ZeneWomen – Powered by Community, Education, Mentorship & Leadership

September 19, 2017

Zenefits employees are powered by learning, and our ZeneWomen interest group is our most active club that spans our office locations. Dedicated to advancing women in the world of technology (and elsewhere), ZeneWomen come together monthly to host a speaker, volunteer for a cause, connect over lunch, or discuss reading from the book club. We sat down with three of the leaders of the planning committee, Emily Smith (SF), Kathleen Meil (SF) and Roxanne Kirk (AZ) to hear more about ZeneWomen’s values, goals and what’s up next for the group in the coming weeks.

What spurred the creation of ZeneWomen?

Kathleen: A little over a year ago, I collaborated with two other female Zenefits employees to kick off ZeneWomen. We had all had positive experiences being involved in ‘Women/Underrepresented People in tech’ groups and other employee organizations, and we frequently heard questions from our peers that an organized group could help address the following: 

  • What are other roles inside and outside the company like?
  • How do you advance in your career, or deal with a difficult situation at work?
  • How do you ask for a raise, or get feedback on your performance from people besides your manager?
  • Who should I ask at our company to mentor me, and how do I do it?
  • Should I get an MBA, take a coding class, or otherwise pursue education marketed as helping me advance in my career? Is it applicable to advancing at Zenefits?
  • What other kinds of organizations in the Bay will help me build my network and share my skills here?

We hoped that by creating ZeneWomen, we could create an environment to address these questions that belonged to the women of Zenefits. It’s inspiring to see Emily and Roxanne building, leading, and making it the community that we hoped it would become!

Emily: In the early days, we didn’t have a ton of organized focus groups at Zenefits. We were still very much a start-up when Kathleen took the initiative to form ZeneWomen, and I jumped at the opportunity to join the planning committee. The notion of supporting women in the workplace and elsewhere has always been important to me, and building those relationships foster career development is crucial for creating culture and community.

Roxanne: Upon hearing of San Francisco’s creation of ZeneWomen, I knew I wanted to create a similar group in our Tempe office. We operate as one community, but it’s important to have representation in each location to unite our members who share and support similar values.

How would you describe the core values of ZeneWomen?

Emily: The core values of Zenewomen are Community, Education, Mentorship, and Leadership. Our community is full of women from all different backgrounds and at all different stages of their careers, so it was important for us to pick values that everyone could relate to and rally around.

What makes the spirit of ZeneWomen unique?

Roxanne: The participants of the ZeneWomen group are as collaborative and supportive as they come. We look to each other for feedback, advice, and career tips — having each other to lean on makes all the difference in the workplace. We are the only group at Zenefits whose mission is to support women.

What are the types of events you try to put on and participate in?

Emily: We aim to host events that align with our pillars of Community Service, Mentorship, Leadership, and Education. From teas and book exchanges to volunteering and hosting notable speakers, we try to diversify our events to keep our members engaged and on a variety of topics to connect over. Some of our previous events/efforts include:

  • Hosted speaker event with Sallie Krawcheck, also known as the “last honest analyst” on Wall Street, and the founder/CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform built for women.  
  • Film viewing and coordinated discussion of Escalation with our partners at the One Love Foundation. The goal of One Love is to end relationship violence by educating, empowering and activating young people in a movement for social change. One Love is very close to our hearts and it was very special to co-host with them.
  • Support of the Princess Project drive, an organization that collects gently used prom dresses, shoes and accessories to high school students that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.
  • Monthly Wednesday lunches to get to know one another and welcome new members.
  • Project Glimmer’s boxing event.
  • Hosted speaker event with Kim Fulcher, a certified empowerment women’s coach.

What are your goals for the ZeneWomen club members?

Emily: Our goal as a group is to provide a community for our members. Not only do we want people to show up to and enjoy our events, we also want people to feel comfortable coming to their fellow ZeneWomen to ask questions, seek advice, and discuss anything on their mind.

What’s coming up next?

Emily: We have a few speakers in the works that we are very excited about, as well as our ZeneWomen Barbeque and Project Glimmer’s Boxing Joy event!