Driving Change with Authenticity and Allyship at WomenConnect NYC
July 2, 2019
WomenConnect is a series of events focused on bringing together women in tech to build meaningful relationships. Over the past four years, we’ve shared countless stories, learned a ton of lessons, and made lifelong connections at the 16 WomenConnect events in four different cities.
On June 12, our NYC office in the Empire State Building played host to a vibrant and energetic collection of attendees at our event. The theme, “Balance for Better: Allyship,” focused on carrying out change and it was a natural progression from our previous themes of transformation and building communities. We collected various speakers and leaders to set the tone for the night by sharing their personal experiences, advice, and takeaways on how all of us can effect change.
As the networking reception kicked off the event, it was exciting to see attendees from around the local NYC engineering and product community. Having been a part of the planning process of all three WomenConnect NYC events, I was most in awe of the repeat attendees from our previous events because it showcased how we’ve come a long way in building a community. The space we’ve created for people to be vulnerable and supportive of one another is really special.
I wanted to share some takeaways to try and capture what makes the event so unique.
Treat people beautifully
Relationships matter. Throughout the event, we touched on the importance of allyship, defined as a “lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.” To build meaningful relationships, it’s important to be self-aware and bring your full self to work. Our Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Rosanna Durruthy shared that for her this entails being a woman in tech, a mother, a person of color, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. To be an ally and advocate for diversity means we understand and honor how these different identity categories interrelate with one another.
“Treat people beautifully.” – Rosanna Durruthy
To be authentic is to be vulnerable
Authenticity is what allows us to connect with others. Part of showing and bringing your true self to work involves sharing your full self, including your vulnerabilities. Rosanna fully embraced and embodied this value of authenticity when asked about dealing with failure. She went on to share a personal story from early in her career when she didn’t get along with a more senior coworker—they had started off on the wrong foot, and this set the tone for the rest of the time she was on the team. Looking back, she realized her unwillingness to try to reset things was a misstep on her part. In not taking that first step to mend the relationship, she shared that she felt she had missed a lot of learning moments. Rosanna’s introspection and confidence to look back and pinpoint what could have been done better really set the tone in our table discussions to open up with one another.
In addition, among the dozens of LinkedIn executives who participated in the event, there were many male allies. They signaled strong support to our efforts and goals, and were there to learn, but also to offer valuable advice on growth and empowerment. One of them, Chris Pruett, VP of engineering, and a facilitator at one of the tables, encouraged the guests to be confident and not be afraid to ask for what they want.
The table discussions served as an additional way to meet people, including some of our engineering leadership.
Bringing it back to work
After the fireside chat, we dove into a Q&A session, during which attendees were able to line up behind the mics to ask Rosanna and marketing development global lead Ty Heath questions. This was a time for audience members to ask for advice and share their own stories. The questions were as tactical as how to negotiate for a raise or determine salary as a contractor, which led us all to realize our shared experiences and concerns in the workplace. Throughout the evening, we were reminded that we have a collective responsibility to bring back the takeaways learned from this evening to our day-to-day lives. How can we replicate this positive energy and feeling of community throughout our own workplaces?
This sense of making sure the event’s impact lasted beyond one night was the central theme of the table discussions portion of the night. As we drew inspiration from the confident and talented women on stage, it was then time for us to regroup in a more intimate group discussion setting and brainstorm how to bring the true change home to our workplaces and communities, one action at a time. First, we were asked to come up with one change we would like to see to increase diversity in the workplace. Then, we jumped into more actionable thinking—how could we help implement that change? One point that stood out to me was the importance of managers leading by example, especially when it comes to work-life balance.
We concluded with representatives from each table coming up on stage to share the main points and take-aways from their group discussions. The amount of great ideas and actionable implementation steps was amazing to hear. By the end of the night, we left empowered with the awareness that we could impact change and that there was an entire community of allies behind us every step of the way. As Vice President of Engineering Erica Lockheimer shared, we can be change agents at any level, but we need to be intentional and have the awareness of what exactly needs to change.
Thank you to anyone who has ever attended a WomenConnect event. Each event has built on the previous ones to improve, and that is in huge part thanks to everyone’s willingness to open up and connect with one another. Thanks also to our June event’s emcees, Stephanie Killian and Abby Garcia, for their amazing work. Follow our hashtag, #WomenConnect, on LinkedIn to see what we’re up to.