Chief of Staff and Senior Director Michelle Bennett is focused on connecting and advancing women in technology, information security, risk and related fields. In this article, Michelle shares the importance of sisterhood in building the next generation of women leaders.
Five years ago, Michelle recognized a gap in the support system for existing and rising women leaders in her sector. "We have women working in tech and various programs across Freddie Mac. We've begun to form certain synergies—but without an umbrella to really unite us." So, she spearheaded a partnership with the Executive Women's Forum (EWF) to not only bring these women together but to provide learning and networking opportunities with thought leaders from around the world.
Forming trusted relationshipsWhen Michelle started her career at Freddie Mac 28 years ago, the landscape for women in tech and risk looked very different. "It used to be less common to see women leaders in security and privacy fields," she says. "It's essential that we take our seat at the table now and bring other women along with us. Women uplifting other women—there is a real need for that in this space." For Michelle, the relationships she developed over the years with her women colleagues can be described as nothing less than a sisterhood. "Women who saw potential in me that I hadn't known was there were building my confidence, pushing me to the next level in my career." Through her own experience, she could see that there was a growing need to provide mentorship for women, specifically in technology fields.
Developing future leadersEach year since 2015, Michelle has taken the lead of managing a cohort of 20 women to participate in EWF and bringing messages of empowerment back to the Freddie Mac. The partnership with EWF, sponsored by the Office of Inclusive Engagement, provides unique opportunities for members to network and develop leadership skills with specific risk and compliance focus in the information and technology risk space. "Listening to women across the globe describe the challenges they have overcome to be where they are is incredibly powerful and being able to share the softer side of these experiences with one another is invaluable," said Michelle. "These are senior women I know I can call on; I feel honored to be a part of this." Through the benefits of the EWF partnership, members have had the opportunity to participate in several career-building events and programs, including the EWF National Conference, networking dinners, regional meetings with keynote speakers and panelists, peer mentoring, webinar series and more.
Building a networkPromoting the development of women leaders is a priority within Freddie Mac and the primary mission of the Women's Interactive Network (WIN) BRG. In October, the EWF cohort and WIN partnered together to share resources, grow the community of women leaders and strengthen their overall impact within the company. "Other women brought me out of my comfort zone," recalls Michelle. "I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for them."
Transgender Awareness Week takes place every year from November 13-19 and culminates in the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th.
MongoDB is offering support through top-tier benefits<p>"MongoDB is committed to creating a safe space for all employees and offers support, benefits, and communities to empower belonging and inclusion.</p><p>To support our transgender employees, we're part of 1% of Cigna's client companies that offer expanded WPATH Standards of Care services. These benefits include: health plan coverage for medically necessary treatments, such as hormone therapy and gender affirming surgery; services to help employees navigate health care plans; resources to educate family and friends on LGBTQ+ topics; and support to help employees during their transition journey.</p><p>Internally, MongoDB has LGBTQ+ affinity groups including Queeries, Queer Collective, and Underrepresented Genders in Tech. These communities encourage an open exchange of thoughts, organize impactful events, and provide education to allies. MongoDB's internal Decoding Inclusion events amplify intersectional voices, including within the LGBTQ+ community. These sessions are open to all employees and share foundational knowledge to further our understanding of differences."</p><p><em>Learn more about MongoDB</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Zynga is building allyship and community<p>"Zynga is united in our support for our LGBTQ+ community globally, specifically our Trans employees through several initiatives, including zPride. zPride is a global employee resource group that provides community, tools and insights that build and educate while fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging for our LGBTQ+ employees and allies. zPride's efforts include events, panel discussions, education, and more that bring our LGBTQ+ employees together and build allyship.</p><p>Zynga also provides healthcare coverage for services and supplies for transgender reassignment surgery for employees as well as dependent children who identify as gender-nonconforming."</p><p><em>Learn more about Zynga </em><em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/zynga" target="_blank">here</a></em><em>.</em></p>
