Category: Communication Styles

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

Why Confidence Matters

When you work really hard to gain expertise in your field, you want to believe that your competence will earn you extra stripes and higher level positions. Turns out it’s confidence, more than competence, that makes the bigger difference. More than mere bravado, authentic confidence comes from believing in your competence, trusting your abilities, having faith in your instincts, and conquering the fear of failure.

Many women lack the same level of confidence and self-esteem that men have. While some level of explanation may be rooted in physiological differences, most of it is social. In a 2015 study on Age and Gender Difference in Self Esteem, Wiebke Bleidorn and her research team studied nearly one million subjects from 48 nations. They found that worldwide, men systematically have higher levels of self-esteem than women, and that self-esteem increases with age from adolescence to adulthood. What is surprising about their study is this: the confidence gap between men and women is actually higher in industrialized, western, more egalitarian countries than in developing countries. How can we explain that?

It seems to me that in countries where women’s equality is guaranteed by law and where women  expect to be treated as equals, the blow to self-esteem is much greater when women experience inequality, unconscious bias, and harassment.

So how can women overcome these deeply seated sociocultural norms to regain their confidence and self-esteem? Dr. Sharon Melnick is a leading authority on business psychology, stress resilience, and women’s leadership. According to Melnick, there are three main patterns that affect confidence levels:

  1. Seeking Approval

  2. Preventing Disapproval

  3. Looping Self/Other Criticism

To rise above these patterns, we have to understand why we do them and be willing to move from what Melnick calls a “confidence seeker” to a “confidence contributor.” Once we can make the shift from looking to others for our confidence, we can begin to gain confidence from the true value of our contributions.

Dr. Melnick is a preferred facilitator for Momentum’s executive leadership class. This year Momentum is hosting a leadership series open to the community, and this week Dr. Melnick will conduct her “Confidence When it Counts” workshop January 16, 2019 at Samford University. 

 

Challenge Assumptions

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

The internet has thousands of articles offering advice for early career professionals. Most of the authors think back on their own career and write what they wish they had known at age 22 when they entered the workforce.

Universal advice includes, “find a mentor,” “become a life-long learner,” and “prove your value.” But if you include the word “women” in your search for early career advice, you get distinctly different results.

So logic would tell you that if the advice is very different, then the experience must also be different for young professional women than for their male counterparts.

 

I find the advice diverges along three basic assumptions:

  1. Women communicate differently from men (rapport vs report, if you will)

  2. Women shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibility for housework and care-giving, particularly when it comes to family planning (the “motherhood penalty”)

  3. Women will earn less money than men for the same work, in nearly every profession (the gender pay gap)

Photo Credit: Ged Carroll, CC BY 2.0

Assumptions about early career women in the workplace push women to believe the stereotypes are true. As a young woman beginning to explore the workforce myself, my view of the business world is largely influenced by the advice people give me and the expectations they set for me, because I haven’t had a lot of professional experience yet.

Instead of getting advice on how to navigate through the struggles, I’d rather receive advice on how to eliminate them.
We need men and women working together to remove stereotypes, assumptions, and biases to maximize productivity among innovative, driven individuals- male or female. This begins with the expectations we set for up-and-coming leaders. Let’s not create boundaries that do not have to exist. Instead, let’s ask men and women alike how they need to adjust their schedule to accommodate a new baby. Let’s look at high-potential women and mentor them on how to take a high-earning path to provide for their family. Let’s not assume that one or the other is more willing to travel, do extra assignments, or lead the way for others. Let’s assume we are equal.

 

Three Benefits to Resource Groups

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

Women in the workplace face some unique challenges, such as implicit bias and carrying a disproportionate load in balancing work and family. As women move up the ranks, there are increasingly fewer other women to talk with about how to solve these challenges.

Some companies set up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to reduce the isolation among certain groups of employees. When ERGs are done well, they are an important avenue for employees to connect, share common experiences, discuss constructive ways to overcome challenges, and find support. Depending on the size of the company, ERGs may be very structured or somewhat organic and informal. When the intent is engagement and inclusion, ERGs can be very successful.

Here are three ways Employee Resource Groups are beneficial:

1. ERGs improve retention.

One key reason employees leave companies is because they feel disconnected. The desire for relationship is innate, so building genuine relationships with coworkers is important for retention. ERGs give employees a place to feel connected, heard, and understood by investing in one another. Building workplace friendships increases teamwork, morale, knowledge-sharing, and open communication.

