Empowerment and Inclusion at Brandon Hall Group’s Annual WIL Summit

By Daria Friedman, Principal Analyst, Talent Acquisition, Brandon Hall Group

Brandon Hall Group’s Women in Leadership Summit 2018 brought women executives (including many from global organizations (Accenture, TATA, IBM and others), entrepreneurs and HR professionals together to listen, learn and plan how to achieve gender parity and greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and maintain healthy work-life integration. The gathering, held this past week at the beautiful Marriot Harbor Beach Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., also attracted a number of male executives.The Summit opened with a warm greeting by event creator Rachel Cooke, Brandon Hall Group COO, who provided a brief overview of the upcoming panels. Keynote speaker Bonnie St. John of Blue Circle Leadership inspired all with a powerful talk about overcoming her dramatic physical challenges at an early age to become the first African-American medal winner for skiing at the Winter Paralympics. She also spoke about her book, “How Great Women Lead,” and told some amazing stories about the adventure of writing with her daughter and traveling around the world to interview the inspiring women leaders profiled in the book. Later, she chatted with individual Summit attendees and autographed copies.

We also gained strong insights on a variety of approaches for moving forward with strategies and tactics to increase gender parity, diversity and inclusion. Panels included discussions on tying business ROI into inclusion, generational differences, global mobility as a force for diversity — Julie Knight-Ludvigson of Topia suggested using mobility as a career development opportunity — and an extremely revealing discussion of the insights gleaned from Brandon Hall Group’s recent State of Women in Technology Leadership study which looked at the numbers and reasons for low female presence in technology positions. The lack of role models and the surprisingly divergent views of men and women on what the top challenges are for greater inclusivity were discussed and explained. Rachel Ernst of Reflektive offered, “Why do women not have role models? Volunteer to be one. Mentor or sponsor three women.”

It’s obvious to me that to achieve gender parity, it is incumbent on organizations to implement programs to grow women’s leadership capabilities and expand opportunities for increased diversity and inclusion.

Another great panel, “Creating a Culture of Sponsorship for Leaders” explained that a sponsor is not the same as a mentor, who advises and coaches an employee. A sponsor is more of an advocate than an advisor. Examples of sponsorship programs were outlined, as well as tips on how women can seek a sponsorship for themselves or become a sponsor for other women.

We also enjoyed a poolside reception with refreshing drinks and tasty bites. It was a terrific networking opportunity, spending quality time with Summit attendees and speakers in such a friendly and beautiful setting.

I’ve just scratched the surface here, but each moment of the two-day event seemed to speed by. We felt empowered by the wealth of information and inspired to take action. As Summit panelist Jasmine Martirossian of  The Training Associates declared, ”Let’s take responsibility. It’s easy to blame the culture. Inspire others. We are all part of the solution.”

Want to participate in Women’s Leadership Group? Email wil@brandonhall.com

Daria Friedman, Principal Analyst, Talent Acquisition, Brandon Hall Group

For more information on our research, please visit www.brandonhall.com.