Reify Media is honored to have been selected as one of Triangle Business Journal‘s Leaders in Diversity award winners for 2017, along with five other organizations this year: BioAgilytix Labs, Credit Suisse, Ernst & Young, Fidelity Investments, and WakeMed Health & Hospitals.
Reify Media, a woman-owned digital media company launched in Raleigh, has always been predominantly female. The fields of technology and web development are, of course, predominantly male. So how does our team successfully support women in technology, even as it has grown from a solo freelancer enterprise in 2009 to nine team members in 2017? We attribute the success of our team and its unique female-led structure to our passion for employee-first policies, and we are grateful to TBJ for the opportunity to share this passion with the Raleigh-Durham community.
What is the TBJ’s Leaders in Diversity Award?
The Triangle Business Journal’s Leaders in Diversity Awards program, now in its fifth year, is designed to recognize the accomplishments of Triangle businesses, individuals, and nonprofits as they strive to reflect the diverse tapestry of backgrounds and beliefs that make the Triangle a great place to live and work. Our organization is proud that our efforts to showcase women in technology, women in leadership, and female-led organizations were recognized by TBJ during this year’s selection progress.
“This year’s group of winners are at the front and center of changing their organization’s vision, values and principles – all along keeping equality in mind,” says Jason Christie, publisher of TBJ. “We are glad to have created a forum to celebrate the achievements of these individuals and corporations.”
Reify Media and Women in Technology
Only 26% of professional computing occupations in the US workforce were held by women in 2016, yet Reify Media is predominantly female. We also boast that many of our team members have families with young children. (Seemingly, this should be relatively unremarkable—women make up nearly 51% of the US population; 4% of women in the US are pregnant at any given time; there are approximately 4 million births in the US per year. But it is remarkable because the percentage of women in the US workforce is declining. It peaked in 1999, at 74% percent for women between 25 and 54 in the workplace. It has fallen since, to 69% today.)
If its employee-first policies that have gotten us to this point, what specifically can we acknowledge as successful policy within our female-led organization?
Example 1: Part-Time Opportunities
When our organization began offering unique Part-Time Opportunities in 2013, our goal was to encourage a culture of results over time in office. We were talking with talented, creative people who wanted to join our team but had other family or personal responsibilities that necessitated part-time work. Now, after four years of success through this unique program, we happily structure each position in our company to the individual; many of our employees only work certain days of the week, only work in the mornings, work a specified number of hours, etc.
In other countries, the right to request part-time work after returning from maternity leave is the law; in the US, it’s almost unheard of and—in some corporate cultures—frowned upon. We think our openness to part-time work structures is one reason that team members feel comfortable returning to our team after maternity leave, or feel comfortable joining our team while balancing other personal responsibilities.
Example 2: Open Vacation
Our Open Vacation program launched when we hired our very first employee, as was showcased in our award-winning video submission that was recognized during this year’s National Association of Women Business Owners’ No Small Thing contest sponsored by Microsoft. Through this policy, our vacation schedule is not set in stone—because it’s in the hands of our team members. We understand that different team members observe different religious celebrations, national holidays, and family events, and in order to suit those diverse needs, our company uses an unlimited vacation policy.
We do not track team member vacation; we encourage team members to take half days as needed for creative re-energizing; we respectfully recognize when team members take time off and encourage them to truly disconnect; we check in with team members during quarterly performance reviews to make sure they feel comfortable taking the time off that they need for themselves and their families. The purpose of this program is to honor the diversity in our organization by recognizing that different people may celebrate different holidays, and to acknowledge that a corporate-established holiday calendar may not be the best solution for a diverse group of people.
Example 3: Culture as Lived, Not Had
Of course, even with Part-Time Opportunities and Open Vacation, a great culture is needed. We understand that culture is a living part of an organization, so it’s not something we have—it’s something we do and work at every day. We believe the policies we have must support of our values, and by offering benefits such as flexible work and vacation options, quarterly performance reviews, virtual work environments, coworking membership reimbursements, and more, we focus on continued support of gender diversity and a reputation for a great work culture.
It’s not easy to sustain a culture that’s focused so fiercely on supporting employees. But it’s incredibly worth it. And we’re not alone—there’s a growing community focused on positive work environments and on supporting women in technology.
“The great thing about supporting women in tech is the growing community,” said Sarah Glova, Founder and President of Reify Media. “Whether we’re participating in Raleigh’s Women in Tech Summit, supporting charities like Triangle TechGirlz, or fostering conversations about women in technology on social media, we see this outpouring of support and solidarity… that I think reflects growing awareness that more women in tech is good for all of us.”
Our employee retention rate is very high and our organization is predominantly women, which is saying something in an age where the percent of women in the workforce is declining and the number of women in tech is barely 1 in 4.
“Being able to work in a professional role on a part time schedule helps me love my job,” said our Director of Sales Kathryn Dunn. “Seeing that Reify is willing to work with me makes me want to do the best job I can for them!”
What’s Next – A Culture for Women, a Culture for All
Wonderfully, what works to support women and women with families in our organization actually works to support everyone. The part-time availability, flexible and virtual work options, and unlimited vacation benefit everyone, not just women and working mothers.
We hope that by sharing our programs with other organizations, we can help other teams consider ways to battle the gender gap in tech—especially since policies that are family-friendly aren’t just good for women but are good for all.
[Update added 8/14 – 12:13pm]
“In light of this weekend, the timing of this post necessitates comment. Our organization was proud to be named a Leader in Diversity award winner for 2017. We recognize the wonderful opportunity this is to share our focus on women in tech with the community.
We also know that what we do is not enough. We also recognize that a spotlight on women in tech may shadow a vital conversation about minorities in tech, or about women and wage gaps across all industries, or about diversity as it relates to other communities—diversity of ethnicity, race, age, socioeconomic status, language, religion, culture and community, sexual orientation, geographical area, abilities and exceptionalities, and backgrounds.
So while we share this award with pride, we also recognize that we can do better, and that in doing better, we must continue to ask for voices from other communities and learn how we can do better without assumption or ego. We see this award as an achievement of something in progress. We must continue. We must do more. And we will.”
– Sarah Glova