People are tired of pretending to be perfect. This is visible in the movement against advertising campaigns that have altered photos and the increase in social media posts about personal setbacks.
At Credera, the Credera Women’s Network (CWN) believes that vulnerability is power, and focused our 2022 third quarter events around the theme of “Getting Real.” This led to a three-part series where key women leaders at the firm were given the space to discuss mental health, career progression, and gender discrimination.
Navigating Mental Health and Work
Our first session was led by Rachel Godwin, total rewards specialist at Credera and founding member of Credera Thrive, one of Credera’s newest employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on promoting mental and physical well-being. Rachel discussed how our mental health is impacted by various factors.
Her session can be summarized in three points:
Set boundaries – Whether you’re an individual contributor or leader, set aside time to decompress and rest.
Be open – Be honest about your own mental health by being vulnerable with your team. Make space for others to do the same. Remember, it is always a good idea to seek out professional help if you need it.
Practice healthy habits – Instead of trying to power through low points, prioritize rest, a healthy meal, and light exercise to take care of your physical needs while you navigate challenges.
If you are trying to improve your mental health and still struggling, allow yourself some grace; mental well-being is a lifelong pursuit. Credera is also here to help and provides many benefits to all its employees, including:
Paid medical leave with doctor documentation.
Six short-term counseling sessions per topic (members of your household can use this benefit as well).
Access to iPrevail, a mental health support program available online 24/7.
My Career: Promotions and Successes
Our second session was centered around career growth, maintaining a healthy work/life balance, and navigating situations unique to women. Ashley Alston, principal cloud data architect, and Emily Crawford, senior manager and program leadership capability lead, led the conversation. The double bind and maternity leave were top of mind for CWN members during the conversation.
The double bind is the idea that women are “doomed if they do, doomed if they don’t” in many work situations. Many women feel the double bind as it relates to their personalities. A woman may be seen as competent but bossy when she leads a group or initiative. That same woman can be seen as likeable but inept if she is generally kind and takes charge of non-technical needs. Emily lets the work she’s doing serve as the foundation to show competency while also displaying her kind heart to combat the double bind.
Many of the women who attended the presentation were worried about how maternity leave would affect their promotions and/or image at Credera. As a career coach, Ashley shared she doesn’t focus on the time an employee missed, but instead asks, “How was the work for this employee trending? If they had continued working, would that work have trended upward?” Credera solely considers the time an employee was available to the company, ensuring no individual is penalized for taking parental leave.
Ashley and Emily reminded us that career progression and success come with unique challenges. If we stay true to ourselves, however, and lean on our support network, then we can face it together. As Emily said, “I can share strong, data-backed recommendations while being myself, doing it all with a smile.”
Gender Discrimination and Sexism: The Panel
The third session in our three-part series was split into two parts: a panel and office hours with human resources (HR). The panel gave Kara Williams, partner, and Shelby Strodel, senior architect, an opportunity to discuss common discriminatory challenges in the workplace.
The technical world has historically been a male-dominated space, but lately we are seeing an influx of women in STEM careers. However, microaggressions—small discriminatory actions that often go unnoticed—still occur. Fortunately, Credera has made space to discuss and combat these actions. Kara said that in her 25 years of work experience, no other company has made such an effort. Shelby also praised her male counterparts for the advocacy she has received while at Credera. Here’s a list of common microaggressions and recommended responses from the discussion:
Gender Discrimination and Sexism: The HR Office Hour
The office hour was hosted by Nickoria Johnson, chief diversity officer and partner, Rhea Horton, DE&I manager, and Betsy Scantlan, senior director and head of human resources.
Three questions were of special interest to participants:
How do I deal with sexism if I’m the only woman in the room?
How do I navigate uncomfortable situations where power dynamics are at play?
How do I remain authentic when facing pressures to change the way I look, speak, etc.?
In response to dealing with sexism, Nickoria suggested speaking up and surrounding yourself with allies. An approach she’s found to be useful is saying “I agree with what you just said, and that’s exactly what I was alluding to earlier. Here are more details…” If you think a colleague would be more effective, ask them to directly support you by giving you the floor and elevating your voice in these circumstances.
If you are dealing with power dynamics in an uncomfortable situation, remember that you are not required to address your concerns in the moment. Taking a step back and finding a trusted leader to help you process is a great first step. HR is also an invaluable resource; Betsy reminded us that we can rely on HR for advice. Employees aren’t “opening a can of worms” when we come to them.
Finally, remaining authentic means having confidence and speaking clearly to show your brilliance to all those around you; we are not required to change ourselves to receive respect! Betsy left our women a final reminder as the session ended—we have the same authority as anyone else, and we should always be able to rely on each other for support and encouragement during tough times.
Getting Real With CWN
Overall, this series enabled our women to speak out and “get real” about topics that aren’t normally discussed in a corporate setting. The series was well received by participants, who loved that they were able to select the discussion objectives and get actionable advice. If you are interested in hearing more about the CWN’s mission or about Credera, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.