Equinix Metal is fostering belonging<p>"Equinix CEO Charles Meyers states it best when he commits to making Equinix a place 'where every employee can confidently say, "I'm safe", "I belong" and "I matter."' Equinix demonstrates that commitment in a variety of initiatives to support Trans employees and the broader Trans community, including offering expanded employee health benefit services to include coverage for Transgender benefits following the standards of care as recommended by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.</p><p>We also support PrideConnect, Equinix's LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, which has included a deliberate focus on programming to educate and support transgender health and well-being, culture of understanding and belonging, and advocating internally to meet the needs of the transgender community across a variety of metrics.</p><p>Our HR team has pathway programs with organizations to connect diverse candidates with career opportunities at Equinix.</p><p>Additionally, we acknowledge sensitivity to the importance of gender identity by way of introducing pronoun identification on our internal directory systems. Equinix is also working with the Human Rights Campaign to be included in the upcoming Corporate Equality Index."</p><p><em>Learn more about Equinix </em><em>Metal </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/equinix-metal" target="_blank"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Lockheed Martin is enabling the transitioning process<p>"Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) supports Trans employees by providing guidance to our human resource business partners (HRBP) for the transitioning process, including a written plan which provides specific steps and actions to ensure a smooth transition that addresses areas such as badge updates, potential security clearance changes, employee profile updates and developing individualized communication and transition plans for future coworker-management interactions.</p><p>Further, MFC global diversity and inclusion has provided training to management and HRBP which covers Trans awareness, gender identity and expression, policy statements, terminology, communication-building exercises, restroom use guidance, roles and responsibilities as well as support resources. Overall, MFC works to facilitate a culture of respect by supporting Trans employees and raising awareness in the workplace regarding the challenges Trans employees face. Lockheed Martin has a commitment to build a safe and inclusive work environment in where all employees are treated fairly in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct, while maintaining a discrimination-free work environment."</p><p><em>Learn more about Lockheed Martin </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/lockheed-martin" target="_blank"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Dell Technologies is partnering with the trans community<p>"As members of the global community, we are committed to working to increase understanding and to encourage LGBTQ inclusive policies in the localities where we work. In 2020, we celebrated our 16th consecutive year receiving a 100% on the HRC's 2019 Corporate Equality Index, which recognizes the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ equality.</p><p>Our well-established Pride employee resource group has created a Transgender Taskforce to represent transgender team members and team members with transgender family members by providing resources and a voice for the transgender and gender diverse community worldwide. We have also implemented a Transgender Toolkit that provides employees with guidance on everything from how and when to communicate about transition, to restroom accessibility. We are established sponsors of the National Out and Equal conference and have a partnership, including an internship program, with the GenderCool project."</p><p><em>Learn more about Dell Technologies </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/dell-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Deloitte is increasing visibility<p>"We are proud of our commitment to an inclusive work environment where all our professionals can connect, belong, and grow. This commitment includes our continued support for the LGBTQ+ community, both internally and in the communities in which we live and serve.</p><p>Specifically, our employees can be recognized by the gender, if any, they most identify with, and use the corresponding bathroom or the gender-neutral bathrooms we have included in new offices where we occupy a full floor. Deloitte also provides opportunities for people to connect through Inclusion Councils as well as our BRGs, including GLOBE for LGBTQ+ and ally professionals.</p><p>We frequently share stories from our people who identify as transgender internally,</p><p>particularly for International Transgender Day of Visibility and Pride month, and in November 2018, Deloitte signed the Business Statement on Transgender Equality to tackle discrimination against people who identify as transgender or gender non-binary, or who are intersex."</p><p><em>Learn more about Deloitte</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/deloitte1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Waters Corporation is diversifying their hiring pipelines<p>"At Waters Corporation, we know that providing a safe and inclusive environment enhances the workplace, allows employees to thrive in their careers, and contributes to the employee community. We encourage all employees to come to work as their authentic selves and our guidelines and facilities allow them to do that, including comprehensive Gender Transition Guidelines, LGBTQ+ friendly health benefits, gender-neutral restrooms in our two largest sites, and an active LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, as well as a larger Diversity Circle that include ERG's for Gender Equality, Veterans and Multicultural Employees.</p><p>We have also enacted diverse recruitment hiring practices where there needs to be at least two diverse candidates in the interview process prior to making an offer to ensure we're always considering a diverse slate of interviewees."</p><p><em>Learn more about Waters Corporation</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/waters-corporation" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Schneider Electric is empowering their employees to live their truths at work<p>"At Schneider Electric, diversity and inclusion is a fundamental part of our core values. We empower every employee to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. For us, having inclusive benefits and policies are the minimum baseline—they are workplace rights for everyone! Some of the benefits we offer to support our transgender community include fertility care, gender reassignment surgeries, and accessible counseling and psychological care through our Employee Assistance Program.