Women in Leadership Summit: A Triumph of Shared Experiences

By Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

I just spent two incredible days at Brandon Hall Group’s Women in Leadership Summit. If you weren’t there, you missed a terrific opportunity to truly understand the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

There were many powerful insights and vivid examples of global organizations embracing the importance of women leaders to drive business success, including Bank of America, Accenture, EY, McKinsey & Company, MetLife, GSK, Verizon, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dow Jones and many more.

There are far too many takeaways to share in this short blog post but I want to highlight one powerful theme that emerged: No matter what else you do to promote inclusion and diversity at your organization, you must encourage your employees to share their stories.

Nothing brings out the power of inclusion – and the destructiveness of exclusion – than stories. Everyone has stories to share about people who reached out to help you, encouraged you to believe in yourself, hit you when you were down or belittled you without knowing they were doing so. Positive or negative, uplifting or depressing, stories touch our humanity and teach valuable lessons in ways that “programs” and “initiatives” can’t do.

Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) is about connecting. Stories empower those connections. Almost every presenter and almost all the attendees I had the pleasure of meeting said that shared experiences are critical to building inclusion and diversity. “As long as we can keep everyone talking, we can make progress,” one woman declared at an evening reception.

But these types of stories – or conversations about issues related to inclusion — don’t just happen spontaneously around the proverbial water cooler. Employers that are serious about I&D must work to build trust and encourage an exchange of ideas and perspectives at all levels of their organizations.

Whether it’s employee resource groups, affinity groups, councils or task forces  – attendees leveraged a variety of these assemblages – it’s important to create opportunities to share experiences. That means there will be difficult, painful and awkward conversations because the issues around I&D are sensitive and personal. But they are absolutely necessary to build awareness and strengthen the resolve to improve the workplace experience for everyone.

Brandon Hall Group is committed to inclusion and diversity through our research and the A Way Forward initiative. In just the last few months, we released insightful research on women in leadership and women in technology leadership and will soon publish more reports with actionable recommendations for leveraging I&D to drive business results. Click here if you would like to discuss this further.

Please join our Women in Leadership Network and gain access to publications, executive interviews, podcasts, custom and targeted webinars, curated current events, articles and more.

Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Click here for a free download of the KnowledgeGraphic, How To Make Inclusion a Competitive Advantage

Claude Werder is Brandon Hall Group’s Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst. He focuses on Leadership Development and Talent Management. Brandon Hall Group is a leading research and analyst firm with Practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management/Core HR.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.