Panel 9

Sparking inclusion at 84.51°

Panel 9

In celebration of International Women's Day, 84.51° hosted a panel discussion exploring how associates can spark inclusion in the workforce. The panel featured Annette Brown, talent development manager; Preeya Mody, senior data scientist; Janae Andrews, consumer researcher and Lauren Phoenix, VP, healthcare, with moderator Michael McGowan, SVP, insights and loyalty. These inspiring panelists shared their perspectives and experiences on driving intentional efforts to empower women and create a more inclusive workforce.

My mom raised five girls on her own and I grew up with the view that whatever you need to do, you do it. – Annette Brown

Influential role models

When asked about influential figures, the panelists credited their mothers and other strong women in their lives. Many spoke of the resilience, determination and selflessness exhibited by their parents who overcame incredible obstacles to provide opportunities for their children. These powerful role models instilled values of hard work, authenticity and the courage to break cultural norms. 

Having someone who is actively invested in your professional growth—a sponsor—can really help in the advancement of your career. – Lauren Phoenix

Sparking inclusion through intentional actions

The conversation then shifted to exploring ways of sparking inclusion. Brown discussed research about gender bias in performance reviews and skills-based hiring practices that mitigate unconscious biases and promote diversity. Mody highlighted groups at 84.51°, such as Women in Tech, that foster community and collaboration. Phoenix emphasized the importance of finding a sponsor, rather than just a mentor, in advocating for women's professional growth. 

While mentors can provide valuable guidance based on their own experiences, a sponsor is someone who “takes an active investment in your career growth,” Phoenix explained. To find a sponsor, she recommended defining what you're asking for when seeking a sponsor and shaping the relationship by aligning on your goals, skill sets and how the sponsor can specifically advocate for you.  

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  Adding to Phoenix’s comment, Brown recommended the book, “Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed,” by Harvey J. Coleman, which delves into the difference between sponsorships and mentorships.  

Characteristics of strong leaders

When reflecting on exceptional leaders they've encountered, the panelists celebrated qualities like fearlessness, authenticity and the ability to say no. They acknowledged the barriers and self-doubt women often face but encouraged listeners to embrace discomfort, ask for help and take pride in their accomplishments. 

As women, we’re often expected to just say yes, but there’s so much power in being able to say “no”. –Preeya Mody

Andrews spoke about the tendency for women to use qualifiers such as “if that makes sense” after a statement, which can diminish the impact of their words and undermine their authority. To avoid this habit, consider whether a qualifier is truly necessary and be intentional in speaking with confidence, she said. 

Confidence and resilience start with being aware and intentionally making changes for yourself. – Jenaye Andrews

Looking ahead

As the discussion concluded, the panelists envisioned what advice they might offer their future selves in 2030. Their responses ranged from simple reminders to "keep going" and embrace change, to calls for self-compassion and celebrating achievements. Overall, they expressed a collective hope for continued growth, resilience and the courage to stay true to their values. The panel underscored the immense value of diverse perspectives and the power of intentional efforts to create a more inclusive workplace.  

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