</p><p>Our diversity ambitions are bold and breathe life into our company. Our LGBT+ and Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG) is focused on visibility, education, inclusion, and allyship. We recognize that to be a truly diverse and inclusive company, we must actively promote these values as part of our company culture. Psychological safety and emotional tax are not topics taken lightly here. That's why, with our ERG, we are creating safe spaces within our organization to find allies, speak openly, learn, and support each other.</p><p>Another one of our Core Values is 'Learn Every Day' and we offer several learning opportunities that support LGBT+ inclusion and allyship. Our trainings feature the stories and unique experiences of our own employees, like a recent module, 'Building Empathy on Transgender Inclusion.'</p><p>Because of these initiatives, our transgender employees are more empowered than ever to live their truths at work. Even now, when supporting each other in person is not an option, the LGBT+ and Allies ERG hosts virtual live events to bring people together, promote visibility, and cultivate inclusivity here at Schneider."</p><p><em>Thanks to Scheider's</em><em> Christina McCormick, National President of their</em> <em>LGBT+ and Allies ERG</em></p><p><em>Learn more about Schneider Electric</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/schneider-electric" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Freddie Mac is investing in learning about the trans experience<p>"Freddie Mac is committed to creating an inclusive environment for our diverse employees. Specific to our support for our transgender employees and the transgender community, Freddie Mac enables the Pride Business Resource Group (BRG) that serves the LGBTQ+ and ally community. The Pride BRG has led trans-inclusive events including transgender awareness learnings, panel discussions highlighting transgender experiences, and keynote speaker events featuring advocates for transgender and gender non-conforming people.</p><p>We also have established guidelines and health care benefits through our medical insurance provider for employees and dependents undergoing gender reassignment or hormone replacement therapy.</p><p>Additionally, Freddie Mac commissioned a <a href="http://www.freddiemac.com/research/consumer-research/20181001_lgbt_homeownership.page" target="_blank">first-of-its-kind study</a> to research the LGBT housing experience. The study found that members of the LGBT community are less likely to own a home, are more mobile, fear discrimination when buying a home, and prioritize living in LGBT-safe neighborhoods."</p><p><em>Learn more about Freddie Mac</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Raytheon Technologies is building understanding<p>"Raytheon Technologies has created Gender Transition Guidelines to help foster dialogue and understanding of transgender issues in the workplace. They include overall recommendations for employees, managers, and Human Resources on how to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for employees undergoing transition at RTX, as well as specific information on topics such as restroom access and privacy rights.</p><p>In addition, we have several LGBTQ+ Community resources available on our internal Stronger Together Resource Center. The company also supports our RAYPRIDE ERG through funding and developmental opportunities such as a recent webcast on using our courage to help create a more inclusive environment for everyone."</p><p><em>Learn more about Raytheon Technologies </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Bristol Myers Squibb is working to combat LGBTQ+ health disparities<p>"At Bristol Myers Squibb, we recognize and celebrate the diverse experiences and views of our workforce, and encourage every employee to bring their full authentic self to work so they can fully engage in our mission of helping patients prevail over serious diseases.</p><p>Our PRIDE Alliance People and Business Resource Group is a vital part of that effort by helping to ensure a diverse and inclusive culture that empowers LGBTQ+ inclusion, awareness, and engagement.</p><p>BMS supports the TGNC community both internally and externally in many ways, including by implementing Trans Inclusive Guidelines to help colleagues and teams navigate the transition process; including gender-affirming healthcare in our benefits offerings; actively recruiting trans and other LGBTQ individuals into our workforce; purchasing from LGBTQ-owned businesses; actively supporting the trans social justice movement including sponsorship of local and national organizations; and working with allied health organizations to combat health disparities experienced by the LGBTQ+ community.<br><br></p><p><em>Learn more about Bristol Myers Squibb </em><em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/bristol-myers-squibb" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p>
T. Rowe Price is advocating for allyship and awareness<p>"T. Rowe Price is cognizant of the challenges transgender people face globally, including transphobia, regressive legislation, restricted access to medical support, and violence. To heighten awareness and to support trans people at the firm and in the broader community, we: share educational resources and stories, and support nonprofits that combat discrimination and provide resources to the transgender community. </p><p>Throughout Transgender Awareness Week, our LGBTQ+ business resource group (BRG), PRIDE @ T. Rowe Price, will publish a series of blogs, videos, stories, and calls to action to our internal social network site, which hosts over 4,000 users. The BRG highlights global community outreach initiatives associates can support, on behalf of trans employees, educates on current legislation affecting the trans community, and encourages associates to become an active ally and help end transphobia."</p><p><em>Learn more about T. Rowe Price </em><em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/t-rowe-price-group-inc" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p>
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health has always been important, but has been an especially important topic to focus on during these last four weeks, when people of color have continued to suffer disproportionately from COVID-19 while also fighting for racial justice all across the country.
