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A Chat With Some of Acronym’s Women Leaders For Women’s History Month

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Acronym was formed in 1995, and women have held leadership positions here from the start.  Flash forward 27 years, and you see an agency that has a workforce in North America that is 52% women (48% on a global basis). In addition, the majority of Acronym’s Senior Leadership Team (63%) is made up of women. Building on this legacy of empowered women, and in honor of Women’s History Month, we decided to ask some of these women to share some of their own experiences building successful careers and what advice they have to offer others.

Have you worked with a female business mentor?  If so, what were some of the lessons she taught you?

Kristen Gonzalez, EVP, Agency Operations, stated that she has “had informal business mentors who gently course-corrected me when they were aware of ways in which I was undermining myself. Even those who were not that gentle taught me some great lessons. Sometimes growth is painful, but the reward is in applying those lessons forward and the results eventually speak for themselves. I’m as grateful for the lessons in what not to do as I am for those in what to do.” 

Kristen then spoke of some of the challenges she has faced, saying “It’s hard for me to say that the challenges I’ve faced personally have directly been about gender. I’ve worked with many men who were solid advocates for me and treated me with respect and consideration in each encounter. Women are often expected to be in opposition to each other at work and in personal relationships; it’s a competition mindset that does not need to be there. We can all be better advocates for each other. In fact, the women I work with every day here at Acronym inspire me. Age, experience, and title are not always correlated with being inspiring. You can find great people doing great things at all levels of an organization.” 

Kristen closed with a valuable piece of advice for all women in the workforce, recommending that they “adopt a lifelong learner mindset. When you focus on learning as much as you can, you move your perspective from one of lacking to one of gaining.”

What women inspire you and why?

Jennifer Jones-Mitchell, SVP, Marketing & Communications said, “The first and most enduring inspiration is my mom. She was an entrepreneur when women weren’t allowed to be business owners in the U.S. At a time when women couldn’t even have a credit card without their husband’s or father’s permission, she opened and ran a small chain of home décor stores. She endured unbelievable indignities on merchandising trips and overcame so many obstacles as she built her career as a successful retailer. I once asked her why she didn’t protest in the streets for women’s rights in the 1970s and her answer was, ‘I wasn’t about to ask for permission to start my own business. I just did it.’ It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the confidence and courage she had.”

Jennifer explained why that kind of confidence and courage matters by stating “one lesson I come back to often is that fear is good. Early in my career, I’d been successful in a position for a few years when I had the opportunity to take on a larger role. I told one of my mentors I was a little scared to leave the comfort of my existing position for this new challenge. She said, ‘if it makes you scared to do it, then it’s worth doing because that means you are growing.’ I followed her advice and haven’t looked back since. This advice drives me to embrace change, to try new tactics and explore future trends. No one learns anything new doing the same things they’ve always done. No one forges new paths by being comfortable. Fear is good. Fear drives us to succeed. That fear you feel when taking on a new challenge is how you know it’s worthwhile.”

Jennifer also added this final piece of advice for other professional women. “Don’t water-down your sentences with words like ‘just,’ ‘actually,’ maybe,’ or ‘sort-of.’ Some examples include ‘I just want to add a thought,’ ‘I actually have a question,’ ‘That sort-of makes me uncomfortable’ or ‘Maybe you should leave.’ These modifiers undermine what we are really saying. And remember to promote yourself. So often, women are taught it’s impolite to tout our talent, experience, and success. It’s not. It’s good business. Get your voice out there – create a podcast, write articles about industry trends, speak at events – advocate for yourself. Finally, know your own worth and learn to negotiate for what you deserve.”

What challenges do you think women face because of their gender?

Stephanie Hart, EVP and GM, Digital Analytics said, “The past few years have highlighted that there are still many parts of the world and workplace that allow misogyny and a ‘boys club’ mentality. Every person who speaks out against even a small transgression helps to chip away at discrimination and improve the world for all women. Just because Acronym is such a safe environment, we can’t pretend that things that happen in politics and the media don’t impact the way women are treated daily elsewhere.”

