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Bridging the Gap for All Women to Dare to Dream

We can and will open the space for women and underrepresented groups to work toward their dreams, to feel bold enough to take risks with the understanding that they are supported to do so.
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Debra McCowan
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Daring to dream and taking risks toward growing our careers can be, at times, an unnerving prospect for many of us. When considering a new assignment, expanding upon a role or venturing into a different professional arena altogether, there are any number of factors that can either strengthen our resolve or leave us feeling hesitant to make a change.

The pandemic has changed work forever

As the global pandemic has altered the workplace as we know it, we’re seeing disproportionate negative effects on women. This is true especially of mothers and women of color. For underrepresented groups, challenges to career progression can feel daunting, particularly when not starting from a place of equity compared with their colleagues.

According to a McKinsey & Company Report, Women in the Workplace 2020, the pandemic has intensified challenges that women had already faced pre-pandemic. Where even two years ago, the movement toward gender parity in corporate America, although slow, was heading in the right direction, we’re now seeing that:

  • One in four women is contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether
  • Women, particularly those of color, are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security
  • Women are 1.5 times more likely to spend an extra 3+ hours a day on housework and childcare (equivalent to 20 hours a week)
    • "Working mothers have always worked a ‘double shift’ – a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible – including school and childcare – have been upended.” Women in the Workplace 2020
  • Black women face even greater challenges compared with their peers from other ethnicities and races, with reduced opportunities for promotion and career advancement, and notable degrees of underrepresentation at higher levels

Bottom line? Women’s professional progress has taken a blow, exacerbated by the pandemic, and the financial, mental and emotional toll is high.

Let’s work toward positive change

With this knowledge, we can move beyond these current circumstances. What’s required is an intentionality in establishing corporate cultures where all employees can thrive – and this includes modeling behaviors from the top.

With a renewed focus and Executive-level commitment, we can create workplaces that:

  • Actively seek to increase diversity and foster environments of inclusivity
  • Meet all employees where they are by having greater levels of flexibility and support built in (which involves understanding potential causes of stress and burnout) – allowing women and those from underrepresented groups to stay in their jobs or re-enter the workforce
  • Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work, so we can all strive to be our best and feel a sense of belonging

These are just some of the changes we can make to open the space for women and underrepresented groups to work toward their dreams, to feel bold enough to take risks with the understanding that they are supported to do so. Only then can they truly consider the idea that the potential rewards of taking a leap of faith may be greater than the perceived risks.

Building a progressive working model that supports positive employee experiences

We’ve sustained a tremendous amount of change and faced challenges in these past 18+ months that required companies to become more resilient than ever before. As we face a return to the workplace, continuing to be nimble is vital.

At NetApp, we have evaluated how our offices and workspaces need to evolve and adapt to meet changing expectations, allowing us to work as one, global team. Key to this is having a work environment that supports our culture, encourages efficiency and effectiveness – leading to increased productivity and phenomenal employee experiences.

What’s next?

Let’s continue to challenge norms and be brave in asking ourselves the hard questions.

Let’s embrace and understand the new ways in which we can work together and recognize the value flexible working arrangements can bring, specifically to women and underserved populations.

Let’s prioritize our employee experiences. Having a motivated and energized workforce made up of employees that are happy, inspired and empowered to do their best work is, ultimately, what leads to successful customer experiences.

Let’s expand the pool of opportunity that facilitates greater inclusivity and carve paths for all to dare to dream.

Dare to be a catalyst for change and celebrate women technologists. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with NetApp’s 200+ employees attending this year’s virtual Grace Hopper Celebration.

Debra McCowan

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