Reaching New Heights: Empowering Women in Public Affairs
March 31, 2017
Teresa Stepic, Senior Vice President, Client Relations
March is a special month for women across the country. And as we near the end of National Women’s History Month, it’s a time to reflect on the trailblazing accomplishments of so many women before us, a time to celebrate the progress women have made over the last 100 years in achieving leadership positions in politics and business, a time to recognize the work of our colleagues across in the industry, but also a time to pause and reflect on the work that is yet to be done.
For me personally, Women’s History Month is especially symbolic, allowing me to reflect on my time at DDC, working with our leadership to found DDC’s Women’s Leadership Forum, a forum that inspires positive discussion around professional development and empowerment of women in the workplace.
When I started at DDC seven years ago, I was surrounded by passionate colleagues developing complex campaign strategies and executing custom technology solutions that worked together to solve problems for our clients daily. I was impressed by what our teams accomplished working together. But what I found myself wanting was an organized program that fostered professional development amongst my female colleagues, particularly those desiring leadership positions or mentoring opportunities. As I grew in my career at DDC, the idea of a program that offered these opportunities to women in the office never went away, and I set out to work with others to bring the forum to life.
Throughout the past century, we have seen significant strides towards the empowerment of women’s participation and experience within the workplace; yet, in our current political climate, there are still challenges women face. Those challenges both in our industry and in any workplace can be significant. Although women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, just 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats are held by women, and women only make up 14.6% of executive officer positions at their respective companies. It also doesn’t take an extensive Google search to find the variety of issues that women face throughout their professional careers.
Surrounded by talented and motivated female colleagues, I knew I wasn’t alone in my desire for a program that would help navigate those topics that directly affect female staff. By launching the Women’s Leadership Forum, our goal has consistently been to promote discussion, offer mentorship, and present professional development opportunities that will:
- Help women and men better understand each other’s work styles and collaborate more effectively;
- Help women in public affairs position themselves to assume leadership roles more successfully;
- Provide women with tools and strategies tailored to how they approach managing teams and working with clients; and,
- Create better representation of women at all levels in public affairs – and more opportunities for women to help evolve our industry.
Over the past two and a half years, we’ve been able to bring in aspirational female speakers within our industry who we can align ourselves with both professionally and personally. These events allow speakers to become role models for our younger colleagues, share stories, comradery, and conversation about how best to: promote workforce diversity, handle challenging conversations, and foster cross team collaboration. We were fortunate enough to have our very own partner, Sara Fagen, act as our introductory speaker – sharing her tips on what challenges she’s faced in her career, how she overcame hurdles and created her path to success, and how she continues to positively impact DDC and the industry today.
Without the help of the Human Resources team and the constant support of our founder, B.R. McConnon, the Women’s Leadership Forum would not be what it is today, and I could not be more proud of what we’ve accomplished together. As the political climate continues to evolve, and as challenges women face in the workplace are brought into the light, I’m presented with the opportunity to continue living out one of my favorite mantra’s of “Lift As You Climb.” Our ability as a company to offer all staff a program that builds relationships and shares experiences of personal growth while also inspiring others in their professional growth has been vital to supporting the outstanding environment that exists at DDC. It’s this commitment to building a legacy through the Women’s Leadership Forum that fills me with an immense sense of pride as we close out National Women’s History Month.