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Utah Business held a roundtable conversation this month on gender equity within Utah businesses in 2023.

Roundtable: Women in the workplace

Utah Business held a roundtable conversation this month on gender equity within Utah businesses in 2023.

This month, Utah Business partnered with Ken Garff Automotive and the Success in Education Foundation to host a roundtable event featuring the individuals and companies championing women in Utah’s workplaces. Moderated by Susan Madsen, founder and director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project, they discussed sponsorship, flexibility, child care and more. Here are a few highlights from the discussion. 

What are some strategies that organizations can use to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace culture?

Darcy Douglas | VP, Global Program Management | Taulia

Across the industry, we seem to get women to the VP level and then stop; that’s a problem. When I got to the executive team, I needed to make decisions at the company level, not just for my department. I felt unprepared for this level of decision making. So, we created a leadership program that goes across the organization and is focused on cultivating and empowering our future leaders. The program includes a mentorship component where colleagues are paired together and regularly meet to discuss leadership topics. The objective is to inspire employees to take on leadership positions and fulfill their potential within and beyond our company. Through mentoring, self-reflection, and practical leadership training, the program encourages colleagues to boost their self-confidence, discover their unique voice, and pursue their leadership goals. The program teaches you everything so you are prepared to make decisions when you get to that leadership table.

Stacey Miller | Co-COO, Salt Lake City Region | Goldman Sachs

Our program creates cohorts of young, typically associate-level women who have already been through a promotion cycle and want to be at the firm. It teaches them leadership and networking skills. The program focuses on women at the associate level to get them into more leadership opportunities. When they get promoted to the VP ranks, they’re prepared.

Tiffiny Lipscomb | VP, Human Resources | Intermountain Health

We dug into this several years ago. Embedding inclusion in our operating model helped get it through the organization. We also monitor how many women are promoted within two years of graduation. We support them with a Women in Leadership mentoring program, and we involve men in that program so it creates allyship.

Patricia Jones | CEO | Women’s Leadership Institute

First, we need to help people understand the value of gender diversity. There are so many research-based benefits. We focus on gender diversity, but the importance of including men and helping them understand the business case for elevating women is really crucial. That’s where we start: helping people understand that value.

Kori Ann Edwards | Managing Director, Strategic Initiatives | Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity

Gov. Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson are leading and doing great things in this space. They started looking at wage disparity and the wage gap. In our office, we immediately assessed and found a gap in the program manager/early director level. We were able to correct it within a year. If the position is going to be paid X, then anybody that takes that position should be paid X. We’ve been conscious about that. 

How can companies foster a culture of inclusivity and psychological safety to encourage women to voice their concerns, ideas and aspirations?

Trina Eyring | EVP & Director, Talent Acquisition | Zions Bank Corporation

Psychological safety comes from our leadership. Scott Anderson and Harris Simmons stand up for women in ways that are hard to even quantify because it’s constant, continual and meaningful. They’ve supported the Women’s Leadership Institute and the Women’s Leadership Project. Public support of women inherently illustrates that you’re psychologically safe to express your needs. 

Sara Adelman | VP, Marketing | Economic Development Corporation of Utah

Utah has a toolkit for this. Think of psychological safety in terms of belonging; when you have a sense of belonging in the workplace, you can show up as your authentic self and meaningfully contribute. EDC Utah heard from many businesses that this is a high priority for Utah companies, but employers don’t know where to start. EDC Utah worked with the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging and partnered with several private sector businesses in Utah to create a belonging toolkit

Jenny Groberg | Founder & CEO | BookSmarts Accounting 

All of my clients are typically male. I have five children. Every time I would get pregnant, I was afraid clients would feel like I couldn’t get my work done or that pregnancy would jeopardize the quality of my work. So, I wouldn’t say anything. Now, we have about 22 women [at BookSmarts]. There is a different kind of safety in working with other women and other moms. We make sure we have two or three people on every account. That way, if somebody does need to step back or has issues with their family or needs to take care of things, other people can step in. 

Faith Barela | VP, Human Resources | Lendio

Leaders in our organization are good at openly saying, “Hey, I’m not in the office. I’ll join meetings, but I am with my kids on spring break.” That makes it safe and comfortable for the rest of us to do the same. 

Utah Business held a roundtable conversation this month on gender equity within Utah businesses in 2023.

What opportunities, resources and strategies are available to support women in upskilling or reskilling after a career break? 

Kathryn Thomas | Executive Director | People Helping People

We help low-income women and women who have not worked for several years learn how to reskill and upskill. There are a lot of new programs that are popping up. We need more managers, recruiters and people in the recruiting fields to put emphasis and value on nontraditional jobs. 

Jenny Groberg | Founder & CEO | BookSmarts Accounting 

My ideal employee is a woman who’s reentering the workforce. Most families need two incomes. Most want it. These women are so incredible and so educated—they want to be moms and have some work. If a woman’s been out of the workplace but feels she has the skillsets, we have multiple people on every account who train them. 

Nathan Rich | Founder & CEO | IsoTruss

We specialize in high composite technology. I like the work-from-home aspect, and we have a fantastic leader who lives in Seattle. She brings in more revenue for our company than anyone else and blends, builds and leads better than anyone else. I support her and the other women in our company by going and attending her presentations and supporting all young women entering the field.

Patricia Jones | CEO | Women’s Leadership Institute

We’re getting women prepared for business, but I’m not sure business is getting prepared for women. We have more women attending universities and colleges than men now. Rich Brown, the dean of engineering at the University of Utah, was telling me that they’re preparing women for engineering, but they go out to a hostile environment after they get their engineering degree. We need companies and businesses to make sure women feel included, feel like they belong and feel their skills are needed, trusted and valued.

Elizabeth Christensen | Head of Research | Sylvester & Company

Often, male leaders struggle to picture a woman with a career break as a director. They’ll want someone with 10 years of experience. We’ve tried to get them to think creatively about skillsets instead. We ask why they need 10 years of leadership. When you can get down to those details, you can speak about a qualified female candidate and how she can help. It isn’t a skillset match; it’s getting leaders to think about skillsets in a creative way.

Tiffiny Lipscomb | VP, Human Resources | Intermountain Health

Within Intermountain Health, we have 60,000 caregivers across seven states. We’ve had to invest in programs that upskill and think about the future. The workforce of the future is flexible. We’ve worked hard with our leaders to discuss how to break 12-hour shifts into four- or eight-hour shifts. How can we support and invest in part-time people? Those that we invest in stay. That helps the organization in the long run. 

Utah Business held a roundtable conversation this month on gender equity within Utah businesses in 2023.

How does engaging in part-time professional work impact a woman’s long-term career growth?

Trina Limpert | CEO & Founder | RizeNext Corporation

Co-Founder | Tech-Moms

Women want to be in the workforce but don’t want to choose between family or work. At eBay, I had a woman on my team needing part-time work. I had to get approval, but once we did, she got more done in four hours than my full-time workers. Since then, we’ve discussed the opportunities and initiatives we could create by removing policy barriers. Why do we need them? Why did we ever say it has to be full-time? It doesn’t. 

Judy Copier | Market President | iHeartMedia

Years ago, we started creating job share opportunities for our sales team. Women could step into a part-time position and make a full-time income because of the power of two people working together. It amplifies everything. Being a great mom and having a great career made them some of my best sellers.

Trina Eyring | EVP & Director, Talent Acquisition | Zions Bank Corporation

I’ve benefited from part-time work in my own life. My dream is for companies to have designated part-time positions for both men and women so people can adjust to work depending on their lives and personal situations. Companies need to realize there is not a one-size-fits-all box. To get ahead, we need to offer more flexibility to moms and dads, men and women.

Sara Adelman | VP, Marketing | Economic Development Corporation of Utah

Employers should look at the benefits they offer part-time employees and consider expanding them to match full-time benefits. Not all women—not all parents—have other partners at home who can earn healthcare benefits or save for retirement with employer matches. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics reported last year that mothers working part-time are most often employed in jobs lacking the attributes that would otherwise make them flexible. They cannot access advanced scheduling, paid leave, remote work or benefits. There was another report that said 50 percent of moms in the U.S. do not have retirement savings. Just that change alone can make a huge difference for part-time workers.

How can companies ensure women from diverse backgrounds and intersections are adequately represented and supported in the workplace?

