This week, the United States will commemorate Women’s Equality Day on Friday, August 26th. Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on that day to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits the States and Federal Government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States based on sex.
Creating a more perfect union happens when individuals vote and businesses eliminate hiring bias, narrow the pay gap, and create equal opportunities for everyone on the team. So we invited two Experian leaders on the podcast to share their perspectives on the small business matter of equality and what that means here at Experian.
Watch Our Interview
What follows is a lightly edited transcription of our conversation.
Gary Stockton: As Experian’s Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Wil Lewis is building on the company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity by driving innovation in product development and building on the company’s culture of belonging and attracting talent that represents the communities in which Experian operates.
And joining Wil from Experian is Teresa Rogers. Teresa is currently a Senior Sales Director for Experian and the North America Lead for the Women in Experian Employee Resource Group. Her 23 years of industry experience helps Experian sales teams to deliver outstanding results.
And her work on the Women in Experian, ERG inspires Experian’s next generation of female leaders to raise their hands and lead.
And Emily Garman is a content specialist here at Experian. Emily helps us craft small business stories for the Small Business Matters blog and podcast. Welcome everyone to our little discussion today about equality.
Gary Stockton: So Wil, more than 2 million women left the US workforce during the pandemic; according to the US chamber of commerce, one in three cited burnout as a primary reason. Many left careers due to a lack of childcare, and for small business listeners of this podcast to adapt to the new environment, can you share how Experian has adapted to these trends and made Experian the place where women want to grow their careers?
Wil Lewis: What’s notable, I think, is that you mentioned this 1920 amendment fight for equality for women in the US Congress. While that’s true, and it’s very factual, the reality is for generations since then, and before them, women have had to carry a disproportionate share of the burden of managing the household and also trying to work. So one of the things that we wanna do here at Experian is to support women along that journey.
What that means for us is that we’ve adjusted our ways of working here at Experian. So. Your question was, how can we help support women? Well, one of the options, one of the things that we provided for all of our employees, is the option of where you want to work. You can choose to work at home. You can choose to work in the office, or you can choose a hybrid working environment.
You see, the choice is at the center of it. And I think one of the ways that we can help women, whether you are a parent or not, is by giving them a choice in how they want to work—giving them a choice in how they want to exist and the option of how they can work in their most impactful way.
Emily Garman: Wil, our 2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report opens with a statement from our Global CEO, Brian Cassin, about the criticality of creating a workplace where people are free to be their authentic selves and have an equal chance to succeed. Can you talk about The Power of You and what that means, particularly for the women who work at Experian?
Wil Lewis: What’s key is several things. Not only I talk about that choice, but I think it’s also important for us to ensure that we continue to develop, and invest in the development of women and all of our employees across Experian.
What that means is, providing equal access to promotional opportunities. That means ensuring that we’re meeting our colleagues and our women across the organization where they are as they look to grow and foster their careers and also offering development programs. In addition, we’re proud that we’ve recently signed on with Catalyst, an organization that’s focused on the empowerment of growth of women globally.
What that’ll do is give our women more access to the tools and resources they need to help foster and grow their careers, and receive the support they need to continue to be successful in the workplace while continuing to pursue their ventures and personal lives as well.
And also, help ensure that we’re investing in the people who are not women to make sure they understand what those needs are and that they’re providing a supportive environment and that environment as well. So we can’t only talk to women around ensuring that we’re helping that growth and development. We need to talk to everyone to ensure that we’re creating the most welcoming environment possible for our women to prosper. And I think when Brian mentioned that in our Power of You report, that’s what he was going at. The Power of You is here at Experian, and you have the power to achieve your career goals. So we want to do everything we can to ensure that happens.
Gary Stockton: So Teresa, can you provide some background on Experian’s Women in Experian resource group?
Teresa Rogers: Sure. The Women in Experian ERG has been around for several years, and it’s one of our largest resource groups at Experian, it has over 500 members and was founded in 2016. And it was initially led by Jennifer Schulz, who is now our CEO in North America.
Our goal is to help women take the next step in their career trajectory. And up is not the only way. So preparing for the next step could be a promotion, it could be a lateral move. It could just be taking on a new challenge, and we’re focused on that career movement within Women in Experian.
Emily Garman: Teresa, you mentioned your goals for the Women in Experian ERG. Can you talk a little bit more about the goals you have and how you measure those goals?
Teresa Rogers: We have three goals, and all are focused on 50/50 gender parity. Now our dominant goal, or what we consider the one that matters most, is career movement. And we want to see a 50/50 balance of males to females movement while increasing the representation specifically of females in leadership positions.
We’re also focused on gender parity for new hires coming into the business and parity overall for North American employees. And we are looking this year for 5% improvement within the emerging leader and VP categories, which are really the ones driving the decisions for the corporation. So we want to see the parity at those levels as well.
