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December 6, 2023
In corporate America — and especially in the technology industry — women sometimes encounter bias and discrimination because they’re simply outnumbered. Jamie Brown, government program manager at Granite Telecommunications, seized the opportunity within Granite’s inclusive culture to create a support network for Granite’s female employees and founded an employee resource group (ERG) to answer the call. We interviewed Jamie to learn more about the origin, mission and future of this empowerment group, aptly named WE CAN.
Q: What is WE CAN and how did it originate?
A: WE CAN stands for Women Empowered through Collaboration, Appreciation and Networking. It was founded on International Women’s Day in 2019, as a way of connecting and supporting the dynamic businesswomen of Granite in achieving their personal and professional goals.
Q: Why is empowering women important at Granite and in the technology industry?
Granite's Jamie Brown
A: Telecommunications and technology are both historically male-dominated industries. As such, it’s incredibly important for the women in these industries to support each other to build more diversity and opportunities for advancement. So often, the narrative is that women must compete against women for a limited number of positions. Granite and WE CAN are working to build a more collaborative and inclusive narrative, where women can empower themselves by empowering one another, and not only survive but thrive and excel by doing so.
Q: What are the top three things WE CAN is doing to advance women’s rights or equity?
A: First, by facilitating networking between the women of Granite, WE CAN is empowering these women to be more effective in their roles and helping them build a stronger reputation among their peers and with those in leadership. This can help influence promotion potential, longevity, morale and a sense of belonging.
Second, by empowering the women of Granite, WE CAN is helping to buck industry demographic stereotypes. Improving gender-diverse representation opens doors for women to enter the company and industry with more confidence and success.
And third, WE CAN also maintains an emphasis on appreciation, which includes philanthropic efforts as well as celebrating the successes of our members. Through our charitable events and partnerships, WE CAN gives the women of Granite an outlet to give back and maintain an appreciation of the community where we live and work. In celebrating our members’ successes, WE CAN is helping to encourage a positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable praising someone for their accomplishments without diminishing their own worth or status.
Q: What one change in corporate America would be the most impactful for women? How has Granite embraced this change?
A: One of the biggest challenges for women in the corporate workspace is work-life balance. Women in America – even in 2023 – still tend to carry more of the burden of maintaining a home and being the primary caregiver for children or sick/elderly family members. As a result, women are more often faced with decisions on prioritizing work opportunities or family responsibilities, which can stifle career growth.
Granite has adapted to the times and continues to increase emphasis on employee flexibility to help with work-life balance. Granite offers staggered shifts across nearly all roles, which can help facilitate a variety of unique family schedules. Granite is also continuously listening to employee feedback and adapting work-from-home policies to better support employees, both professionally and personally. In addition, when Granite opens its newly renovated headquarters in 2024, it will be partnering with a leading daycare center to provide discounted on-site daycare service, fostering an even more family-friendly work environment.
Q: What learnings can you share in building a women’s activism group?
A: The key factor in building WE CAN was a manifestation of our primary goal. We brought together a small group of women who supported each other and helped build upon one another’s ideas and skills. This is both our daily mission and the reason we were able to get off the ground. Every journey starts with the first step; for WE CAN, that was finding other women join us on the journey.
My advice to women is that you should not have to do this alone. Find other women who will help share the risk and the reward. Celebrate each other with every step and keep working to bring more women and allies into the fold as you go.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
A: WE CAN is a women’s group by definition, but our membership and events aren’t exclusive to women. Our membership is an incredibly diverse group of people striving for the same goals. Our events are open to all Granite employees, and we always welcome new ideas and perspectives. Empowerment can come from both internal and external sources. WE CAN facilitates internal and external empowerment for all the women of Granite, whether they’re members of our group or not. By building a stronger female workforce at Granite, we’re improving Granite as a whole and improving women’s professional and personal lives both now and in the future.
National Relationship Development Manager, Granite Telecommunications
Raul Medina serves as chair of the Granite RockOUT employee resource group for the company's LGBTQA+ employees and co-chair of the Granite Corporate Advancement Networking Diversity Inclusion and Development (CANDID) organization. The goal of both groups is for all Granite teammates to feel welcome and enjoy their work environment.
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