But there is a lot that women can do to overcome and even preemptively address these challenges. Stephanie explains, “I’ve worked with and for many wonderful women throughout my career who have taught me lessons such as listen before you speak, stand your ground with a smile, embrace challenges and change, and maintain your own credit history. One of the biggest myths that needs to be broken is held by women – that they need to be 100% prepared and able to accept a new professional challenge. I see under-qualified men winging it all the time while well-qualified women sit back and doubt themselves. Of course, this is a massive generalization, but I think more women need to have the confidence to fail.”

Finally, Stephanie offers this advice, “Don’t be apologetic because you must balance life and work. Don’t think that this inevitable balancing act makes you less valuable in the workplace.”

When or how do you feel most empowered?

Sara Gould, VP, Human Resources says”I feel most empowered professionally when I can do what I do best and am trusted. When I don’t have to push for a seat at the table, but I am looked for and asked to fill the needed space, not because of my gender identity but because of the skills and knowledge that I provide.”

Nonetheless, there are still some inherent hurdles to overcome when achieving that sense of empowerment. Sara explains, “Being a woman and in Human Resources, I get hit twice with stereotypes. It is assumed I am sensitive and just focus on Harmony vs. Strategy. My response is, ‘yes, I am sensitive, and what of it?’ I am a bit of an empath and being in HR with that ability is a blessing and a curse as it can be exhausting. I struggle with why men and women are looked at differently when they express emotion in the workplace.  For example,  a guy expresses anger at work by yelling it gets brushed under the rug but, if a woman cries, she is shamed. Why is one emotion deemed better or worse than another? Emotion is real and should be acknowledged. I also believe in a Richard Branson quote, ‘the customer doesn’t come first, your employees do, because if you take care of them, they will take care of your customers.’ Science has caught up and now shows that engaged people who feel cared for do more than what is expected at work vs. those who are treated like faceless minions.”

This is when it’s important to build a strong support network. Sara continues, “There was a female leader at my last company who gave me great advice when I was struggling with my own management line. She said you need to have your own Board of Directors – each person serves a different role. Each teaches you something. Some hug you when you need it, some kick you in the butt when you need it, and all push you to be the best version of you, and not to be something else.”

Sara concludes with this advice, “Be you and be all of you. Harness your power for good.  Support worthy people that are around you regardless of who or what they are. There is enough room at the table and light on the professional ladder for all of us. Also, stop saying sorry if you didn’t do anything wrong! But if you did, own it.”

What advice do you have for other professional women?

Farah Sadiq, EVP and GM International says, “Over the years there have been so many leaders who have paved the way to impact and define social equality. In today’s context, I am inspired by the ideology and strength of the younger generation who are spokespeople for today’s challenges – Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Thandiwe Abdullah and many more who have stood up and are fighting for a better and more sustainable future. In a world where we can be anything we want, choose to be kind. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with positivity and a team spirit.”

Joanna Cohen, VP, Integrated Media adds, “Find your voice! All too often competent professionals hesitate to contribute; the fear of making a mistake can be a powerful deterrent to participation. I hope that women, and men, will rely on their education and expertise and share their insights and recommendations. If we are going to have a seat at the leadership table we need to demonstrate, without hesitation or fear, our ability to make valuable contributions to the conversation.”

Gellena Lukats, Director, Paid Social reminds us, “If you’re in a room, make sure you’re heard. If you’re placed in an important meeting, there’s a reason, and if you’re trusted to be in a role, own it and make sure people know your worth, especially if you’re the only woman in the room. There are a lot of stereotypes of what women should be – be professional, kind, and challenge yourself to lead by example. Don’t change your management style, personality, or approach because of what you think you need to be, but challenge yourself to be the best professional version of yourself possible.”

Mary Sutter, Director, Social Media adds, “I think we are very fortunate at Acronym in that women aren’t underestimated off the cuff. In a lot of industries, women are underestimated. I’ve experienced it in the past and hope I don’t experience it again in the future, but know that it could happen. As such, I always work my butt off because I know as a woman, I have to prove myself. My advice to other women is ’stand up for yourself. But at the same time, don’t sweat things that maybe don’t matter so much.’

Let us know if you have any experiences or advice to share! We’d love to hear from you. And, in the meantime, let’s celebrate all the contributions women make to our world, from groundbreaking inventions to global diplomacy, business leadership and more. Happy Women’s History Month!

