As we celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture, and society during Women’s History Month, it’s important to acknowledge the grassroots efforts of employees—and employers—to close the gender equity gap.
At TTEC, the efforts of two leaders, Colleen Ritchie, SVP of operations support, and Laura Ward, VP of enterprise transformation, to create a Women in Leadership (WIL) group are a case study in how to build an empowering space for women from the ground up.
In 2016, Colleen and Laura noticed several women around them asking for career support. Colleen decided to start a WIL group that would be a safe place for women to come and talk, receive and give guidance, along with some light-hearted laughter.
Around the same time, Laura had received requests to be a mentor for multiple women. In fact, she received so many that she decided to start a WIL group as well. Interestingly, neither was aware of the other's efforts for several months before joining forces.
A seed of an idea grows
In October of that year, the group began to research how best to establish and grow a successful group that would help develop an retain the wonderful women at TTEC. We conducted our first survey to get an understanding of what women at TTEC wanted to hear and learn from WIL. They wanted tips and advice about managing up, work-life balance, creating their personal brand, being an authentic leader, and more.
Soon after, we held our first global meeting, officially launching Women in Leadership with support from the executive leadership. We wanted to let the women at TTEC know that they had been heard—WIL’s mission would be to bring together a diverse group of women from across the company, creating networks, mentorship opportunities, and helping develop leadership characteristics that are transferrable from work to personal interests and home life. The meeting was deemed a success due to the positive responses we received from the attendees. But we knew we had a lot of work to do.
In February 2017, we conducted our first monthly presentation. The topic, which was based on the survey responses, was Negotiation Skills for Women. The session was held at our corporate office in Englewood, Colorado and was shared virtually around the globe. In March, we decided to experiment by having a virtual session and a happy hour session for those that worked at the corporate office; the topic was Own Your Career: How to Be a Self-Advocate.
Both presentations were well received and attended by more than 150 employees. We heard from numerous attendees, thanking us for the presentations and telling us how impactful they were. It was clear that these presentations were very powerful for our followers. In March, the core team began meeting monthly and we started putting on two presentations a month, which became our flagship offering.
WIL has its first win
In May, TTEC elected the first female board member to the Board of Directors and this was as a direct result of WIL's influence. Our efforts to create awareness about female leaders had helped the board understand how important gender diversity was throughout an organization, all the way up to the Board of Directors.
In 2018, we began to monitor employee headcount, breaking it down by gender and then by department, level, region and country. Through this we knew the IT department needed to increase its female representation. The IT executive committee members agreed, so our September session featured IT leadership promoting opportunities within the organization.
We also launched a WIL Certification program on our learning management system that was available for everyone. The program examines issues that women in leadership positions face and provides strategies for handling them.
United as one
It wasn’t until late 2018, when the core team met with an executive coach to refine WIL’s focus and strategy that we also met in person. There were about a dozen of us and collaborating in person was incredibly impactful. We realized at the strategy session that we all had different perspectives and aspirations for WIL, but by the end, we were aligned on a long-term vision and goals. Looking back, this was one of the most critical points in WIL's trajectory. In this strategy session, Colleen also proposed a grass roots initiative that focused on creating communities for women at our sites; this was another critical point in WIL's trajectory.
In 2019 we built out the infrastructure for the communities and socialized the concept throughout the organization. We also began attending conferences where we learned about relevant issues such as breaking the glass ceiling, women in technology, workplace flexibility, and many more topics that we shared with the core team. It also helped us identify possible external speakers. Our constituents consistently express how much they appreciate perspectives outside of TTEC in addition to those that are internal.
WIL forges ahead
In 2020 and into 2021, when the world was upended, guess who was at the forefront fearlessly guiding us and our clients through it—the Women of TTEC. Many of the key decision makers who helped our employees and clients adapt to the pandemic were either core team members or active participants in WIL. We also used this time to focus on building the WIL brand externally and submitted multiple women for awards and won several, in addition to TTEC being named one of the Best Places to Work by In Her Sight. We began including our tagline in all of our communications: Women in Leadership - Get Involved, Get Real, Get Results. We also continued to develop Women in Leadership global communities and identified leaders from each region and ambassadors at more than 80% of our sites.
Here we are in 2022, ready to face a world that has undergone significant changes since 2016. We are focused on growing globally and have added two new communities: Brazil and Australia. Our strategies for the second half of 2022 are being finalized, and we will continue to have our monthly programs, which now reach over 550 employees. And regardless of what comes next, the women of WIL are ready to get involved, get real, and get results.
Join us in social as we celebrate TTEC women for International Women's Day and Women's History Month in the United States.
If you're an employee with TTEC, be sure to check out the Women in Leadership space on Mosaic for more details about how to get involved.