The original version of this article was published in Half Times, the digital magazine for Robert Half employees. Pictured above: Stephnee Leathers (left) and Carrie Toal, founders of GWEN, an Employee Network Group (ENG) at Robert Half that champions women’s perspectives.
A worldwide effort
When Robert Half employees Stephnee Leathers, senior director of creative services, and Carrie Toal, manager of employee connection, sat together at a women’s networking event in 2018, they both agreed that the conversation around women in the workplace needed to continue far beyond their lunch that day.
Fast-forward to March 2021, when Robert Half kicked off our Employee Network Group (ENG) program, and Stephnee and Carrie formally launched the Global Women’s Employee Network (GWEN).
A worldwide effort with chapters in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, GWEN’s mission is to champion and amplify women’s perspectives while creating networks, community, and growth and development opportunities for women.
“All the ENGs at Robert Half were started by employees who are invested in and passionate about their communities,” says Alfredo Mendez, vice president of experience and inclusion at Robert Half. “They are about building connections and installing long-term change.”
Lean In Circles and the WE Series
GWEN events in year one focused on making personal and professional connections. In addition to quarterly member meetings, GWEN’s advisory board and volunteers created smaller networking opportunities for its over 1,000 global members. The “WE Series” program featured expert speakers and panel discussions around relevant topics in a format where members could connect with and advocate for each other. And a Lean In Circles pilot enabled small groups to discuss common interests and share and learn from each other.
“Lean In Circles kicked off with 14 circles that ran for six months, on topics from fitness to mothering to business made social and more,” says Robert Half regional director Sarah Cush, who led the creation of the pilot. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the circle members loved the program and want more.”
Integrated art director Mandisa Fabris helped create the WE Series. “The community of powerful women I’ve found here is like no other,” she says. “With the WE Series, I get a true sense of meaning in my work, and I feel connected to a community giving women a voice on issues that matter to them.”
“The impact that GWEN has made in the remote world is impressive,” Stephnee says. “GWEN has helped others feel seen and heard, creating belonging and meeting our members where they’re at as we work apart. It’s given our members something greater than themselves to contribute to, be a part of and shape. The ENGs are truly changing the experience for employees at Robert Half and providing meaningful experiences.”
A well-timed anniversary for GWEN
March 2022 marked not only the one-year anniversary of GWEN but also an enterprisewide celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day at Robert Half. The global theme for International Women’s Day for 2022 is #breakthebias, which focuses on the collective goal of a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
To celebrate and honor its members, GWEN put together a month of events to celebrate each other and women in the workplace. Led by Robert Half women leaders, small discussion groups around the topic of #breakthebias were held to foster deeper discussion about bias women face in the workplace and how to enable action toward change.
Read more about the 2022 International Women’s Day celebrations at Robert Half and our company’s commitment to promoting gender equality and DEI in our organization — and beyond, in this post.
Small group leader and SVP of finance operations Tami Munns says, “Sharing personal stories and putting words to the common types of bias experienced by women was powerful. We learned through storytelling and left empowered with a personal call to action to address bias when we see it.”
“GWEN’s programs and events help bring awareness, learning and understanding to issues women face in the workplace,” Carrie says. “They also help members and allies better understand how they can support, champion and amplify each other’s stories and perspectives to bring about positive change. Lifting each other up makes us better in so many ways.”