State of Women: Creating a Better World of Work

After seeing hordes of women leave the workforce during the “Shecession” in 2020 and the continued Great Resignation in 2021, we partnered with the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce to explore these issues through expert commentary and discussion in our Executive Roundtable Conversation Series that took place in 2021.

These roundtables included policymakers, industry leaders, hourly workers, parents, historically marginalized individuals, and a team of researchers at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Our goal was to look at the statistics surrounding women in the workforce during and following the pandemic and discuss what we can do better as a community, particularly here in Colorado, to get women back to work.

We shared our findings on February 9, 2022, in our livestream event “The State of Women in Business,” along with tangible solutions uncovered through this research and resources to empower working women.

If you missed it or want to view it again, you can still watch the entire State of Women in Business livestream recording. Here is a recap of some of our favorite moments.

Introductions and Presenting Sponsor

Simone Ross, CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Colorado Women’s Chamber Foundation, started by sharing some shocking statistics that inspired us to take action. As Simone put it, “The inequities are prolific. The broken rungs in the corporate ladder are leaving women dangling over oblivion. The glass ceiling is further away than ever before. The leaky pipeline has burst.” She then thanked and introduced all of our event sponsors, including our presenting sponsor, Amazon, which seeks to promote equity through technology and education.

Brittany Morris Saunders, Head of Community Affairs at Amazon, shared how the company is taking steps to increase and support women in the workplace through flexibility, leadership opportunities, and returnship programs.

We also welcomed Governor Jared Polis to share his policies and goals for supporting women in the workplace. His budget proposal includes creating an equity office to measure the progress of gender equity in the workplace.  We’re so thrilled to know our governor is in our corner in all these areas, as well as in the provision of affordable childcare through a universal preschool plan.

Research Findings with Metropolitan State University of Denver

Dr. Lynann “Annie” Butler presented the research findings conducted alongside graduate research assistant Cate Hill.

While disparities existed long before COVID-19, Dr. Butler noted that the pandemic shined a spotlight on this major discrepancy, along with a slew of other issues that working women face daily. For example, women were 24% more likely to permanently lose their jobs due to the pandemic, and 42% of women in the workforce say they are often or almost always burned out. Although men with children are often perceived by employers as more committed and competent, women with children are viewed as less committed and competent.

To read more about these findings, click here to access the full report.

Dr. Butler also shared solutions generated from the report and roundtables, such as:

  • Equity Badges to promote company transparency about hiring, promoting, pay, and benefits for female employees
  • Better representation of women on corporate boards (only 25% of seats are currently occupied by women
  • Support for women-owned businesses
  • Mentoring and coaching to establish a network of support
  • Returnships for women who have been out of the workplace for a while
  • Work from home opportunities
  • And birth control and mental health service coverage by employers.

Again, to see all of the tangible solutions presented and how you as an individual can implement them, refer to the full report.

Panel Discussion

After a dance party break, the panel discussion began, hosted by our very own founder and CEO, Kate Bailey. Our panel was composed of four inspirational women to represent diverse experiences and perspectives in the workplace.

Julie Chickillo, Vice President of Information Security at Guild Education

Julie offered unique insights as a woman in a largely male-dominated industry. She shared how Guild Education has worked to support working women through a variety of initiatives and changes following the pandemic. As a mother of three, Julie is incredibly passionate about childcare support for working women.

Guild Education recently opened an adjacent childcare facility for their employees called “The Beehive.” They recognized the difficulties surrounding childcare access and costs as a significant barrier to women returning to work after starting a family. Ass such, the company wanted to do its part to provide a solution. They also have sought to normalize being a woman and a mother in the workplace by improving their benefits package to cover relevant needs such as expanded leave benefits, backup childcare, and mental health coverage.

Naomi Amaha, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at The Denver Foundation

Naomi shared the policy and governmental perspective on women in the workplace, sharing details about new bills that would provide support for women. She talked about the Pay Equity Act, which requires companies to share salary ranges when listing jobs. This helps women not to get trapped in underselling themselves, as they can see a clear salary range before applying to the position. Naomi also shared that a universal childcare policy is currently being presented to congress, but in the meantime, we can look at childcare access on a state and local level.

Angel Johnson, Founder and CEO of ICONI Leggings

Angel, a small business owner, shared how seeing powerful women in the room at networking events made her decide to stay in Colorado to start her business after leaving the Air Force.

When asked about which resources she recommends for female small business owners, Angel encouraged women to utilize and research large organizations such as Colorado’s Small Business Development Center or Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator program. She also suggested applying for every grant. Even if you don’t secure the funds, you may still gain exposure through being listed on the grant’s website.

Leah Vescovi, Manager of Community Relations and Global Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) at VF Corporation

Leah told us all about what initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion have been effective at VF Corporation, as well as how these initiatives have been authentically embedded in the culture of their company. Leah explained that having senior-level support has made a big difference through top-down change, and the company is very transparent about its goals to ensure accountability. Additionally, although many companies were forced to implement work from home flexibility due to the pandemic, VF Corporation has committed to maintaining this flexibility for the long haul.

If you would like to listen to the entire conversation with our panel in more detail, including the Q&A session, check out the replay of the event.

Q&A and Further Resources

We had our chat open throughout the event to receive and review questions, ideas, and resources from the audience. The questions provided additional insight and discussion with our panel. We also received several other resource suggestions from the audience.

This livestream event may have been the culmination of our roundtable conversation series and months of research, but we don’t plan to stop there. For further education and support for enacting the changes discussed in this event, we have compiled a list of resources mentioned in the livestream by speakers and attendees.

The Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce is also launching its Powerful Voices Conversation series to share inspirational stories of success. Check out their event calendar for more information. 

Lastly, if you’re local to the Denver area, you can also sign up for more information on the opening of our co-working space, coming this year!