Judy Copier | Market President | iHeartMedia

It requires intentional focus. You have to create it. Hopefully, we won’t always have to do that, but within our company, we intentionally created the Black and Hispanic networks. We did the same thing with women. We saw women hit certain leadership levels in our company but not continue. Again, it required intentionally mentoring women and helping them find their pathway.

Stacey Miller | Co-COO, Salt Lake City Region | Goldman Sachs

Recruiting is the first step; support is the second. With recruiting, we’ve partnered with places with diverse talent pools and tapped into them with volunteering and mentoring. Once they’re in the door, we have a lot of inclusion networks to provide support. We also meet people where they are by recognizing they may have different needs. Our parenting leave is offered to men and women and includes adoptive leave.

Faith Barela | VP, Human Resources | Lendio

Women and people of color have to see that representation. I have mentored, spoken and gotten involved locally because they don’t see it. They don’t realize we can go to college; we can do more, we can be more. 

Robyn Cohen | Founder & CEO | W Collective Co.

Supporting women means supporting them in all cycles of their lives. We function in cycles more than men do. As someone turning 50, I’m going into the new cycle of menopause. It’s important to start talking about this because it’s not talked about or included in policies. Women are dropping out of work for many reasons; I would imagine that’s one. We need to support women in all cycles of their lives. It makes a huge difference.

Utah Business held a roundtable conversation this month on gender equity within Utah businesses in 2023.

What are some of the best practices for establishing mentor and sponsorship programs?

Darcy Douglas | VP, Global Program Management | Taulia

We started a mentorship program just one year into our company. We focused on women first but then expanded it. At first, it was just a way to get to know other people at the company, but now it allows people to ask for specific mentors or skill training. Our leadership team considers it one of the top three things we do for people. We don’t just give advice; we help people reach that next level and get the positions they want. 

Erin Trenbeath-Murray | Co-Founder | Women Who Succeed

We have about 300 young women a year paired with a mentor based on interest or request. There is a curriculum book, and each month, there’s a theme (communication, networking, social media, etc.). The network makes it successful.

Nathan Rich | Founder & CEO | IsoTruss

As leaders within our companies, we need to be thinking about the seeding. I need to expose women in my company to leadership panels, speaking opportunities and similar work so they can network. The incredible women at my company will not always work for me. That’s the point. They need to know where they can go next because then they’ll have a great impact in their next job.

How can we recruit and prepare more male allies to support the advancement and empowerment of women in the workplace? 

Erin Trenbeath-Murray | Co-Founder | Women Who Succeed

Once, I was on a call with three gentlemen and one guy completely lost it on me. I felt myself start to shrink away, apologetic and embarrassed. After the call, the two other men individually called and said, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know where that came from.” I found the courage to say, “But you didn’t stand up for me. You did not speak up, and you knew what was happening was wrong.” It was the first time in my life that I said to a man, “This was not OK. You didn’t advocate. You weren’t my ally. You didn’t speak up when you should have.” Respond and stand up for women. That is how you can be a male ally.

Kori Ann Edwards | Managing Director, Strategic Initiatives | Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity

I think the white male is feeling a little attacked right now. My son and daughter are both pilots. My son always says, “Well, you’re going to get a job before me because you’re the woman, right?” We need to send the message that we won’t push you down to push us up. Everybody rises, everybody benefits and everybody is better when more voices are at the table and different voices are at the table.

Robyn Cohen | Founder & CEO | W Collective Co.

I always invite men to be panelists and moderators. You have to invite, include and educate them. When we talk about unconscious bias, it seems to be really centered on gender. But it’s in every facet. We’re all guilty of it in some way, shape or form. I wish more men were here because involving them in what we would love to see happen is vitally important.

Kathryn Thomas | Executive Director | People Helping People

This conversation has to start early on with our children. I was a single mom for many years. Fortunately, I’ve got a partner now who supports what I do. But have that conversation early on and avoid the stereotypes of different industries and nontraditional jobs. We must shift our culture from this idea that women are supplemental or working “just until.”

Savannah Beth Withers Taylor is the assistant editor of Utah Business and a graduate of the editing and publishing program at Brigham Young University. Beth has written content about travel, academics, and mental health for Stowaway magazine, BYU College of Humanities and United Way. She enjoys traveling, reading, eating, and mercilessly defeating loved ones in anything competitive.