Freddie Mac partners with the experts<p>"Supporting mental well-being is more important than ever. The global pandemic and recent civil unrest have shaped an environment that is especially ripe for generating emotional stress and triggers that may exacerbate or induce mental health conditions," explains Freddie Mac manager Sarah Crump. "We are committed to a stigma-free, inclusive culture and endeavor to support employees the best we can. We developed internal campaigns to share resources—including ones tailored for the Black community and allies—from our partner the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We also have increased communications around our Employee Assistance Program and raised the visibility of our workplace counselor."</p><p><em>Learn more about Freddie Mac</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
MINDBODY centers wellness in everything they do<p>"Mindbody recognizes the systemic inequalities surrounding an individual's wellbeing specific to mental health, especially people of a minority demographic," says manager Morgen Monie. "We are committed to providing our employees and customers an environment where you can be your authentic self as a part of our team, or when working with our team." She highlights specific initiatives available to employees:</p><ul><li>Employee Assistance Program: paid-for visits for team members to meet with a medical professional, councilor, or advisor in topics pertaining to all dimensions of wellness.</li><li>Wellbeing Day & Volunteer Day: days given to employees to take care of themselves, their families, and give back to an organization of their choice</li><li>Free telehealth access, ensuring consistent access regardless of geography</li><li>Free virtual wellness classes taught by Mindbody team members, including yoga and meditation</li></ul><p><em>Learn more about MINDBODY</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mindbody" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Relativity makes it easier to ask for help<p>"People often feel shame in admitting mental health struggles, so it's vital to normalize having open conversations about it at home and in the workplace," says Senior Wellness & HR Program Manager Cherry Mangat. "Minorities face additional barriers such as fewer resources, less dialogue and more stigma, so they're less likely to seek help. Especially today, these factors are magnified. Relativity aims to foster an environment where everyone feels welcome, safe and free to be themselves. We've focused on key areas such as launching an employee resource group focused on mental health, adding the Headspace mindfulness app, offering company-wide training, and creating a role dedicated to employee wellness."</p><p><em>Learn more about Relativity</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/relativity" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Procore creates a culture of inclusion<p>"As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I feel fortunate to work for a company like Procore that puts their employees first and encourages us to do the same for our families," says Cynthia Griffin, Senior Recruiter at Procore. "Procore's African Descent Council (PAC) has been a pivotal part of my growth at Procore and has given me a sense of belonging and community that I continue to lean on today. Through our partnerships with Joyable and ComPsych Guidance Resources, we also have access to counselors, coaching, and other interactive resources that provide us with personalized support."</p><p><em>Learn more about Procore</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/procore-technologies-inc" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Smartsheet shifts priorities to center mental health<p>"With work and life becoming increasingly intertwined amidst a global pandemic and the fight for racial justice, employers have a responsibility to both support and actively encourage good mental health practices among their employees," says Katie Bouwkamp, Smartsheet's Director of Global Culture Communications. "Smartsheet has made this a priority, adding several employer-sponsored benefits this year, [including] BetterHelp online counseling, a paid mental health day, and a 10-session wellbeing series. We've also made space for employees to share their own experiences and resources, including an employee-led workshop on mental health during uncertain times. This combination of employer- and employee-owned initiatives has allowed for more authenticity as we continue promoting good mental health."</p><p><em>Learn more about Smartsheet</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/smartsheet" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
