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Emma McGuigan

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Empowering Women Through Structured Networks

Posted: 12/07/2013 14:27

Work Relationships

There is a famous quote by Madeline Albright, the first woman to become the US Secretary of State - "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." I am passionate about helping other women to succeed in the workplace as I have been lucky enough to be mentored by and exposed to some excellent female role models over the years.

Of course, organisations need to support all their employees, ensuring the opportunities are there for men and women alike to fulfil their potential. However I firmly believe that successful women also have a responsibility to bring other women along with them on their journey, to demonstrate what's possible and provide support to one another. If we've managed to push the door open ourselves, why not hold it open for others?

The trouble is no matter how good the intention, it is not always easy to help others in their careers, nor can it be easy to know where to go for support. Day to day priorities can easily take precedence over dealing with those thornier issues of seeking advice for a promotion or organising an event to support younger talent. If our organisations can make this easier for people, removing the excuses for not holding the door open, not asking for advice then we can really start to create change, and that is where I believe structured networks play a critical role. They enable people to make connections, access or create resources and seek or provide support; they encourage women to learn from - and become - role models and have open and honest discussions about the most pressing issues they face.

At Accenture we have an Accent on Women network which focuses on the recruitment, retention and progression of women. I've been lucky enough to lead the network for the Technology practice for the past four years, during which time we have developed initiatives to support women throughout their careers. From intimate networking events with senior leadership to grandstand events with external speakers, we provide opportunities for women to engage, share insights and offer support. Training and coaching are major priorities, from our Skills Academy to mentoring opportunities designed to support women's path to promotion. Internal newsletters, blogs and social networking provide a forum for women to talk about technology, not just women in technology. Externally we partner with clients, non-profits and women's networks to share ideas, provide support and connect business professionals.

Two years ago I established a career management programme, a network for the twenty highest female performers in the technology practice as I believe it is important to create a framework that enables women to visualise the path to promotion, understand the steps they need to take to achieve it and have access to the right support to enable it to happen. I was delighted when members of the group established the same structure for women at the level below them.

Our Accent on Women network has been very successful in empowering Accenture women to achieve their full potential and to help other women achieve theirs. I would encourage everyone to get involved and leverage networks internally and externally to build communities who can support, develop and nurture each other as together we can drive change.

 
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