By Tara O'Sullivan
In an interview with Fortune, Sandra (Sandi) E. Peterson, Executive Vice President for Johnson & Johnson, spoke about her role in “enabling other women to become their full potential.” This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with, and one I try to fulfil on a daily basis – and not just at work but in my larger community. The idea that women helping women can redress gender imbalance in the workplace is part of the reason I agreed to be the executive sponsor for Skillsoft’s Women in Action program.
But to see if such an idea works in reality, I decided to chat with one of my colleagues, Kelley Noblet, who is a participant in our Skillsoft Women in Action Leadership program. To check in with her and confirm, or not, if our efforts were actually helping women visualize themselves as leaders. Whether the experience was empowering or left women feeling uncomfortable or incapable of ever performing such a role.
Tara: So Kelley, why did you get involved in the Women In Action program?
Kelley: I’m passionate about equality in the workforce and for options that make balancing work and home life manageable. I think if more organizations take a stand and encourage women to better prepare themselves for leadership roles, the workplace may look very different by the time my daughter is grown up.
Tara: What were your expectations and have they been met?
Kelley: I didn’t have any expectations, as I’ve never participated in a program like this. Each month there is a short curriculum, with suggested personal exercises and team exercises. The whole thing is completely optional.
Tara: Has it changed how you operate in the workplace?
Kelley: It’s certainly made me aware of my behavior and how my strengths and weaknesses could potentially affect the trajectory of my career.
Tara: What is something you learned that you didn’t know before the joining the program?
Kelley: I’ve learned that small changes and adjustments can go a long way. Making an effort to improve one or two skills can be very manageable and beneficial. Also, without tracking and measurement, it’s hard to make progress.
Tara: What does the program involve – do you have class or projects?
Kelley: Each month there is a topic, for example, “Building Confidence” and eight resources, mostly short videos that align with the topic. There is an individual activity as well as individual and team questions to consider. Each month there is a suggestion for measuring and tracking progress.
Tara: Do you think it is for everyone, or does it only seem relevant for people who want to become managers/leaders?
Kelley: I think the program is great for everyone. It’s about personal development and goals. It’s not just a cookie-cutter program to develop managers. What’s great about it is participants can customize the development to fit their needs. For example, if being a better communicator is your goal, the program helps you set up goals and assignments to make accomplishing that goal a reality.
Tara: Okay just one last question, and feel free to answer honestly: is there anything about the course you would like to see changed, or done differently?
Kelley: My only wish is for more of us to participate as a group so there is accountability and motivation to complete the assignments. This week, I requested that we review the team questions at the end of our weekly team meeting. Many of us stayed and had a good discussion. What would be even better is for us to commit to do the assignment in time for the next week’s meeting.
Tara: Well I completely agree. And I’m glad to hear you taking the lead – pun intended--and getting what you want out of the course. That is after all the whole point, and is something I would do. I hope the rest of the team agrees, and it is something you all do from here on out. Then we all playing our part in promoting each other and by extension, changing the status of women in the workplace.
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Tara O'Sullivan is the Women in Action Executive Sponsor and Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft.