It was the end of 2016, and women across the country were still reeling from the results of the recent presidential election. For a moment in time, it seemed that we might be on the verge of something truly unprecedented: the first female president of the United States. Overnight, that hope disappeared. And, after the election, many women were in low spirits, across the country, and, to my surprise, even here at Cake & Arrow.
It just so happened that around this same time, we had recently finished conducting an internal culture survey. The results came as a bit of shock. The data seemed to suggest that the women of Cake & Arrow might not be as happy as we thought they were. They felt disconnected, underappreciated, uncertain and unhappy.
Given the historical moment, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. At Cake & Arrow, we pride ourselves on being a human-centered business with a strong commitment to our employees and to our company culture. Women were supposed to be happy, and we thought we were creating a great place for them to work. Turns out I wasn't alone. According to a 2017 Mckinsey report on women in the workplace, 63% of men believe that their company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity, while a majority of women disagree. This finding mirrors what we found in our own study. Women weren't satisfied.
My head started spinning with questions. What were we doing wrong? Was it that we didn’t have enough women in the company? Or was it that the ratio of women in senior leadership roles was off balance? Did women feel there weren’t meaningful growth opportunities for them? Or was it something more mundane… like the food or the bathroom? I wanted to find out, and I wanted to fix it.
Enter the Archery Club
So I did what I always do when presented a problem. I did my research. I started having one on one conversations with women in the company, trying to uncover the root of their discontent. Through this process I learned that the problem wasn’t about the food or the bathroom or any one specific thing, but that many of the women I spoke with just wanted to feel like they weren’t alone. They wanted people to talk to about the issues they were facing as women, in the world and at work, and they wanted their voices to be heard. And more than anything, these women wanted to feel like there was something they could do about how they were feeling.
This got my wheels turning. What would it take to foster a community designed for women to do just this? To have dialogue and even commiserate with other women about the unique issues they face as women, and strategize around how to advocate for themselves and one another, in work and in their daily lives? This kind of community would not only create an opportunity for the women at Cake & Arrow to find solidarity with other women, but might also give them a voice, empowering them to co-create the culture at our company. It was a way for Cake & Arrow to truly live out our positioning.
So I pulled together the women at Cake & Arrow and shared my thoughts with them. And I made it personal. I talked about how I owed so much of my own professional success to great female mentors in my life, and I wanted to pay it forward.
I explained that I wanted to create a group devoted to exploring gender equality issues in the workplace and to creating opportunities for growth and empowerment for women. This group, I explained, would be a safe space for women to talk about the kinds of challenges they face in the workplace and elsewhere, and to explore tactics for how, as women we can address these challenges, and create a more inclusive, equal, and diverse workplace for everyone.
People were into it. So we took a page from our own book, and used some design thinking methods to move forward. We conducted a card storming exercise to generate ideas for what we could talk about in our first handful of meetings, and because we wanted it to be collaborative and inclusive, we set about finding volunteers from within the company to tackle the different ideas on the list. The idea was to meet once a month. In each session, a volunteer would facilitate a discussion around a topic. This would give us a chance to bring in some research and outside thinking around the topic, discuss our own personal experiences and even air some grievances, and then get tactical about what we, as women in the workplace could do to tackle the issue, and support one another in actually going about it.
We called our group the Archery Club, a play on our company’s name, Cake & Arrow. When we rebranded and renamed our company back in 2016, the idea was that the Cake in our named represented the element of surprise and delight that we try to bring to our customers, and that the arrow represented our targeted approach to design and customer service. This later concept seemed appropriate for what we wanted to do with the Archery Club. We wanted the club to be about empowering women to make positive changes for themselves and for those around them, and about sharpening the skills it takes to do so. Thus the Archery Club was born.
What the Archery Club accomplished in 2017
All and all, it’s been a pretty amazing year. We’ve held 12 separate Archery Club sessions, each hosted by a different woman at our company as well as one guest guest speaker, two additional company-wide events, to which we invited all employees to participate, and we even launched an awareness campaign around women’s equality in honor of Women’s Equality Day this past August.
Throughout the year we were able to cover a wide array of topics, including
- Finding your voice as a woman in business
- Presenting yourself
- Work life balance
- Managing up
- Negotiation tactics
- Gender bias in film
- Gender and language
- Women that inspire us
- Women in tech
- Advocating for your health as a woman
- The politics of fashion
Each meeting offered support and understanding to the women at Cake & Arrow, while also creating a sense of community, promoted by the transparency and honesty we practiced within the group. As women, we traded strategies and explored complex issues in depth. We became better professionals, better advocates for ourselves and one another, and we became more confident. People who never dreamed of presenting in front of others finally felt comfortable doing so, because of the sense of safety and community the group fostered.. People challenged assumptions and found their passions. Given the political climate of 2017, and what would transpire with the #MeToo movement over the last several months, our timing couldn’t have been better. As it turned out, 2017 was a year we needed each other more than ever.
I was surprised, honored, and more than anything humbled by the success of the group, and to eventually be awarded two Stevie Awards and a Brava Award for the work I had done to mentor and support the women at our company and the community we had created with the Archery Club. Winning these awards has motivated me to do even more for the women who work at Cake & Arrow and in the world at large in the coming year.
What's in store for us in 2018
And in 2018, we want to begin measuring the success of these efforts, and be transparent about where we are at with them. According to McKinsey:
“81% of companies say they share a majority of gender diversity metrics with senior leaders, only 23 percent share them with managers, and a mere 8 percent share them with all employees. Moreover, 43 percent of companies don’t share any metrics at all with employees.”
At Cake & Arrow, we want to continue to increase of the percentage of women who work at our company, which, over the past year, has increased from 42% to 51%. We also want more working mothers at our company. Right now 29% of the women in our company are working mothers, which amounts to 15% of the entire company. In 2018 we want to see this number grow.
And it doesn’t stop there.
- I’d like to do a salary poll and ensure that Cake & Arrow is addressing the wage gap within our company.
- I plan to feature more women on our website and in our content to ensure they are proportionally represented and given a voice within our company.
- I’d like to launch not just one awareness campaign this year, but one per quarter, to ensure that we are doing our part to promote women’s equality not just within our organization, but out there in the world.
- Finally, I want to ensure that we have more women in leadership pipeline positions. McKinsey found that women in entry level roles are 18% less likely to be promoted to manager positions than their male counterparts. I want to change this. We need more women at Cake & Arrow in the pipeline to graduate into director and senior practitioner roles, but also executive leadership positions.
And what’s next for the Archery Club itself? I would like to see more guest speakers and outside voices become a part of the conversation. More company-wide events to foster diversity and women’s equality. More formalized mentoring and coaching. And I want to consider opening our group up to a wider audience through a MeetUp or other public forums.
2017 was a crazy year for women everywhere. It reminded us that we still have a long way to go before true equality exists for women in the workplace and in society, but that progress is not impossible. The #MeToo movement elevated the voices of women in public discourse, demonstrating that when women support one another, don’t accept that status quo and speak out, change can happen. In 2018, we hope to continue to be a part of that change.
To learn more about the Archery Club, explore past topics and presentations, and learn how you can start a chapter of your own in your workplace, at home, or at school, visit our dedicated landing page!