2. ERGs engage employees.

Strengths of minority employees can go unnoticed when employees are disengaged due to isolation. ERGs cut across functional and departmental lines, providing opportunities to share experiences in a highly interactive way. When employees feel connected and their strengths are recognized, engagement goes up. When employees are engaged, they are more productive, more satisfied at work, and increase their confidence level.

3. ERGs nurture talent.

Women are less likely to receive executive sponsorship. ERGs provide professional development and guidance for members, an opportunity that could otherwise be unavailable for women. Structured ERGs provide training and resources to members who may not be getting that level of guidance from their direct supervisor. As an extra bonus, when senior level managers participate in ERGs it essentially scales their potential to act as an executive sponsor to a greater number of individuals. Outstanding participants in the ERG are likely to get noticed by senior managers, who may in turn take a special interest in helping them fast-track their career.

Reducing isolation among minority groups is key to engaging, retaining, and developing the top talent among them. ERGs, when done well, can be a great way to make sure talented employees stay connected and get the development training they deserve. When focused on engagement and inclusion, ERGs can really make a positive difference.

 

Millennial Strengths Add to Diversity

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

When you hear the term millennial, what do you think of? I searched it on google and adjectives like lazy and entitled were the first to pop up.  In my last blog post I wrote about the advantages of diversity in leadership in terms of race and gender. This week, Momentum welcomes Tamara Thorpe, an organizational development consultant and national expert on leveraging multi-generational talent. As a millennial myself, I was anxious to do a little digging into Tamara’s topic ahead of her visit.

In the next five years, the percentage of Millennials in the workforce is predicted to increase from 40% to 60%.  The Boomer and Gen X generations will get a lot more out of millennials if they are able to leverage the strengths of my generation, and we have quite a few!

Here are the top four millennial strengths from my point of view:

  1. Independent
    In the 1970s the median age for marriage was 23. Now it’s 30. Millennials want to marry (70%) and also want to have kids (74%). However, delaying those life changing decisions gives millennials more time to focus on career and life experiences before bearing the additional responsibilities that come with family life. That can only bode well for employers looking to leverage millennial’s independence and flexibility.
  2. Adaptable
    Previous generations were obsessed with owning things, such as a house, car, TVs, and garages full of “stuff.” Millennials tend to value experiences over assets, and those experiences make them highly adaptable to various environments. Millennials want to be ready to seize an opportunity should it arise. It’s why 60% of millennials opt to rent rather than buy their home.  Because experience is valued over consumption, millennials are highly adaptable to changing circumstances.
  3. Aware
    Millennials are the first generation of true “digital natives.” We were born with access to the Internet and a constant evolution of new communication channels. Older generations fear that all of this technology results in poor communication skills, but I would argue that the many social platforms millennials use increase awareness and compassion for the world around them. I am constantly impressed by my generation’s knowledge of social causes and their desire to come together to make a difference. Social business models are emerging rapidly, and millennials are highly aware of businesses that make a positive difference in the world.
  4. Ambitious
    I’ve read plenty of rants calling millennials entitled and lazy. But I will argue that most millennials are an ambitious lot. First of all, there are 75-90 million of us depending on how you count…that’s the largest generation in American history. That’s also a lot of competition. It’s harder for millennials to get into school, land their first job, and get their first promotion. Only the more ambitious ones will make it and we know it. Tamara Thorpe says, “[millennials] aren’t afraid to question authority and ask for what they want, which is to be included and involved.” Close ties to family have created a confident generation. We also know that our confidence has to be paired with hard work or it’s just entitlement. But we don’t want to do busy work to just “pay the dues” or “do your time”–we want to do meaningful work that makes a difference. And when we do, letting us know will fuel our ambition and drive.

 

Every generation has strengths and weaknesses, which is why we should embrace the diversity in order to leverage everyone’s talents.

We look forward to welcoming Tamara Thorpe this week to learn how to tap into the potential in every generation to become effective and authentic leaders, millennials and all.

 

Sources:
Goldman Sachs. (2017) Millennials Infographic. Retrieved from Goldman Sachs:
http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/

Thorpe, Tamara. (2017) Let a Millennial Mentor You. Retrieved from Tamara Thorpe’s website:                 http://tamarathorpe.com/free-stuff/