be there.’ I think leaders need to recognize men should have some flexibility to help pick up the kids or go to the child’s random midday school event.” (Also read, “Baby Showers for Men Promote Goodwill and Gender Equity.”)

Hill looks to the future with optimism.

“I hope conversations evolve. We need to keep talking about it. What are you currently doing in your credit union? What changes are you making?”

“If we don’t start building the strategy, or executing on what we’re talking about, it will never fully change,” she adds. “We have to keep talking about it. We have to act on it, too.”

Kari Sweeney is CUES’ VP/supplier solutions.

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