In our home we strive to create an environment where all employees feel comfortable and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work every day. To help ensure this, Wayfair has employee-created and led Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), supported by our Culture & Inclusion team, with the aim to create safe, inclusive spaces for community building, networking, and professional development. This March our Women+ ERG celebrated Women’s History Month by organizing an internal fireside chat with Wayfair board member, Anke Schäferkordt. The event was moderated by Fiona Tan, Global Head of Customer and Supplier Technology. Throughout the hour-long chat Anke shared invaluable insights about the importance of challenging the status quo, male allyship, mentorship and much more.
Anke, an intrinsically motivated business person, first challenged the status quo by being one of the only women in her German village to attend university. Upon graduating she joined RTL Group, a German media business owned by Bertelsmann. She quickly rose to top leadership positions, eventually becoming CEO. Anke used her leadership roles to develop professionally, but just as importantly, as a way to promote a more progressive environment for women in her company. Being in a position of power gave her a seat at the decision making table to build a better team and company culture.
Throughout her career Anke learned that “choosing to challenge the status quo is really important, but choosing how and when is as important as the challenge itself.” These challenges range from finding the right moment to speak up to enlisting an ally for help when the situation calls for it.
Allyship, particularly male allyship, has been important to Anke in her career development. As she put it: “women's equality is not a women's issue, it's an issue of the whole society.'' She continued, “given that men are still a majority of the decision makers in business, we should not exclude them from the discussion – we need male allies.” Furthermore, Anke believes cross-gender mentorship can be transformative. While working in a male dominated industry she recruited open-minded men who were forward thinking “conscious decision makers” and encouraged them to be mentors to female executives. Cross-gender mentorships operate on a two-way street as business perspectives are shared between genders. Female mentees are empowered, while male mentors become more conscious about the female work experience and learn how to see things through a different lens. Through allies and mentorships we can learn from one another and create change together.