I’m sure everyone has their own perspective on what would constitute their ideal workplace, but for me, I have learned that I need to be wholly aligned with the vision and mission of the organization I work for; that I need to feel that the organization is contributing to “the greater good;” that I am happiest when I get along well with my colleagues and feel respected for my professional contribution; when I work in an environment that promotes a healthy work/life balance; and that I desire a workplace that values and supports professional development.
When I came to work at Washington Area Women’s Foundation three months ago, I had a pretty good feeling that those attributes wouldn’t be hard to find here. From my first interview it was easy to see that this is an office brimming with excitement; it doesn’t take long to realize that the people who work here do so because they’re seriously passionate about economically empowering the women and girls of our region. What I couldn’t have expected was how my list of ideal workplace attributes would be made to feel puny compared to the awesomeness of working at The Women’s Foundation. That may sound hyperbolic, but let me explain.
I have always been passionate about working with women, and coming from a business background, I see economic security as a huge component of a woman’s overall ability to thrive. The Women’s Foundation celebrated its 15th anniversary this year at our annual Leadership Luncheon, and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it. Hearing about the incredible work of the foundation, listening to our speaker Sharon’s remarks on how the Foundation had impacted her and witnessing the incredible outpouring of support from our community – helping us blow past our $700,000 fundraising goal – reiterated to me how The Women’s Foundation is not just contributing to an abstract idea of “the greater good,” but is pushing for tangible and systematic change that will ultimately positively impact us all.
Valuing a workplace where I can get along with my coworkers and feel supported in my professional career, I was excited to see The Women’s Foundation’s commitment to this ideal when I witnessed a coworker express interest in additional responsibilities outside of her current job. The Foundation fostered that interest, committed to training her and ultimately celebrated her accomplishments by promoting her to a role that encompassed those new skills.
Seeing the progression of my coworker was so heartening, but I never could have imagined that the women I work with would not only guide and mentor me professionally, but they would also become champions of my personal successes. In my first three months with the Foundation, my (then) fiancé and I finalized the purchase of our first home and got married at the wedding of our dreams (yeah, it’s been a good year). I felt lucky that The Women’s Foundation was flexible in allowing me time off for all the little things that go into the home-buying process, along with pre-approving leave for my wedding and honeymoon. But I was blown away when I came back from closing on our condo to an office-wide celebration. All of my co-workers, who had known me less than a month at this point, said they wanted to celebrate this life milestone with me and promote our asset-building act of purchasing a home. I couldn’t believe it! That set the precedent, but somehow I was still unprepared for their incredible generosity this past week when I got married. My wonderful coworkers threw me a surprise wedding celebration, sneakily invited my husband, and showered us both with their love and well-wishes for our new life together. I am still reeling! I have never worked in an environment that so celebrated and promoted their employees in every aspect, and I feel incredibly blessed.
It might seem strange to wax so poetically about one’s place of employment – especially on said place of employment’s blog – but the reason I wanted to share this today is because this is the type of job The Women’s Foundation believes every woman should hold, and every single day we work to make that a reality. The Foundation’s clamor for paid sick leave, flexible schedules, better working conditions and jobs that pay a living wage; the push for pathways to career advancement through professional development; and the commitment of everyone at The Foundation to philanthropy, sharing kindness and celebrating personal successes – this work we do at the Foundation is a natural outpouring because all of this is so engrained in our own organizational culture. I’m lucky to work here, but I hope that because I do, every woman in our region will have the ability to write a blog post exactly like this.