Supporting women leaders in the workplace

Nichole Viviani, chief people and marketing officer at Xplor Technologies, on supporting women leaders

As companies continue to fulfill their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) pledges, there’s a greater need for more women to become company leaders.

In order to fuel those rising stars, HR leaders must have the tools, resources and expertise to impact the overall company culture.

In this interview with HRD TV, Nichole Viviani, chief people and marketing officer at Xplor Technologies, suggests how companies can nurture and support women leaders.

To view full transcript, please click here

John: [00:00:19] Welcome to HRDTV. I'm John Corrigan with HRD America. And today I'm joined by Nichole Viviani, chief people and marketing officer at global tech firm Xplor Technologies. We are going to be discussing the importance of female leadership. Nichole, thanks for joining me. How are you?

Nichole: [00:00:36] I'm really good. Happy to be here.

John: [00:00:39] Well, I appreciate you taking the time and let's not waste any more. How can companies support women leaders at work?

Nichole: [00:00:47] Well, for me, there are three key things that are really important. Firstly, having an inclusive culture that really values different working styles and different learning styles, because this will really allow women at work to see that there are many different styles to success and approaches and that they can be who they are and leverage their strengths to be able to progress. The second one for me is strong role models and leadership sponsors are really important. I will always remember a particular leader that I had really early on in my career. He had so much faith in my abilities and as a young mother just starting out in my career, I questioned myself a lot of times, and every time I questioned myself when a new opportunity came around, I would worry, you know, can I take this on right now? Do I know enough about this subject? I'm not an expert. And every time he would just smile and say to me, I believe you can do it, and so you can do it. And, you know, I'd laugh and but I did it. So having people who have faith in you and role models that you can speak to when you're stepping up is is really important for me. And the third one, a culture of open feedback. I think in a lot of different companies, there isn't enough feedback given on a real time basis. Feedback is really important to all of us in how we learn and how we grow and how we adapt. So some people are scared of giving people feedback because they're worried about how they might take it. But feedback isn't just when things aren't going right, it's when it is going right. So giving people the credit and the praise when things are going really well, but also being able to kind of give them course correction as they go is really important and that helps people grow. So that's something I think we all need to do more of to support women and everyone else in the workplace as well.

John: [00:02:35] Absolutely. Great advice there. We are approaching open enrollment season. And so I wanted to ask you, what types of benefits or perks do you think that women leaders are really looking for in a company should be offering?

Nichole: [00:02:49] Sure. Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest one, both for me personally, but also what I've heard from women around the world is flexibility. You know, post pandemic. I think we've come a long way. I've always had the privilege of having flexible workplaces and leaders who understood the value of flexibility and how the way I work might be different to the way other people work. And that was really important for me kind of coming up through my career. And it's something that people have said to me time and time again is something they value over certain pay or benefits, even because it allows them to work in the way that's right for their life and in some cases their family. The other thing I think people can think about is that maybe more traditional things like family leave or parental caring responsibilities at Xplor. We've actually made our parental leave gender neutral to try to encourage husbands to stay at home. So not always making that a a problem of the woman and something that helps more women get back into work is to be able to share that responsibility. So thinking about parental leave is shared. That was one thing that was really successful and went down really, really well for for Xplor with women, but also with all our fathers out there as well, because I think a lot of men want to share that responsibility. The other thing for me was mentorship. I think, you know, a formal sort of mentor scheme, particularly with young women who are coming up into leadership roles, I think is really invaluable, particularly if they're struggling to sort of balance home responsibilities with work responsibilities. Speaking to someone who's been through that journey before can be so helpful.

John: [00:04:32] More, more wonderful advice. The idea about, you know, fathers joining this and being included in that equality, I mean, that's so important right now. You know, in a personal story, somebody that I work with had that same experience and it's different in different countries, you know, the ability that to do that. But if companies can offer that, I mean, that does equally help fathers as well as mothers. It's something that more companies should offer perhaps heading into this 20, 23 season. My last question for you. As we look toward the future, more women will be stepping into leadership roles. What advice do you have for these women who are new to either the C-suite or perhaps even new HR leaders?

Nichole: [00:05:19] Well, if I think about sort of my learnings throughout my career, one of the things that I still have to tell myself now, so I can't say I'm all the way there, but it's one that other people told me that I found really helpful was just don't sweat the small stuff. I think leading people, leading functions, leading companies, it's one of the hardest things you can do. And sometimes you're going to get it right and sometimes you're not. And that's okay. I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we're put off by leadership roles or moving to the next level because particularly women, they feel like they have to be an expert in everything in order to do it. And that was certainly the way I thought about it. I don't know, 100%. And so maybe it's not right for me. Or sometimes knowing 60 to 70% is fine because you'll figure the rest out as you go along. So that's one piece of advice that I had that would be, I think, valuable for others as well. The other one that I heard a lot when I was starting out in my career, particularly as a young mother, was people would say to me, Well, you can't have it all, but I disagree. I think we can't have it all. What we can't do is expect to be perfect at everything. So again, this drives a lot of kind of imposter syndrome. It's the expectations we set for ourselves that are not realistic. These aren't expectations anybody else has of us, but we set them for ourselves. And that's that leads to disappointment when things don't turn out exactly the way we want them to. So those are two things that I always have to remind myself. And every time I expand my role or take on a different role, it changes again. And I have to go through that process of sort of saying, What can I influence here? What can I influence here? I'm not going to be perfect at everything. So what are the things that are the most important that I want to double down on and get absolutely right? And what are some of the other things that can wait or maybe aren't as high priority? And in that particular instant, 80% is okay.

John: [00:07:27] Those are a couple of great reminders that I know our audience would absolutely need to pay attention to and always use to help. Because you can't you can't accomplish everything at 100% all the time. And that does lead to burnout, which obviously has been a huge issue for HR leaders over the past almost three years now. But Nichole, I appreciate you sharing all of this advice today, and thank you very much for your time.

Nichole: [00:07:49] No worries. My pleasure. Thank you, John.

John: [00:07:52] And thank you, everyone, for watching. This has been another episode of HRDTV.