Gary Stockton: Wil – bringing about a cultural shift in a business. It can be hard, where do you start? And how does that look for different sizes of companies?
Wil Lewis: The great news is, as Teresa mentioned, Experian’s been after this for many years. So this isn’t new that we’re just starting now. And where we started was very grassroots — people who volunteer and invested in making a difference. And what they did was start talking to their leaders. And I bring that up because I think that same formula, no matter the size of the organization applies across.
This is really around how do we raise awareness. I firmly believe that the majority of humans in the world want to do good. I believe that they want to help others, excel and exceed, but there may be a lack of knowledge. There’s a lack of awareness. There’s a lack of realization until someone highlights it for them.
So the starting point, I think for organizations, is really to say, let’s drive education. Let’s make people aware of where there may be places where there’s no parity. And then let’s ask them to help us think through how we drive towards that parody and how we get there. I’ve learned in my career at different organizations that when you shine a spotlight on it, people go, oh gosh, I didn’t realize. So I want to be a part of the solution.
The starting point is to shine a spotlight on where the opportunity is to ensure that individuals of all levels and that are in a decision-making authority, as well as individual contributors, can influence and have awareness of what to do. And then, the rest takes off like a rocket ship; I’d like to believe.
Gary Stockton: So how does having an inclusive workplace manifest change or enhance interactions in the relationship itself with your customers?
Wil Lewis: Well, that’s really an important one because you think about it. Many of us, inside of our organization of Experian or inside of other organizations, interact with customers of some sort, whether those customers are consumers, whether those customers are other businesses, and awareness of why inclusion is important inside of one’s organization directly impacts the products that we create for the world.
Experian spends a lot of its time focused on consumers. How do we help consumers live a better life? Also, how do we help other businesses connect with their consumers so those consumers can lead a better life? The best way to do that is to ensure that we have an inclusive environment of our own and one that’s representative of the communities out in the external marketplace, because then our employees can use informed decisions to inform our products, to make products that better connect with the communities and then help individuals really kind of grow along the way.
It’s around having a diverse environment that allows our teammates to, and to feed in the products that drive a better tomorrow.
Emily Garman: Teresa, can you talk about some of the committees we have here at Experian and why we created them?
Teresa Rogers: Sure. All our committees are focused on helping women prepare for the next step in their career trajectory.
We’ve got seven committees:
- Set Your Ambition — This committee helps women to create goals and to make a plan for their next step. And they recently published a phenomenal piece of work called a career flip book, it’s very practical advice to guide the employee through career readiness with practical tools, and brings everything together in one place so that they can prepare for that next step.
- Take Control — That committee’s all about mentorship and building a personal and a professional brand. And we have 260 mentor/mentee pairings, and participants that are matched right now.
- Focus on You — is our talent and development committee, and they’re focused on providing women an environment that enables growth through practical tools and training and resources to help them to advance in their careers.
- STEM — is focused on women in technologies. Like other organizations, females are underrepresented in science, engineering, and different technical roles. So we’re taking a surgical approach to drive awareness and improvement in these technology positions. The STEM Committee is focused on mentoring, education, and training, and then internal and external outreach and partnerships.
- Make Your Move — So once that next step is a reality and that woman has taken that promotion or lateral move, we want to give back to our communities. This group partners with communities and underrepresented groups.
- International Women’s Week — For the March lineup we want to make sure we have fantastic speakers and workshops for that week.
- Agile committee — takes on special projects, for example, this year, they have lined up quarterly events for north America, and they’re doing some excellent work.
So one of the things I love about the Women in Experian, ERG is just all the different boots on the ground. There’s active involvement across our membership base. And males and females alike are rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in these committees. And we’re seeing real change happen as a result.
Gary Stockton: Wil, FORTUNE magazine and Great Place To Work named Experian, North America a Best Workplace for Women among large companies for the third consecutive year. What do you think sets us apart from other large workplaces regarding equal opportunities for women at all levels?
Wil Lewis: Well, first of all, we’re really proud to be honored by FORTUNE Magazine for this category’s third and consecutive year. It comes because of hard work, not only the things that I’ve already mentioned but also ensuring that we’re taking a look at the benefits programs that we’re offering to women in our organization. That we’re focused on that we’re providing time away, when someone’s bringing a child into their household, paid time away.
Also, ensuring that we’re doing things like being committed to being focused on wellness or providing lactation facilities inside our office spaces. Most important is to be sure that we’re providing that equal access along the way. Now, what I will also add to that is that I think that one of the things that sets us apart are our people, right?
We have people that are genuinely dedicated and committed to this. It isn’t happening by accident, or it’s happening because one or two individuals are focused on it. Our teammates across our entire footprint are focused on how do we make Experian a better place to work.
It’s our people that’s a differentiator for us. Our people that come to work to try and do well every day.
