What does getting to know your employees have to do with your business’s bottom line? In this special episode of the Talent Magnet Institute hosted by Jessica Baron, Centennial Inc.’s Vice President of Executive Search, we are joined by Meghan Cummings. Meghan is the Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and today she’s talking about the impact we can have — on our businesses and in people’s lives — when we take the time to truly listen.
The Women’s Fund
The goal of the Women’s fund is to lead the community on women’s economic self sufficiency issues by looking at the policies and practices in our community. Do they create a great environment for women to participate in, prosper, and reach their full potential?
Their primary focus is on women who are making between minimum wage and self-sufficient wage. When you look at these women, many things affect them en masse. Meghan shares an analogy: if you go to the lake and see a fish washed up on shore, you might say something happened to that specific fish. But if you go to the lake and see 500 fish washed up on shore, then there’s something much bigger going on. Their job at the Women’s Fund is to look at the “water,” per se, to understand the barriers women are facing, and figure out how to start removing those barriers at a systems level.
How this affects business
The Women’s Fund had a project that trained women to get into businesses with openings, but they found out that these women weren’t lasting. What was going on?
When they asked the HR directors, it turns out they were missing too many days of work in their first 90 days, and policy says you have to be there every day to show you’re committed. But when they probed, they realized what was going on: sick kids. But on the business side, they were also consistently struggling with employee attraction, retention, and engagement.
What happened? The Women’s Fund came up with a series of recommendations and policies to help bridge this gap and make it a win for both families and businesses.
Meghan shares other stories and examples too: how a reasonable clean uniform policy is an entirely different experience for low-wage employees, and how the Cincinnati Zoo’s offer for a monthly bus pass wasn’t taken by employees until they made one simple change to the reimbursement schedule. In both cases, it took next to nothing to retain these employees, except keen insight and a real understanding of their needs.
We have the responsibility to ask and not assume
We cannot pull ideas out of the sky from our middle-class values. It takes listening to the community to co-create something that’s authentic.
It’s also important to listen to the businesses and what their concerns and pain points are. That way, problem solving can help both the women and the businesses, and knock off a lot of pain points with each project.
Women’s Fund Programs and Projects
As a woman gets ready to take the next step in her career, there is an uptick in domestic violence. What started as anecdotal evidence turned into a research project for the Women’s Fund, as they uncovered this hidden barrier that is keeping some women from moving up in the workforce. Read more about it here.
Another project is helping women become appointed to civic boards and commissions because they are largely underrepresented. Only about 30% of the people on these boards are women, and in some areas, that number is closer to 6%. Appointed is a matching website that asks about the areas you care about, your educational experience and professional credentials, and importantly, your lived experience, so you can help make effective decisions for our community. Take five minutes and sign up here, so we can increase the number of women — specifically, women of color — on local civic boards and commissions.
This is a thriving city, and when we can live up to our full potential, we are going to be unstoppable.