Why Black History Month Matters

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Black History Month is a very important time to celebrate and educate the world on the achievements of African Americans and their significant contributions to US history. Did you know that an African American invented the three light traffic signals? Probably not. Unfortunately, these are the things that are not taught in school. The Three-Light Traffic Signal was invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923.

Garett Morgan, a Black inventor and son of an enslaved parent; produced several significant inventions, including an improved sewing machine and the gas mask. As a motorist, he witnessed a severe car accident in Cleveland, Ohio. Being a quick thinker, he expanded on the current traffic light by adding a “yield” component, warning oncoming drivers of an impending stop, which probably saved the lives of millions of drivers who use the roads every day throughout the United States.

When it comes to inventions, most modern-day people heard about famous inventions like the iPhone by Steve Jobs, the light bulb by Thomas Edison to name a few. There are a lot of ingenious inventions that were invented by Black Americans that most of us use in our everyday lives and that have made our lives easier, but the inventors are often forgotten or not given the proper exposure that they deserve.   

Millions of people depend on getting fresh produce, dairy, meat, seafood, to feed their families etc.  This would not be possible without transporting these products in refrigerated trucks, since these items must be maintained at a certain temperature. With millions of refrigerated trucks bringing food, flowers, prescriptions and other essential items through the United States, this was an extremely important invention. The refrigerated truck was invented by Frederick McKinley Jones an African American in 1940 and is very an extremely important innovation that serves the world this very day. Without the use of refrigerated trucks, we would not be able to use the COVID vaccine which has saved the lives of millions of people across the globe. COVID vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer must be stored at a certain temperature or else it goes bad and must be thrown away.

Another famous invention by an African American woman was Dr. Patricia Bath who was an ophthalmologist and laser scientist. Bath was not only the first female African American doctor to patent a medical device, but also the first person to invent laserphaco cataract surgery that advanced treatment for cataracts. Dr. Bath was the first woman ophthalmologist to be appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Living in today’s world, we all know how important security can be to make sure we are all safe and sound. We owe that to Marie Van Brittan Brown, who Co-Invented Home Security System in 1966. Marie was an African American nurse, who produced an early security unit for her own home. She was living in a neighborhood in Queens that had high crime rates and felt unsafe, and being a highly creative and ingenious person, created a device that would help put her mind at ease and feel more secure: a system that used a camera that could slide into and look through four peepholes in her front door and she monitored it from her monitor and boom the home security system was born.

Over time, Marie added other features to the system, including a microphone to speak to people who come to the door, a button to unlock the door, and a button to contact the police. Marie and her husband took out a patent for the system in the same year, and they were awarded the patent three years later in 1969.

Wrapping Up

Black history month is important because it allows the African American community to raise awareness and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change, educate the world on the accomplishments of African Americans who have  played an integral role in building America and have been foundational to the growth of America, our economy and creating inventions that people use everyday and made our lives easier.   

POV By Winston Burton, SVP, SEO

How To Choose the Right Diversity Supplier

By Diversity and Inclusion, Uncategorized No Comments

Shifting Demographic Realities and New Customer Needs Drive Greater Demand for Supplier Diversity.

Most companies want to diversify their vendors and suppliers, but they don’t know where to begin. Acronym’s Chief Diversity and People Officer, Irwin Drucker, has decades of experience developing and executing Supplier Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility programs.

The descriptions that define a Diversity Supplier are changing as other categories of people who are economically disadvantaged are now being included.

And, as more data has been collected over the years, the benefits of supplier diversity – including increased revenue, increased level of innovation and broader though at the leadership level.

With all this in mind, Acronym has created a Guide to Diverse Supplier Selection.

From resources/directories and Certification explanations to checklists and questions to ask, this free guidebook has everything you need to define, develop, and execute your supplier diversity program.

Key learnings:

√ What is supplier diversity and why does it matter?

√ How do you find and qualify diverse suppliers and vendors?

√ How do you select the right diverse supplier for your business?

√ What is the business value and impact of Supplier Diversity Programs?

Download the Guidebook today and let us know if we can help you as you build out your own supplier diversity program.

juneteenth flag

Juneteenth: The Importance and Value of Action On This Day

By Acronym News, Diversity and Inclusion, Inside Acronym No Comments

It has been just over a year since the murder of George Floyd by a uniformed police officer on May 25, 2020. Since that date, it would be hard to imagine anyone in a leadership position in Corporate America to have not had a conversation regarding the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  These conversations, in my opinion, have fallen into a couple of broad categories, based upon the legacy of DEI programs and policies at the company where the subject is being discussed.

