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Creating an Inclusive Culture: Women at Handshake

How Handshake’s culture fosters a supportive environment for the phenomenal women who work here.

This is a truly exceptional moment in time to celebrate Women’s History Month. In the wake of the current #MeToo movement, we have seen a powerful rise in awareness around the systematic changes needed in the workplace. We’re thankful for activists like Tarana Burke who have persisted for many years to make sure the discussion never faded. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of the important and long-needed discussions about how to empower women to reach their potential while feeling safe, recognized and valuable.

At Handshake, our mission is to empower all students to build a meaningful career, no matter their school, major, ethnicity, or gender. As Handshake’s Head of People & Talent, one of the most meaningful parts of my role is empowering women throughout the company and creating a culture where they can build a meaningful career. As we continue to build an inclusive culture for the entire team, I’m excited to highlight some of our initiatives that we’ve launched to support our women at Handshake so that the future — our future — can be more female.

A Network of Community and Support

We launched our Women at Handshake employee community group last year, as part of a wider project to create more internal networks of resources and support. Our conversations are wide-ranging and have been a valuable outlet for us to share ideas, thoughts and feelings on issues such as imposter syndrome, male allies, and bring our whole authentic selves into work.

These opportunities to share, listen and lean on each other have been inspirational and have fostered a strong community among the women at Handshake. Mentorship is one important topic we’ve prioritized. We recently launched an internal peer mentoring network to create even more opportunities for women to receive mentorship from both women and men across the company. Twenty-five percent of our team, both women and men, signed up to participate on the first day!

#Ladies: Amplifying Our Wins

Studies show that women in the workplace may be reluctant to take credit for their ideas and accomplishments; and that women’s ideas and accomplishments may be appropriated to male colleagues when collaborating on projects.

In an effort to proactively reduce misappropriation or lack of recognition, we created a Weekly Wins initiative in our Women at Handshake Slack channel. This recurring call-to-action acts as a reminder and catalyst for us to champion our own wins and amplify others’ successes throughout the organization.

Empowered by Diversity

At Handshake, we were deliberate about establishing our company values early. We wanted to be clear about what we believe in and the culture we want to build. A core value at Handshake is “Empowered by Diversity”; we believe diverse teams create more thoughtful and innovative solutions and that diverse companies are more successful. Sharing and listening to diverse perspectives is an important part of ensuring we are truly empowered by diversity.

Last year, in an effort to hear from a diverse set of perspectives, we invited male allies throughout the company to join our Women at Handshake discussion about the #MeToo conversation. We wanted to be intentional about creating the space to talk about events that affect us outside of the workplace, so that we may continue to foster an authentic and inclusive work environment.

Creating the space for this conversation was a huge step in bringing attention to a pivotal moment in our industry — but it was a conversation that many women at Handshake were reluctant or unsure of how to navigate in the workplace. By creating and encouraging open, respectful dialogue, we wanted to show that a diversity of perspectives empowers us all to be better versions of ourselves and create a strong network of allies throughout the organization.

The Future is Female

This is a tremendous moment for companies and leaders to do more for women in their organizations. It is never too late to start doing better; to be intentional about the culture you’re building and to demand that is inclusive and open. We can all be allies for inclusion and belonging.

Here’s to our future; one that’s more female.

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