First West Women’s Network members gathered for a group photo at the First West building in Langley. Troy Landreville Langley Times

First West employee pilots network of women helping women

‘I just think we’re more successful together, when we can help and support each other’

When it comes to empowering fellow female employees, Pam Taugher has seized the reins at First West Credit Union.

The 48-year-old Walnut Grove resident is manager of member intelligence and research with the credit union.

That’s her day job.

But within the company, she started the First West Women’s Network which has grown to 250 employees.

It’s a grassroots group of women inspiring women through insight, knowledge, and skills to view and promote themselves as leaders.

The network was born from a project Taugher participated in with the Minerva Foundation, a Vancouver-based group that provides leadership development programs for women and girls, and partners with organizations to advance gender parity in B.C.

“They have a program called Women Leading the Way,” Taugher said. “It’s leadership training specifically for women. And part of that program is you had to do a work project, and explain how you used the principles that you learned throughout the program, and how you apply it to this project.”

But Taugher didn’t want to do an ordinary work project. She was looking for something much more impactful.

Enter the First West Women’s Network, geared towards helping women within the First West organization view themselves as leaders.

“I think women tend to hold back a bit more,” she explained. “I wanted to show that you could be a leader even when you didn’t hold the (leadership) position. I wanted to have an inspirational group where we network and support each other.

“We’ve done a workshop on building your personal brand, how to write a bio on yourself; we’ve done workshops on authentic leadership; we’ve done panel discussions on how to define leadership.”

This is not an exclusive network, however, Taugher pointed out. Men joining the group do so in a supportive role.

“Every woman will have different experiences in her life as to what the barriers are,” Taugher said. “So just to have those conversations. What are the barriers? Why don’t we feel like we can apply for that position?”

Taugher said “impostor syndrome” will often keep women mired on the lower rungs of the workplace ladder.

“It affects men and women, but it tends to impact women in different ways,” Taugher said of impostor syndrome.

“It’s when you believe that you’re basically an impostor, so that people in some way will figure out that you’re not as smart, or as good, or as talented as they say you are.”

Taugher said men will apply for a position if they meet 60 per cent of the criteria necessary, whereas women, according to research, won’t apply unless they can meet 100 per cent of the criteria.

“That impostor syndrome tends to push (women) back a little bit, more so than with men,” Taugher said.

“So how can we learn from that? How can we understand how that impact is different on women, to remove the barriers within ourselves and within the organization.”

The network, which started with 25 personal invites and now includes employees in the Okanagan and Vancouver Island, is marching towards its first anniversary and has expanded to a committee of leaders in different divisions of First West.

“We put together roles and responsibility documents so now we’re working on what our next event will be,” Taugher said.

In her travels, Taugher has come to understand the unconscious bias against not just women, but any non-dominant group. That’s what drove her to start the network.

“I wanted people to have a voice — and not just me, but everybody,” Taugher said.

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