A WINning Strategy:
How to Advocate for Women in the Workplace
By Andie T., Specialist, Talent Acquisition
Women’s History Month is an annual celebration every March that celebrates the contributions and achievements of women throughout history and society. At Schwab, we support the professional and personal development of women in many different ways including providing a community for women through our Employee Resource Group WINS (Women’s Interactive Network at Schwab). WINS’ mission is to provide a community that welcomes all women who strive to create relationships at work, celebrate one another, and explore new ideas to improve the personal and professional lives of its members. We were able to interview Annie L., WINS National Co-Chair on how she sees the mission come to life and how she has been supported as a woman in the workforce at Schwab.
Annie L. is a 22-year Schwabbie who currently works in the Seattle Branch Network as a Regional Marketing Executive for the Pacific Northwest Region. As Annie has progressed in her career journey at Schwab, she has also been able to pursue other areas of interest such as her dedication to creating an inclusive and diverse culture in the workspace. Annie elaborates on how she made this possible through her involvement in WINS: “I've been involved with WINS for several years now in different capacities. Originally, I started off as a member and then I lead and was a Regional Chair for one of the chapters. An opportunity opened where they were looking for national co-chairs and people knew about my passion to advocate for women. I think what's amazing about Schwab is there are people who kind of tap you on the shoulders and say, ‘You know, you should go for that opportunity.’ I call these people sponsors and allies. I had those people that really talked to me about the opportunity.”
Once Annie stepped into her new role as a National Co-Chair alongside her counterpart Karen B., both Karen and Annie were able to assess WINS’ goals and realized the importance of advocacy and allies within the WINS community which includes two areas of focus: “Our responsibility is to bring deep value to the community and what we realized through a lot of the conversations we've been having is that although this network is about women, we also don't want to silo women because we want men to be involved. A lot of men carry the power right now within our company and that can do more in terms of allyship and we recognize that. One of the big tasks is to make sure our membership is not just made up of women any longer. Last year, when we were looking at our demographic, we're now at over double digits on male membership in our network. The second area of focus is to bring tremendous value for our community so that they can really develop their career at Schwab. I look at this affinity group as one that amplifies the voice of women, provides skill development, and support. Some of the friendships that we've seen through our group, includes women cheering each other on. While this may seem small, this support system has provided a sense of belonging for our members and it's a critical aspect of our community. Personally, I've benefited from having my own cheerleader squad who have been and continues to be there to cheer for me and lift me up when needed.”
In addition to focusing on including men as allies to the WINS community, Annie also touched on WINS mission statement which includes mentions of welcoming women, men, non-binary, and gender non-confirming Schwabbies. When asked what the importance is of not only being inclusive of women but also members of other gender identities and binaries, Annie mentioned the following: “We're just scratching the surface. We need to first of all focus on getting the composition of our membership in the right equilibrium and that we need to continue to educate on both sides. What does it mean for a male member to be an ally? What are those behaviors? Because when we did our study group with a group of men, they gave us some great insights that we didn’t know including that some men are actually really worried about putting themselves out there too much to be an ally since they’re concerned about, how they might be received?
On the flip side, women also have worries like, ‘I don't want to bother that executive, they're too busy, or I don't know if that they're going to be that interested to talk to me, what do I bring to the table?’ You can see that on both sides, there are really great intentions, but how do we get the group closer together and work through some of those things? We run a lot of programs that are consistent to addressing those issues, like how do you build sponsorship? How do you build your brand and talk about what your superpower is, and not feel bad about it? We’re trying to provide education to women and then for the men, we help them understand how do you show up to be an ally the right way? How do you have those dialogues?”
For those curious about what it’s like to work at Schwab or why Annie has stayed at the firm for over 20 years, Annie explains how “One of the biggest pieces about our culture that I’m really grateful for is that you can set your career goal and the trajectory doesn’t have to be a traditional one where you have to be in a certain role to advance to the next role. It’s really one that you can create on your own and the best part is, there’s a ton of mentors and sponsors who are here and willing to help you. As a result, you see a lot of Schwabbies with a long tenure at Schwab. Most recently, we have an employee named Tawny who has over 35 years of service at Schwab. Upon Tawny's retirement announcement, Tawny's branch leader Tamara T. connected with our CEO, Walt Bettinger, about the news and Walt offered to call Tawny. Needless to say, it's been an unforgettable experience for Tawny and those who celebrated with her. But it goes to show you our most senior executive deeply cares about our employees and that transcends throughout our firm when it comes to care and support for our employees. The culture, our mission, and our purpose as a firm is what keeps me here. I think that a lot of companies can say that they do things through client’s eyes, but that’s not always consistent. At Schwab, over the last 22 years that I’ve seen, we've been relentless in our focus on this strategy.”
Annie concluded with what advice she would give to women who are aiming to advance their careers: “Your network is so critical at any company, not just Schwab. It’s important for you to be proactive and expand your network because you never know what person is going to be able to influence the person who’s going to make a decision about you. You’ve got to pay it forward to the people who come behind you and if you do that consistently, I think we’re all going to be in a much better place."
By Andie T., Specialist, Talent Acquisition