For some companies, where DEI has been ingrained in the corporate culture for many years, the conversation likely centered around a discussion of the merits of these programs, and how they might be enhanced to maximize their results for the good of the company’s stakeholders – employees, managers, and executives, their families, clients, suppliers, and, of course, shareholders. While not easy conversations, those corporate leaders certainly had the benefit of years of “doing the right thing”, of backing up their words with concrete evidence of actions that had been taken long ago, to create a culture of inclusion throughout the workplace.

Other companies, however, were not so fortunate.  For many, taking the “me too” approach seemed the only way to go. Often, it was a case of “too little, too late.”

Yesterday, President Biden signed into law: S: 475, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which designates Juneteenth as a legal public holiday.  And, today, many businesses, schools, and communities across the country will honor Juneteenth as a recognized holiday. We’re proud that Acronym is among them as our offices are closed so our employees may reflect on the meaning of the day.

The holiday, which is finally seeing the recognition it deserves, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger read federal orders stating that all enslaved people in Texas were free.

Until that day, despite the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham officially freeing all slaves in the states that were in open rebellion in September of 1862, many slave owners migrated west toward Texas to escape the control of the Union army. In fact, following the Union capture of New Orleans in 1862, it is estimated that over 150,000 slaves were relocated to Texas. As one of the most remote slave states, the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation was especially slow in Texas. Consequently, General Granger’s issue of the federal orders reflects one of the final stages of official emancipation of slaves in the Confederacy.

A year later in 1866, the first celebrations of Juneteenth occurred amongst several church congregations in Texas. Throughout much of the early 20th century, the celebrations spread across the South, and the holiday grew in popularity during the Civil Rights era and has seen worldwide acceptance in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the emergence of the Black Lives Mater movement.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have long been keys to successful implementation of many corporations’ strategic growth plans. They have been consistently proven to be important in both attracting and retaining top talent, as well as increasing a company’s client base. And, seeing corporate America recognize Juneteenth reflects the significant progress that’s been made over the years.

Simply put, embracing DEI is the right thing to do. I have spent close to forty years in corporate America, working for both small companies and large enterprises, all of which saw the value of DEI, and all of which encouraged me in my advocacy of those programs, often as an integral part of my job responsibilities. Last year, I was given the opportunity to present a training session on racism that focused on White Privilege and Unconscious Bias. Attendance at the session was voluntary, and yet over 90% of the workforce, which is predominantly white, showed up. And the effect was profound.

For the better part of a week after the session, I received calls and emails from attendees, attesting to the positive impact the session had on them and their families, as they began to finally understand issues that many of their co-workers had been dealing with their entire lives.  One of them made a comment that, I think, will stay with me forever. In his email he said, “When you asked the question ‘Have you ever had to talk to your son about how to survive a routine traffic stop and make it home alive?’, I realized how very privileged I have been as a white man. To be honest, up until that moment, my only thought would have been what that speeding ticket my kid got was going to do to my auto insurance rates.  The thought that his getting pulled over for speeding, or some such thing, could lead to his death at the hands of law enforcement would never have crossed my mind.

As a parent, I cannot imagine knowing that could happen to my child, let alone that it would be tolerated by much of our society.  Not any longer!”  Reading this, I realized there were tears streaming down my face, and I sat back and smiled, knowing that there had been a breakthrough in awareness for at least one person, and hopefully quite a few more.  And that, to me, is the most significant value to DEI.

So, with that in mind, I am once again proud to work for a company like Acronym that doesn’t just talk about diversity, equality and inclusion as the latest buzzwords. Here at Acronym, we walk the talk. You see it in the make up of our employees and senior leadership; you see it in the programs and internal initiatives we embrace, and you can see it in the moments in time we honor.

When thinking about the long-awaited national observance of this day, I can’t help but to think of the quote from Coretta Scott King who said, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”

This quote rings as true today as the day she first spoke it. There is still much work to be done in this country and around the world to ensure every human being is truly free.

But, it’s heartening to see that this year, for the first time, our country is officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federally recognized holiday.

POV By Irwin Drucker, Chief People and Diversity Officer, Acronym