Over my career, I’ve been fortunate to be supported by women leaders. In some cases, this has meant formal mentorship. But more often than not, it’s been the everyday gestures that have meant the most – a piece of positive feedback; a coffee with a colleague; a moment to ask about my daughters and how things are going.

In other words, it’s the culture – building a culture where women are supported in ways big and small to grow in the workplace and advance in their careers. Since I’ve become Global CEO of Porter Novelli, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to build a strong culture for women – a people-first culture where next generation talent has what they need to thrive, and also to lead. I’m my company’s third-ever female CEO [in 50+ years], and I want there to be many more to follow. 

Globally, the UN’s theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress,” while the campaign this year is to  “Inspire Inclusion.” These have me reflecting on some of the ways we can invest in and inspire next gen women, as a company and across the business landscape. Here are just a few.

First, take the time. I’ve tried throughout my career to write notes to staff, share compliments, and celebrate accomplishments large and small. I know from talking to other women, we always home in on the things that we don’t do well. I’m like that too. Imposter syndrome is real. So, I’ve tried to train myself to celebrate the wins and successes of colleagues – especially women.  Did a colleague give a great presentation? Tell her. It matters more than you know.

Second, prioritize informal but powerful connections. Since I took on this role, I’ve been meeting with female leaders from my organization and across our sister agencies. We think about how to make this a great company for women, and how to grow women as leaders. And we talk about the challenges we’re facing. Prioritizing informal connection means reaching out to other women and checking in, asking questions, and offering support.

Third, take full advantage of the formal opportunities available. When I arrived at Porter Novelli, I was pleased to find that one of the largest and most established ERG’s here was Omniwomen, which has more than 20 chapters and thousands of members worldwide. From talks and trainings to mentorship, Omniwomen is a community dedicated to supporting everyone at Omnicomm who identify as women. 

Fourth, it’s up to leaders to create workplaces that are responsive to the unique needs of women. It’s almost cliché in 2024 to talk about “the juggle” of work and home responsibilities. But its real. Managers, supervisors – all of us can prioritize the needs of working moms and caregivers.

In my own life, I work a lot. But my kids have never felt that I’ve missed anything of importance. It’s about setting expectations: “September through November will be visits to 10 markets in 12 weeks.” You set the expectation. Always. Just like it is a KPI – a KPI for life. But that only works at a company that understands the needs women and caregivers face, and is responsive to them.

Finally, I know from talking with staff that younger people don’t just want to work. Their legacy is making sure that they have an enduring place in the world. They want to be working with brands and companies that they themselves purchase, or at least respect and believe in. That puts a premium on Doing Business Better. 

Ultimately, “Inspiring Inclusion” is about creating environments where every voice is heard, valued, and respected. This isn’t virtue signaling – it’s how I got to where I am, and how so many of the talented next generation women will advance and build careers. 

When I think about International Women’s Day, I think about people like my mother, my sister, and the girlfriends I’ve stayed close with since childhood – a literal sisterhood that’s given me the support I’ve needed to grow. I think about the allies who went out of their way to give me coaching or feedback, or a shot at a promotion. But I also think about my two teenage daughters, and about the next generation of women rising up– and the ways we can invest in and inspire each other to succeed.