Emily Garman: Wil you’ve said that one of the things we’re focused on at Experian North America is to have 40% of our leadership roles filled by women by 2024; that’s only a couple of years away. Can you share what we’re doing as an organization to reach that goal?
Wil Lewis: This is a really important goal for us because this is all around ensuring that we have an equal number of women as we do other genders in the workplace. Particularly in senior leadership roles. What we’re doing are several things. First, we insist that all of our hiring slates, for finalists are diverse.
So that way, if the slate itself is diverse, it increases the likelihood of women being hired into our organization. So that’s a requirement as a part of what we’re doing along the way. We’re also making focused and dedicated decisions around how we grow, foster, and support career development and growth through advanced development programs. So ensuring that we’re bringing women into those programs and with access to the development they need to ensure they can be fantastic senior leaders in the organization. And this is important, Emily. And I want to mention it; these aren’t just words and rhetoric that we’re talking about and doing; we’re backing this up with actions.
Earlier this year, we promoted Jennifer Schulz to the role of CEO of North America. She’s a fantastic leader who’s worked hard for a very long time and earned that role for herself. So those are the type of things that we’re doing. There are other women in senior leadership roles around our organization as well.
And I think it’s imperative to keep doing things like that to ensure that we put our actions where our words and rhetoric are.
Emily Garman: So true; Jennifer is an amazing leader. Teresa, you mentioned earlier when you were talking about the committees you’ve got, I think you said 240 mentor pairs with women across the company. How critical is it to have mentors?
Teresa Rogers: I think it’s super important to have mentors. You know, sometimes we don’t know our next step. So, talking that through with someone who’s already made that path and made several moves. That advice can be extremely helpful. I believe that sponsorship is even more important but harder to obtain.
So we have to start with mentorships and having a sponsor. That’s advocating for you behind closed doors when you’re not in the room is the place that we want to arrive. Still, it starts with building relationship equity and conversations with mentors. Then there’ll be a point that you can ask that executive to sponsor you when you’re not around, based on that relationship that you’ve built is super important.
Gary Stockton: Wil, men can belong to the Women in Experian Resource Group as allies, but what does being a strong ally and advocate for women’s equality look like here at Experian? What traits make a good ally?
Wil Lewis: Calling out disparity when you see it. We can make many branches off of that, but if you see something that’s not right, don’t just admire it. Say something about it. Take action to drive change and difference. That’s the first thing, the second thing is Teresa was talking about mentorship, volunteering yourself to be a mentor, but don’t just go for being a mentor; take it a step further, be a sponsor. A mentor is someone who gives advice which gives guidance to an individual. A sponsor has a seat at the table, and when that person’s not around, advocates to that individual, on their behalf, without them knowing it sometimes. Be a sponsor, and try and drive an individual along as well.
Emily Garman: Teresa, what can a company gain by having a more inclusive workplace and a more diverse executive team?
Teresa Rogers: A variety of perspectives. An organization will not thrive if everyone thinks the same way. The best moments are when those creative strategies occur, and you have diverse ways of thinking. That all starts with a diverse board of directors, a diverse senior leadership team, even at the frontline level, having diversity, not just in gender, but in all areas. Experian is very focused on inclusion and diversity. And I think that’s what makes us thrive and, really, Excel as an organization.
Gary Stockton: Wil and Teresa, any final thoughts about Women’s Equality Day and what can be done on a smaller scale down on Main Street at small businesses?
Wil Lewis: What’s important, I think, for Main Street small businesses and more women and women’s equality is to think, what can I do? You don’t have to boil the ocean. You don’t have to try and do everything yourself. But think about what that one action you can do inside your business. Usually, small businesses are run very leanly. You have a couple of folks that are running the shop. How can you integrate women into that? Or how can you provide products that help women along the way, or can you volunteer yourself in your time to help mentor and foster other small businesses, businesses that women lead. It’s around these small actions; you don’t have to try and boil the ocean; what’s the one thing you can do to try and help other women business leaders?
Gary Stockton: Teresa?
Teresa Rogers: I think it’s important to celebrate the history, understand where we are now and where we’ve been, and look at how much has happened in those few decades. Celebrating women business owners, highlighting their work, and telling their stories is a way we can inspire women who may want to start a business but who have not taken that next step in their career trajectory. Still, it’s a desire of their heart. The more we can elevate and escalate and tell these stories, the more we can see additional business owners and female owners enter the workforce.
Gary Stockton: Wil and Teresa, thanks so much for sharing your perspectives on equality and fostering belonging here at Experian. Podcast listeners, we hope this discussion inspires ideas to carry forward in your business.
Got a great equality and inclusion story about your business? Drop us a line at email@example.com or share your women’s equality story on Instagram and tag @experianbis.
Check out our interview with Luann Abrams from CEOX on why we need more women CEOs and Board Members.