We all know about the challenges the technology industry, as well as other businesses, continue to face with gender diversity and inclusion around the world. Today’s headlines and conversations on empowering women in the workplace reminds me of why we started the Equinix Women Leaders Network (EWLN). Thinking back to 2011, when myself, Cathryn Arnell and Janet Ladd co-founded EWLN, we wanted to promote gender diversity and develop women’s leadership to contribute greater value to our internal employee community and to the worldwide community as a global business. We found the best way to achieve those goals was by promoting, connecting and empowering female leaders in Equinix through ongoing programs for professional growth, visibility and cross-functional networking.
Today on the anniversary of EWLN’s founding, I am proud to say that EWLN continues to grow – we’re currently at 1,730 members worldwide – and is run almost exclusively by Equinix employee volunteers. Over the last seven years, our employee-led initiatives have added tremendous value to our business internally on a local and global scale and has significantly impacted the external communities we support. In addition, we’ve provided a forum for attracting talented women in their respective fields, and presenting Equinix as a place where they could envision themselves adding their own unique value to our business.
Our three founding goals – promote, connect, empower – continue to guide us in building an inclusive and diverse community by:
- Increasing internal and external visibility of women leaders across the organization through presentations and seminars, and active participation in executive associations and external events
- Creating an internal network where women leaders listen, learn and invest in each other via role modeling
- Offering development opportunities for Equinix women and men through onsite events and networking activities, further increasing our collective ability to build an enduring, great company
We’re a company based on connections
At Equinix, we have a global company concept of sharing our common experiences that can only happen by building connections among people. We empower EWLN ambassadors to bring EWLN to local offices worldwide by giving them tools to conduct workshops and networking sessions to connect with each other, much like we provide our customers the ability to communicate globally. It’s a leadership opportunity for these women that’s giving them skills they wouldn’t otherwise practice in their day-to-day jobs.
A large part of what EWLN does is build connections among our employees, as well as provide an internal resource/support group for women currently at or new to Equinix that offers both learning and mentoring opportunities. We want to empower women to leverage connection through workshops, team meetings and executive presentations that promote a business orientation, whether it’s how to be an effective presenter, the Equinix product roadmap, or the attributes of a great leader.
Building gender inclusion and empowerment
Over the years, we’ve developed programs that promote gender inclusion and empowerment inside and outside of Equinix. The core components of EWLN include:
- EWLN Events: We hold large office events (presentations, seminars and workshops) to promote, connect and empower our employees with meaningful engagement and impact
- Local Circles: We give our local EWLN ambassadors training tools (“event in a box”) to facilitate in-person workshops, networking webinars and Impact events at local sites all over the world. These also include traveling executive sessions where Equinix executives present to employee groups at local sites.
- Annual Initiatives: These business initiatives drive organizational change that is more diversity focused, including:
- Belonging in Technology – Focuses on sharing data that supports the positive correlation between diversity and innovation, and creates a meaningful dialogue about belonging in the technology industry and the particular needs of professionals of all genders.
- Allies Council – A group of men and women senior leaders working together to identify and teach leadership behaviors that demonstrate inclusion and belonging at Equinix.
- EWLN/HR/Impact Engagement – Aligns opportunities among EWLN, Human Resources and Impact Program activities to further support leadership, diversity, belonging, philanthropy and volunteerism.
- Virtual Community – We provide an active online presence inside and outside Equinix via the EWLN Hub Page, EWLN Chatter Community and social media (Equinix Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter pages).
Making an impact
Every year, our EWLN members tell us that they want to do more to make an impact in their community and influence how Equinix is spending its resources. Two programs that have been the beneficiaries are World Pulse and Shadhika. Both organizations are recipients of Equinix Impact grants, which allows Equinix to maximize its impact through a combination of cash giving and volunteer support. Both organizations also enable our members to foster connections locally through our local circles, while making an impact globally (in line with Equinix’s global footprint).
World Pulse is all about giving women a platform for connection. It provides a safe, supportive community for women through blogging and collaboration, and offers greater digital skills through digital empowerment training. Some of our EWLN global members form a volunteer, collective online community to edit articles and review comments from World Pulse contributors. This provides a valuable feedback-loop to the World Pulse community and helps increase the value of the information it is sharing with the world. This ties directly to Equinix’s goal to reach everywhere and interconnect everyone globally.
Shadhika provides women at Equinix with an opportunity to connect with young women in India through a combination of helping them practice their English as a pen-pal and sponsoring their English language education through the Shadhika program. So far, EWLN raised over $13,000 to sponsor 25 girls and matched them with EWLN pen-pals in North America. Shadhika ties to EWLN’s goals of “connect and empower,” in addition to investing in the next generation of leaders.
Shadhika students in India
How EWLN embodies 20 years of Equinix culture
From the first day of joining this 20-year journey at Equinix as an external advisor, and then becoming a full-time employee in 2003, one constant I’ve seen is you don’t come to Equinix if you want to sit still. We’re continuously trying to grow, evolve, get better. We want to do right by our customers, our employees and our shareholders. We’re always going for that leading edge.
EWLN fits right in with that spirit by fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity that will uniquely impact and advance our business. From the beginning, we knew we had the right combination of passion and skills at Equinix to move this ball forward. So we went for it and got the support we needed right away, and it has been and continues to be a very fun journey!
Fostering inclusion at Equinix is something we each influence every day. Through the EWLN Allies Council, we are raising awareness about gender equality and how men and women can work together. For more ideas on things YOU can do today to start making a positive difference for gender equality and inclusion, check out this article: Joanne Lipman Shares Five Groundbreaking Solutions For Handling Gender Inequality In The Workplace.
Learn more about our culture and values at Equinix by viewing “The Journey to Equinix” video