Episode 34: Using Five Core Skills To Help Women Advance Their Careers

Welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! My guest today is Alli Young, Founder and CEO of The Forem. The Forem is a professional training organization that develops the next generation of leaders while promoting gender equity. Through her work with The Forem, Alli focuses on helping women advance their careers and building healthy organizations as a key lever in driving innovation and revenue. Today, we’ll be talking about how she came to found the Forem, and the critical skills she believes all professionals — but especially women — need to successfully progress in their careers.

Though she enjoyed her role as a Google leader, Alli found that it was difficult to pursue her passion for building and trying new things within such a large organization. She wanted to align her professional life with what she truly cared about: working with other women to develop and progress their careers. “Women have been failed by corporate America. How can I get more women into leadership roles where they have the power to affect change?” She took the leap and founded The Forem, which works at the individual as well as the organizational level to foster working environments where everybody can thrive and grow and fulfill their potential.

At the individual level, The Forem offers one-on-one coaching for emerging leaders, with a strong focus on 5 critical skills. Those skills include negotiating, building a personal brand, growing a robust and responsive network, financial fluency, and leadership skills — many of which can be a struggle for women. For women early in their careers, Alli stresses the importance of first focusing on negotiating and networking. “The first step is being able to self-advocate. A lot of women do not negotiate, and when we do we ask for less. [...] As for networking, 85% of our opportunities come from our network. Investing in people is always worth your while.”

Even within companies whose CEOs and board members recognize the value of diversity, making the change at the organizational level can be difficult. “What do you do if 80% of your existing team is male? Even with good intentions, these roles won’t open up tomorrow.” That’s why the team at The Forem work with CEOs on strategy and succession planning, preparing qualified women to step into a leadership role as soon as it’s available. They also work directly with leadership teams to identify, address, and solve for areas of unconscious bias. Working collaboratively and forming partnerships transforms how people in leadership roles interpret and identify bias. Alli also emphasizes the value of frequent, consistent top-down messaging about diversity and equality, highlighting both current statistics and future goals.

Alli, thank you so much for coming onto the show and sharing your work through The Forem. I look forward to the upcoming book about the 5 critical skills, and seeing that message continue to spread. Thank you also to all my listeners tuning in, reviewing, and sharing the show. See you next week!


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