Community is stronger when women succeed

Posted by: Chamber Investor on Sunday, March 1, 2015
Warren Buffett has said that “the closer America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be.” Harnessing 100 percent of our community’s talents makes business sense and strengthens our community. In fact, research shows that teams with men and women equally represented outperform single-gender teams. This year Wyche, P.A. received the Greenville Chamber’s inaugural 2014 ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award. The award recognizes organizations that have developed cultures that encourage women employees to achieve their full leadership potential and give back to the larger community of women and girls. Nearly three decades ago, Wyche recognized that in order to recruit and retain world class talent, it should create a culture where women can succeed. The award recognizes the success of these efforts. The Greenville Chamber ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award committee developed a list of criteria for nominated organizations. These criteria include the following: Demonstrate a passion and conviction toward having women in leadership roles, launch an initiative to advance women as leaders, mentor women as they develop career plans, set goals to increase the number of women in leadership and monitor progress toward those goals, share this information throughout the organization, implement programs to help women balance families and careers, and advocate for women leaders and girls in the community. These criteria, as well as some of the practical measures Wyche has found successful in attracting and retaining women attorneys and creating a culture of inclusion, can help others maximize women’s potential. • Be deliberate. A commitment from top leadership toward advancing women and intentional, sustained efforts over a number of years generates an enormous payoff. Today, Wyche’s vibrant, supportive culture is a key recruiting tool. • Provide active mentoring and support. The Women of Wyche (WoW), a group comprised of the firm’s women attorneys, meets monthly and provides opportunities to support one another, develop relationships with clients to advance practices, and hone skills that help better serve clients and the community. Senior women attorneys meet regularly with women associates to help them with personal and professional goals. Wyche also sponsors a retreat for women attorneys to enhance teamwork and mentorship. • Be flexible. Wyche offers part-time options to men and women and incorporates wellness programs to promote the health of all employees. Wyche has a process for sharing helpful information for families, and the firm has been flexible in meeting the needs of both men and women with child care responsibilities. As one example, the firm has weekly breakfast meetings at which all attorneys are invited to participate, a hallmark of its inclusive and supportive culture. Thirty years ago, those meetings started promptly at 7:45 a.m., a difficult time for those droppingoff children at school. Today, the meetings start after school drop-off, a change valued by lawyers with school-aged children. • Take the long view and give back to the community. The firm’s philosophy is that Wyche is more than just a job or a stepping stone. It is a place where attorneys and staff build a lasting career. While the firm obviously values hard work, it also values family, friendships, a thriving community, and a great quality of life. Wyche believes that well-rounded and fulfilled individuals can better serve clients and the community and it encourages attorneys and staff to pursue outside interests. Each of Wyche’s women attorneys has held key leadership positions in organizations throughout the state, and employees are champions for recommending women Wyche attorneys to serve on boards in our community. • Celebrate success along the way. Today women play major leadership roles in the Wyche firm, and 87 percent percent of its employees are women. Chambers USA, one of the top publications for determining which firms and attorneys are leaders in their fields, recognizes 75 percent of Wyche’s women members with that distinction. Best Lawyers ranks 80 percent of Wyche’s women attorneys as leading lawyers, including two women Wyche attorneys listed as 2015 Greenville “Lawyers of the Year” in their practice areas. The head of Wyche’s corporate practice group was named “South Carolina Women in Business Advocate of the Year” by U.S. Small Business. Talent is scarce, and our community should value it fiercely. By successfully harnessing 100 percent of our community’s talents, regardless of gender, we believe we can build strong businesses, a stronger community and yield well-rounded, fulfilled members within it. Our hope is that the ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award criteria and Wyche’s example will help our community in implementing strategies to utilize the talents of all. Dr. Judith Prince is at the University of South Carolina Upstate – Greenville. She chaired the ATHENA Organizational Leadership Award committee and she can be reached at Jprince@uscupstate.edu. Jo Watson Hackl is a corporate and securities attorney with Wyche, P.A., where she has worked for over 25 years. She is past president of the Greenville County Bar

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