Women empowerment is not only en vogue and serves the women’s quota. Rather, the advancement of women is important for employers to live equality and diversity and to recruit well-educated female job seekers. With MentorMe, employers take the path of an innovative recruiting and HR development strategy. They live CSR & diversity. They achieve attractive employer branding and attract and retain the best female employees in the war of talents. With MentorMe, they support women in shaping their careers, assume social responsibility, and give their employees the opportunity to network as mentors and discover young talent for their company.
One of our partner companies is Wayfair. This program year, Wayfair is supporting women from all industries who want to change their careers with a sponsorship in cooperation with MentorMe. We had the pleasure to interview Genevieve Vancutsem. Genevieve is currently leading the people function at Wayfair for Europe & Asia. She spent her whole career driving change in People organizations, first as an HR consultant at Deloitte, then at Zalando, and now at Wayfair.
What role do companies play as drivers of diversity? To what extent can this inspire society as a whole?
Companies play a significant role in shaping our societies. They are more agile than government structures and can drive changes faster. We see it in digitalization, for instance; well, why not in diversity? It does require people at all levels of private organizations to be bold in their beliefs and follow through with actions. Starting with leaders who can inspire and guide the organizational culture, but also at all other levels. It is lived and breathed by all the individuals who work there. Therefore, don’t hesitate to speak up, take on initiatives, talk to your leaders to drive change, bring on new points of view, understand how you can better improve the community around you and what the intersections are where the company can be giving back to society.
What’s your initial experience with practical diversity measures, as opposed to mere declarations of intent?
Public, external declarations of intent are necessary to show our internal commitment and inspire other organizations to do the same. Still, they should not be used as a stand-alone method to drive change. Since we started using data to understand what was happening in the organization, we were able to really draw attention to our problems and start building new paths forward. For example, we could observe an evident change in how people from marginalized groups were given more opportunities during our development conversations when managers and employees had access to new, tailored tools for discussing career development. Some words and expressions are not used anymore, and many unhelpful remarks have disappeared. Declarations demand you follow through with actions
How does Wayfair promote diversity in the workplace to empower employees?
What Wayfair does very well is laying the foundations, creating and fostering the culture of inclusion we want our leaders and our employees to know and live by, all of that via education, leadership commitment, and the proper infrastructure. We have a global team working on different lenses of diversity and inclusion, culture, recognition, organizational principles, education, communications, and a representative to manage DEI & Culture for key regions like Europe and Asia. Something that all these people have in common with the Wayfair philosophy is that they leverage data to drive accountability and measurable change.
We have successful projects in this field to report out in Europe, like openly asking employees to voluntarily share some personal data to test equity along the employee life cycle, creating a project that provides specialized and confidential support for anyone with DEI-related concerns at the workplace, and creating toolkits, newsletters, and many other educational resources for all employees to engage with that type of content easily. Last but not least, our employees can join our employee resource groups and affinity groups, or AGs/ERGs, which are employee-led groups where employees can find networking and development opportunities with – and from – their peers and understand that no matter their personal characteristics, they all belong at Wayfair
To what extent do women themselves have to drive change in the labor market?
I believe this is a very complex one because it touches on structures and beliefs in our society. Taking on motherhood as an example: I believe we must start by respecting every woman’s decision, whether staying home for their children, balancing that with a part-time job, or continuing to invest in their full-time career. We are not here to judge but to support and enable their decisions with social and governmental provisions and company policies in a realistic way. As a mother myself, that’s the philosophy I would like every other mother to have access to. Furthermore, women can also play a more significant role in creating more awareness among all genders on the impact of behaviors – especially men’s, as they still sit in the majority of the leadership roles.
Again, I believe many of these behaviors have been socially constructed over centuries; therefore not easy to change, but also largely unconscious and unintended. Explaining the impact of unwanted behaviors can be powerful to create empathy and therefore educate allies among all groups that can endorse this message and help women create a louder voice. This is the groundwork that needs to happen right now. Short term, we also need to draw lines on the sand and ensure those lines in
To what extent are you a role model yourself?
I try! I try to, first and foremost, be true to myself and not shape my behaviors to something outside of what I believe is fair. By acting this way, I hope to make space for others to do the same – be themselves. I try to listen and be more of a guide. And I don’t hide that I have responsibilities outside of work and need flexibility in the hope that others feel enabled to do the same. Finally, I try to clarify that I don’t know it all and that I also need to work on understanding others better. We are all works in progress, and acknowledging that regularly is powerful.
Thank you for your time and your openness!
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