Small, everyday steps can bring big changes

Making Strides 1HR Senior Director, Jill Kissack, serves as co-lead of Whirlpool’s Women’s Network (WWN), which strives to make Whirlpool Corporation one of the best places for women to work. “Whirlpool Corporation’s Women’s Network’s primary role is to help foster an environment that creates a natural desire to stay at Whirlpool through engagement, development and career progression,” said Kissack.

The Women’s Network is one of the oldest Employee Resource Groups (ERG) at Whirlpool, established in 1995 to collectively engage and retain women at Whirlpool. However, Kissack explains that WWN is in the process of expanding its reach into developing and promoting diverse talent, as well as delivering actionable insights regarding issues facing women at Whirlpool.

Both genders must work together to achieve these imperatives, according to Kissack. “In order to make progress in gender diversity, we must bring men into our conversations,” she said. For example, CEO Marc Bitzer serves as Executive Sponsor of WWN. With his commitment, the organization is making strides in the dialogue between men and women with the 2017 implementation of Coffee Connections with Marc in which the CEO sat down with members of the Women’s Network to discuss opportunities, areas, and plans for diversity and inclusion. In 2018, these Coffee Connections are expanding to include other key senior leaders, and the invite list is not just women, but all employees.

More work remains to be done, however. “There is a disconnect in how men and women perceive the advancement of gender equality,” said Kissack. According to the McKinsey’s 2017 Women in the Workplace study, nearly 50% of men believe women are well represented in leadership in organization, when only 1 in 10 women are senior leaders.

To bridge the gap, Kissack believes women must be willing to share their story. “The leadership team here at Whirlpool is comprised of mostly men, and in order to influence change with respect to gender issues, both sides — men and women — must be willing to share their experiences and perspectives. This is the only way we can evolve into a diverse culture.”

Recently, WWN launched the “Challenge for Change #30days30ways” campaign to commemorate Women’s History Month. The intent of this campaign is to challenge leaders and participants to take the pledge and execute 30 days worth of insightful activities that will inspire actions going forward to help make Whirlpool an employer of choice for women. “Small, everyday steps can bring about big changes,” said Kissack. “We want to start the conversation, create empathy and bring about a more inclusive environment.”