Gravel & Shea recently joined the 2019-2020 cohort of businesses participating in a Vermont-based program aimed at improving gender equity and inclusivity in workplaces around the state.
Business Peer Exchange began in 2015, led by Beth Sachs, founder of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and a Vermont Works for Women board member, and Lindsey Lathrop-Ryan, a business coach working with Change the Story VT. A year-long program, Business Peer Exchange works with Vermont businesses to shift workplace culture towards gender equity and inclusivity by creating “gender equity ambassadors” in workplaces throughout the state and providing coaching and support as these ambassadors make changes within their organizations.
A longtime sponsor of the Vermont Women’s Fund, Gravel & Shea has a history of commitment to women’s advancement in the workplace and the community. Hiring partner Michelle Farkas spearheaded the involvement with Business Peer Exchange. “The program is exciting because we have the opportunity not only to make changes within our firm but also to support and learn from other organizations in Vermont,” says Farkas. “Progress on this front will require movement on a community level, not just within individual workplaces.”
As participants in Business Peer Exchange, Gravel & Shea employees have access to a series of virtual trainings that address equity issues in the workplace, including building inclusive talent pipelines and website messaging, acknowledging implicit biases, and identifying male allies. Designated employees within the firm will attend 10 in-person exchange sessions and bring ideas back to a larger Business Peer Exchange team at the firm. The team is tasked with creating a Gender Equity Plan for Gravel & Shea.
“Of course we’ve always made sure our employment policies and practices meet legal requirements, and we help our clients do the same,” says Heather Hammond, a Gravel & Shea partner specializing in employment law. “But we’ve also looked for opportunities to attract and retain a diverse talent pool — for instance, by offering paid family leave. The collaboration inherent in Business Peer Exchange allows us to develop new ideas that will build on the work we’ve already done.”