WOCA 2023: Cultivating a Network of Support to Build Careers for Women of Color

Cultivating a network of peers, mentors, sponsors and allies is crucial to helping women of color advance their careers. Panelists discussed best practices at Fair360’s 6th annual 2023 Women of Color and Their Allies (WOCA) event.

The session, “Cultivating a Network of Support to Build Your Career,” supplied tips for encouraging inclusivity in the workplace.

Organizations can act as allies and advocates for women of color in the workforce in many ways. For example, mentorship and sponsorship programs and employee resource groups (ERGs) are among the most common.

Mentorship helps cultivate a sense of belonging, providing encouragement and a safe space to build your career. Michaela Samoudi, Senior Manager of External Surveys & Benchmarking in Global Inclusion, Diversity & Equity at Medtronic (No. 2 on Fair360’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity), discussed the benefits of authenticity in a safe environment for women of color.

“It’s important to be in an environment where we’re comfortable, where we can strive, where we can also be ourselves,” she said. 

Through sponsorship, allies and mentors support their peers when they aren’t in the room. Advocating for opportunities helps open doors that might otherwise remain closed.

ERGs can help companies support women of color and encourage inclusivity in the workplace. However, it doesn’t stop at the organizational level. ERGs can allow employees to connect with others in their demographic and outside the affinity group.  

When asked how to help build careers for women of color, Tatsumi Paredes, Senior Manager, D&I Consulting at Toyota North America (No. 4 on Fair360’s Top Companies for Diversity) said, “Give yourself permission and give others permission, verbally. Get out of your own way. Give each other that permission to step outside your comfort zone, to come up with potentially bad ideas and maybe even fail. And give yourself that permission to aim high and achieve things.”

All sessions from the Women of Color and Their Allies event are available here.