Women-Owned Business: Overcoming Challenges in Leadership
SmartSearch’s DEI champion, Sylvia Dahlby, talks with Lynne Marie Finn, President & CEO of Broadleaf Results, an Aleron Company with a WBENC, about how women are overcoming challenges in leadership.
A fierce advocate for advancing women in business, Lynne has served on the Boards of WBENC, WPEO, and WIPP, and WBENC honored her as a Business Star and Woman of Distinction. She currently serves as Secretary of the Committee of 200 (C200)—an invitation-only international women’s business organization and is Vice-Chair of WBEC-NY.
This conversation is a part of our Smart Inclusion series with our clients, vendor partners, industry advocates, and thought leaders on trends, challenges, and solutions on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the workplace. Watch the conversation here or read more for the synopsis.
As a female business owner, how did you find your seat at the table early in your career? What kinds of challenges did you experience when you first started in the workforce?
Gender equity has advanced over the past few decades. When I started as a lawyer in a large law firm with very few female lawyers, I quickly realized that I had to grab a seat at the table—no one would give it to me. I didn’t dwell on any inequities in the law firm or focus on things that may have felt unfair or uncomfortable; I just focused on work and standing out from my peers—which is probably not the most enlightened way to do it now. When I became my own boss, I developed a better understanding of what gender disparity is and what it must feel like not to be entirely accepted into an organization. Even though there’s still so much disparity in the opportunities between men and women, I can now have much more impact on closing the gap.
What can you tell us about the new “Belonging” addition to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spectrum?
There’s an expanded focus on “DEI&B,” or sometimes you see “DIB”—diversity, inclusion, and belonging. It’s crucial because it recognizes that the journey doesn’t end after hiring someone, especially a diverse candidate. To retain employees and make them successful, companies must ensure that the work environment is inclusive and fosters a sense of belonging.
So, what does that mean? Belonging is defined as the experience of being wholly accepted and included by those around you. It means feeling valued and being your authentic self at work. A lot of people ask, “What’s the difference between belonging, diversity, and inclusion?” Diversity is a fact—it refers to characteristics that make people unique—and inclusion is behaviors and cultural norms that make people feel welcome. But belonging is the emotional outcome people want in their organization; it’s a unique sense of acceptance.
A lot of people ask, “What’s the difference between belonging, diversity, and inclusion?” Diversity is a fact—it refers to characteristics that make people unique—and inclusion is behaviors and cultural norms that make people feel welcome. But belonging is the emotional outcome people want in their organization; it’s a unique sense of acceptance.
There’s been an increase in requests from companies looking for a more diverse talent pool. How have you kept up with this demand? What types of sourcing and recruiting strategies are you implementing to achieve these objectives for employers?
Broadleaf provides Managed Service Programs, where we manage the entire temporary staffing process and all of the staffing suppliers for our client. It’s essential to educate both the client and supplier in best practices in recruiting for diverse candidates or aligning certified diverse suppliers such as MBEs and WBEs. We act as a consultant to help companies reach their diversity goals, and we work with the supplier to ensure they have a wide net to find diverse candidates by figuring out where they are and should be sourcing their candidates. We point them towards social media, organize job fairs in diverse communities, or hold supplier summits with the clients so they can get together and share recruiting challenges, strategies, and best practices. We have found that diverse suppliers often have a good track record of sourcing diverse candidates.
On the client side, we work with hiring managers or talent acquisition departments and look at the job description to ensure it is unbiased. Is it focused on skill sets and not just “do they have previous experience in their specific industry” so that more candidates can be considered?
Are the job postings using unbiased language, and are consistent screening questions asked of all candidates considered for a role? We work with the hiring managers and try to make them aware of unconscious bias—because we all have it.
Is Broadleaf actively working with diverse and minority candidates? How can they succeed in the job market and position themselves as top talent?
We certainly work with diverse candidates and all candidates to guide them on putting their best foot forward, starting from their resume through the interview process. Our focus is also on our clients looking for talent. We make sure they understand the following actions will help them source a larger pool of diverse candidates:
- First, it’s important for organizations to get the word out in the right ways to various communities and social media about the job opening. If job seekers don’t know about it, they can’t apply for it.
- It’s also important to remove barriers in the hiring process by conducting interviews after hours or on the weekends and holding job fairs in diverse communities that are easily accessible by public transportation.
- Technology should be used to reduce friction and speed up the screening and hiring process.
- Communicate the position’s growth potential to candidates.
- It’s essential to make sure they are offering equal advancement opportunities.
Companies should encourage their hiring managers to identify diverse internal staff that could fill an open position. Investing in internal staff with training and development and recognizing their contributions strengthens their sense of belonging, which is a huge factor in employee retention. So, in their communication and outreach, companies should include the internal employee population for advancement opportunities and referrals.
As a company, it’s essential to provide ongoing training and mentoring–especially mentoring in a DEI&B context. Studies have shown that employees are more engaged and more likely to feel they belong if their organization invests in their development. Mentoring is a great way to make employees feel like they belong and a great retention tool. A company may be successful in hiring great candidates who are diverse, but what’s the point if they don’t stay? Mentors and allies are crucial in staff retention and promoting a diverse culture of inclusion and belonging.
Procurement departments have been hyper-focused on tracking diversity data within their workforce. How has Broadleaf been able to measure the results and the effectiveness of what you’re doing?
We work with many government contractors, so we’re very familiar with the responsibility of tracking diversity hiring and spending with diverse suppliers. We use SmartSearch and tracking tools to ensure we’re tracking the candidates we present or the employees we’ve hired. We flow this down to our suppliers to track and use this information for our client’s reporting requirements. Our clients use this data to measure their success in meeting diversity hiring goals, EEO reports, and determining how successful their recruiting efforts are.
Companies can implement post-hire DEI&B efforts to cultivate an inclusive culture, increase employee morale and retention, and track this data to measure success in meeting diversity metrics. We hope you enjoyed the interview, and watch out for the next segment of our Smart Inclusion series.