Trials, Tribulations & Triumph for the Women of the Staffing Industry

Whether it was the setting on the front lawn of the Ritz Carlton, overlooking the vast and beautiful Atlantic Ocean, or the energy and passion of the women in attendance, the TechServe Executive Women’s Luncheon was back with a vibe of gratitude, support and laughter.

For the past 15 years, the luncheon has offered this exclusive opportunity for women in the industry to learn, share experiences and forge bonds with other successful women as they build their careers. Sponsored by ClearEdge Marketing and led by CEO & Founder Leslie Vickrey, the session was launched with opening remarks from industry changemakers, who shared moments from their own personal career journeys, followed by moderated table discussions over lunch. Not skipping a beat, the event closed with a round robin presentation of “aha” moments from all the lively conversations.

A few highlights of what our changemakers had to say:

Leslie Vickrey: “Despite the fact that the staffing industry is dominated by women, especially in the early career and middle management ranks, they are underrepresented at the executive and board levels. That is why I am so passionate about bringing women together to support and mentor each other. It is one of the ways we will shift the numbers and establish more diverse and balanced representation in the leadership ranks. It’s a mission we cannot fulfill on our own. Everyone is responsible for diversity, and we need to empower everyone (of every gender) to participate.”

Sunny Ackerman, President – The Americas, SThree: “To quote Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, ‘Diversity is a program and inclusion is a state of mind.’ As leaders, we need to encourage women entering the workforce, and we need to figure out why so many leave. That starts at the top and needs to include men in positions of power. This is far more than a feminist issue; it is a critical part of GDP and our economy.”

“Women coming into the industry need mentorship and sponsorship. Give people chances, even if they come up short on required experience. Partner up your mid-management team with outside mentors to accelerate careers. Look at benefits structure to accommodate people coming in and out of the workforce.”

Anna Frazzetto, Chief Digital Technology Officer for Tential: “Wendy Lewis, former Chief Diversity Officer at McDonalds, said she wanted to work where diversity is not a function but a way of life. That’s where we all want to be, but for right now, pulling more women up the ladder is a job for all of us.”

“Women undersell themselves. Don’t be afraid to go after a stretch assignment. Find out how to put your name forward in your organization. Talk with your manager about moving to the next level. Ask our male allies to help as well. Don’t assume they know what you need. Help them see from your perspective. Never be afraid to admit what you don’t know and ask for help.”

Threase Baker, Founder & President, ABBTECH Professional Resources: “I believe in empowering women. I had multiple male mentors in my life, but few women serving in that role as I was coming up the ranks, so I made a conscious decision to do whatever I could to empower younger women. That was after I learned to empower myself. Go after what you want. That’s what I did with a retiring member of the Professional Services Council. I said I want your board position and that’s how I got it. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get a yes.”

A common theme woven into every story is the need for each of us to take action. Don’t wait for someone else to step up. Do it yourself; be the champion for yourself and for women within your company or sector.

Table discussions covered a range of topics, from preparing for the great resignation, what we can do to support women in the industry, ensuring pay equity at all levels, enlisting male allies, being your own career champion, building confidence, creating succession plans, paving an equitable path for the next generation and more.

Here’s a taste of the aha tidbits:

  • Having it all is tough. The path to fulfillment is different for everyone.
  • The best way to move forward is with confidence.
  • Don’t be afraid to create boundaries and set priorities.
  • “Yes” isn’t always the best answer. Learn how to say “no.”
  • Sometimes saying “no” saves you from drowning; sometimes it gives someone else an opportunity.
  • Just look in the mirror and say to yourself, “You’re going to rock this.”
  • Be overprepared.
  • Confidence is a muscle you need to exercise.
  • Have an accountability partner.
  • Join boards.
  • Succession planning for you: Set yourself up for the seat you want to occupy. Figure out gaps, talk to supervisors about the future, the steps you are taking now and what you need to do beyond the next 90 days.
  • And for your successor: Start planning now, long before you expect to need one.
  • Mentor one another.
  • The only thing constant is change, so learn how to adapt and purposefully pivot.

One final note of thanks to all of the changemakers who guided the roundtable discussions:

As always, it was an inspiring event, featuring personal stories of both challenge and triumph, with clear guidance and actionable advice on breaking through barriers and building personal brands. Perhaps most importantly, it fulfilled its overriding purpose: forward momentum in rising-up the next generation of women in staffing leadership. Achieving that will benefit the leaders, the businesses and teams they lead and the industry overall.

We look forward to gathering together again next year to celebrate our achievements between now and then and talk about what’s next in our mission to rise each other up!

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