Leo Q & A

ERG spotlight: WomxnKind

After an impactful Women’s History Month, WomxnKind members share their hopes for the year ahead and their goals to continue to create an inclusive group for all identities.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was “#ChooseToChallenge,” and every day at Leo Burnett, the WomxnKind employee resource group does just that.

WomxnKind has not only challenged Burnetters to fight for gender equality, but also challenged themselves. This summer, they recognized that there was room to be even more inclusive to employees of all identities. In response, they rebranded and added an “x” to symbolize that they stand for intersectional feminism and are a group for all female-identifying people. Now, WomxnKind is continuing their goal to uplift womxn in a new virtual environment and forge meaningful connections inside and outside of the office.

We spoke to WomxnKind members: Kerri Soukup, Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett; Heather Robertson, Senior Copywriter at Arc Worldwide; Monica Stahl, Account Director at Leo Burnett; Rachel Long, Junior Copywriter at Arc Worldwide; and Tukiya Mwanza Senior Account Executive at Leo Burnett. Here they share how the group is continuing to evolve in the new year:

1. This month is Women’s History Month, how are the members of WomxnKind celebrating and honoring all womxn in the workplace during this time?

Kerri: Empowering womxn has always been our motto from day one, since we repositioned Women’s Leadership Network into WomxnKind a few years ago, and lifting each other up is such an important part of our ethos. So this year, with zoom fatigue being such a draining force, we opted to present people who support us with messages of gratitude and respect through email and social as a more low-barrier initiative. We also just launched Womxnpower Sessions, which are going to be monthly small group sessions that will feature different leaders and alumni throughout the course of the year. We see this as the start of a new way to facilitate connection at a time when we all really need that more than ever. It’s an intimate and powerful way to harness the collective wisdom of our community and it helps leaders broaden their influence within the agency.

2. The theme of International Women’s Day this year is “Choose to Challenge.” This not only asks womxn to challenge their male colleagues but also themselves to be more inclusive for all womxn regardless of race, sexuality, and identity. How is WomxnKind “choosing to challenge” in order to create change in the workplace?

Heather: In our message on social media this year, we really wanted to honor the womxn who’ve come before us and those who have helped us on our journeys because no one gets anywhere alone. We also want to challenge ourselves to constantly mentor and support talent, use our influence to create positive change and celebrate womxn every day. International Women’s Day is just one day, but we really believe in celebrating ourselves, co-workers, friends and all womxn every day—regardless of what the calendar says. Another upcoming opportunity to have this important dialogue is the She Runs It Multicultural Boot Camp in April.

Monica: We have been partners for a long time with She Runs It. We are sponsoring the Multicultural Boot Camp that’s coming in April and An Evening of Badass Bosses that’s later in September. We want to ensure we’re expanding our network, inspiring womxn within the agency and help womxn grow their connections and careers.

3. This summer, WomxnKind made a decision to add the “x” in the title in order to be more inclusive for all women. What has the response to this change been and why was it necessary?

Rachel: It was shortly after our updated board and new members held the first 2020 meeting, before the pandemic hit, and started discussing our goals for the coming year. One thing we talked about was how our ERG has been a predominantly white, cis group. We want to make sure that we are taking steps to be inclusive and make it clear that our group is not just for white womxn or cis womxn—it’s for all people who identify as womxn or those who want to be part of an ERG of supportive womxn. The “x” has been a strong signifier for groups who want to show that they’re aware of the intersectionality of feminism.

At the start of 2020, we unanimously agreed that we need to acknowledge intersectionality and show that feminism isn’t one-size-fits-all and neither is our agenda. The response since then has been pretty positive, but we also know that language is constantly evolving. We’re always having conversations about our brand and how we communicate. We want to constantly focus on our intentions, how they affect our impact and what we’re able to provide at the agency.

Kerri: At this point, we haven’t heard anything other than positive feedback about our name change. But we want to make sure the intention we set out with is matching our impact. We are initiating some of our own conversations. We have some things in the works—reaching out to some other ERGs and BRGs to gain some of their perspectives and some overall member conversations as well.

Rachel: That applies to a lot of other parts of our ERG in general, and kind of keeping up with what we’re doing and making sure everything’s with the times.

4. We recently had a discussion with our women-led DE&I team, in which they said, “to make change we must change ourselves.” WomxnKind did just that when they changed the name of the organization, but what are some new ways that you’d like the organization to progress?

Monica: This was actually our second name change. In 2018, we rebranded from WLN which stood for Women’s Leadership Network. We realized that Women’s Leadership Network really didn’t convey that we were for womxn at all levels, not just leaders, and it had a corporate feel, which could and did feel a bit exclusive.

In making the shift from WomanKind to WomxnKind, we knew it was important to create the right impression with our name, so anyone would know and feel that this was a place for them. We’re very proud of the way that we continue to mobilize, and we attribute a lot of that to our most recently updated board and passionate committee members. We have aspirations to increase our programming and our collaboration with other employee resource groups and LB group communities in 2021. We want to make sure that we’re really pushing ourselves to be the best allies that we can be.

Kerri: Working from home put us in a slightly different place with the types of programming and collaboration that we could accomplish, but we’re excited to get momentum back in the coming year. In 2020, we collaborated with Conscious Mind and held our vote initiative leading up to the election last year with the WTF (What The Facts) program that we did, and that was a really fulfilling collaboration. We are always looking to expand with other groups within the agency to do more of that.

5. How can men be an ally to womxn in the workplace? And how can womxn be better allies to each other?

Tukiya: Building community, providing support and bringing added value are things that we as an organization believe in. From financial empowerment to extending opportunities to attend She Runs It events and creating community within our Coffees and Convos forum, we’re striving to create advocacy and stronger connections with each other. We also have our first male board member Daniel Mashburn, and we’ve been really grateful for his support and energy and the different perspective he brings to the team. Watching his empowerment and evolution has been really rewarding. We’ve historically had male attendance at our events, and so we aim to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and included. As we’ve touched on previously, our name change makes it clear that we’re here for all womxn and encourage anyone who wants to support womxn to connect with us. We know that it’s really important to have men be a part of this conversation as well and the more people that champion gender equality, the better.

6. Beyond this month, what are WomxnKind’s plans for 2021?

Kerri: We are in the planning stages for several initiatives. We are working to increase intersectional feminism within our organization and the agency, which includes more collaboration with ERGs and different communities at Leo Burnett. We want to continue to follow up our intentions with impact by supporting issues that affect all womxn and ensuring that we are being inclusive in the way that we show up as an organization and as a community for all Burnetters. In order to grow, build more momentum and continuously learn, we are going to be accepting new nominations for board positions. It’s been cool to look back over the last few years and see how we went from three people to six people to 20 people, and how new members continue to add energy to our mission.

Another thing we are looking forward to is continuing with Sarah’s Circle in supporting womxn experiencing homelessness. We previously did Cocktails for a Cause as our December holiday support for Sarah’s Circle. This year, the Sarah’s Circle team has done a lot to add fundraisers throughout the year and bring more awareness and attention to the fact that we have a real need in the Chicago community to support womxn who are homeless or experiencing housing instability. Even though we were virtual for February’s Winter Walk fundraiser, we were still able to build a strong sense of community and help raise funds for this essential organization. We want to keep that this kind of momentum in 2021 and keep listening to our community.

To learn more about WomxnKind, follow them on Instagram @WomxnKind.leoburnett.