January 2019 was a momentous month for the women in NiceLabel. It marked the beginning of the Women’s Collaboration Network, a first-of-its-kind group for women working in our company. The group’s founder is our own Director of Marketing, Mari Waldron, who explains why she felt NiceLabel was ready for this type of network. “In my previous jobs, there’s never been this type of network. However, when I joined NiceLabel I realized there was a culture and an environment where this type of network could be created. They didn’t just talk about diversity, they were actually diverse.”
The network’s purpose is to offer peer support and a forum where participants can discuss topics openly and share their experiences. The topics might be ones unique to women, such as balancing pregnancy and young children with a demanding work schedule, or more general subjects, such as promoting a collaborative work environment. “One of the first sessions we did was on role models,” Mari states. “It was so interesting to see how the role models we had in our childhood influence where we’ve ended up in life.”
Do we still need women’s networks?
Clearly there are differing views to this question. Many might be surprised that in 2020, decades after women have become an established part of the workplace, that these types of groups would still be necessary. The polarity of these types of groups is not lost on Gill Green, a chartered psychologist who has facilitated several sessions on workplace dynamics and collaboration at NiceLabel. “The concept of a woman’s group isn’t a straightforward idea,” comments Gill. “However, this type of group allows a forum where women can speak about issues that are unique to them. For example, when I’ve done sessions on menopause in different companies, it’s often the first time that the participants have discussed it amongst themselves.” Given the fact that there are still topics that are considered taboo in a workplace environment, it’s important to establish spaces where these types of issues can be discussed openly. “The network creates an opportunity for certain issues to be socialized amongst women, and then taken to a broader audience,” Gill explains.
Fostering an open culture
While the network gives women working at NiceLabel a forum for open discussions and debates, the idea is that this culture of openness can then spread to the rest of the organization. “I think creating opportunities for people to talk informally, to share their ideas in non-threatening, psychologically-safe situations, is the way forward,” says Gill. “These spaces need to exist across the company.” In fact, research indicates that the most successful teams are the ones who can openly discuss anything. “Google did some research on what makes for a high-performing team,” Gill relates. “The teams that performed best were teams where members could talk about things without fear of recrimination. They could have difficult, messy discussions, openly.”
Mari agrees. “We cannot deny the fact that we work in a male-dominated industry. So, it’s clear that there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to have conversations about issues impacting women in the workplace. I think the fact that we can have them within our network is a great first step to being able to have more open, inclusive conversations, not only in NiceLabel, but also in the industry as a whole.”
Finding mentors and inspiration
The women’s network is also an opportunity to invite external speakers to share their knowledge and experience. For example, last year the group had a visit from Slovenia’s European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, who spoke about advancing equality in the EU. Another guest speaker, Rebecca Brookes, EMEA Director Channel and Field Marketing at Zebra Technologies, spoke about resilience and how to set and achieve career and personal development goals. “Hearing stories from other women who have gone through several obstacles and succeeded in business is very inspiring and helps build the necessary confidence that you can do it too,” states Tina Pogacar, Product Marketing Manager at NiceLabel.
Mari also sees the network as a way of enabling capable women to reach their full potential within the organization. “I wish I had had this type of network when I first started my career. And I can see that the network is already having a positive impact. I see more collaboration between women, more active sharing and an increased confidence. People have started speaking up more.”
For women, but not ‘all about women’
Yes, the network is for women – at the moment. Yet, the focus is decidedly broader, as the tools network members gain are useful across the board, in creating a more all-encompassing work environment. “The models we discuss give us a common language we can use as an organization to handle daily interactions more easily, and they’re very useful when difficult situations arise.” comments Branka Jerse, Finance and Operations Director at NiceLabel. “I’ve gained insight into how we, as a company, and myself, as an individual, can improve in supporting and enabling women, or anyone who wants to make an impact.”
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