PwC uses tech to support self-care<p>"At PwC, people are given the 'green light' to talk with a trusted colleague or expert help," says a PwC spokesperson. "The firm offers a comprehensive set of benefits around mental health and well-being through their<a href="https://pwc.cm/tp/rj6_tOKmq.J-K" target="_blank"> <em data-redactor-tag="em">Be Well, Work Well</em></a> initiatives, including providing free 24/7 access to a coach or therapist through a mental health app and<a href="https://pwc.cm/tp/rj6-Vi3at.J.K" target="_blank"> new benefits</a> including executive coaches that provide 1:1 and group well-being sessions, access to meditation apps and the creation of an internal social networking community. The firm has also introduced racial trauma counseling in conjunction with the<a href="https://pwc.cm/tp/rj6_81mOw-J.K" target="_blank"> six actions</a> they are taking with respect to racial justice."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em">Learn more about PwC</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/pwc" target="_blank"> <em data-redactor-tag="em">here</em></a><em data-redactor-tag="em">.</em></p>
MongoDB destigmatizes mental health<p>"We want to break the stigma around mental health and provide employees with valuable tools and the support they need, at work and beyond, to face life's challenges," says Danielle James, D&I Manager at MongoDB. "We offer mental health programs where employees can receive confidential assistance from qualified professionals, including Employee Assistance programs, and free access to Headspace and therapy sessions. We host company and department-specific days off to support mental health, and regularly organize internal events to destigmatize mental health, including an employee panel sponsored by the CEO and educational sessions with health partners.<a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/employee-benefits-that-make-a-difference-at-mongodb" target="_blank"> Learn more about our benefits</a> and read<a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/breaking-stigma-around-mental-health-meet-yulia-genkina" target="_blank"> one employee's mental health journey</a>."</p><p><em>Learn more about MongoDB</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Autodesk recognizes the importance of mental health<p>"Mental health is as important to our wellbeing as physical health," says Industry Marketing Manager Leona Frank. "Supporting the mental health of minority employees through robust programs and accessibility to resources recognizes the impact of racial trauma on the community. It is not easy to experience tragic and repeated examples of racial violence and injustice in our world, and then come to work and be fully present as if nothing has happened to our hearts and communities." She says that taking care of employees' mental health is "good business," noting, "Mentally healthy employees make better collaborators, can drive innovation, and are more productive. Overall, they have resiliency that allows them to respond effectively to critical business needs. At Autodesk, we are provided with tools and resources like Bravely that helps us connect with a professional coach, Flexible Leave policies, including extended paid time off, parental leave, and caretaker leave, and an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that give employees access to confidential assistance."</p><p><em>Learn more about Autodesk</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/autodesk-inc" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Raytheon Technologies fosters a culture of learning through experts<p>"Our Raytheon Technologies Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a rich resource of information and resources to assist all of our employees," says Raytheon Technologies' Kaley Young. "We have on-site EAP consultants that provide short-term, solution- focused counseling to employees and their family members on a variety of issues, including those issues that impact employees from a minority background such as the effects of racism on mental health, medical care, and housing. Additionally, the on-site consultants [teach] seminars [like] 'Having Difficult Conversations During Times of Social Unrest.'"</p><p><em>Learn more about Raytheon Technologies</em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank"> <em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Freddie Mac is changing the housing market in the US. Want to learn more about how? Then just watch our recent panel discussion and audience Q&A with women leaders and allies from Freddie Mac.
Speakers from Freddie Mac included:
- Brandon Rush – Business Tech.: Investments & Capital Markets
- Sandy Sweeney – Business Resiliency
- Any Oettinger – ETX
- Erika Thompson – Risk
- Melissa Chiari - IT Transformation & Maclean Area