3 takeaways from our Discovery Workshop with Women in Product Chicago

Last Wednesday, we partnered with Margaret Jastrebski and facilitated a discovery workshop for Women in Product Chicago. Women in Product is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing women with equal access and representation in product management careers at all levels. This interactive event–the first of its kind for Women in Product Chicago–sought to teach hands-on discovery techniques while solving some of the key issues facing women in product.

Connections don’t need to happen at events

During the workshop we taught the AEIOU framework which challenges researchers to observe their surrounding environment. By focusing on the environment–an event hosted at Braintree–we realized events aren’t the only way to foster member-to-member connections and we identified opportunities outside of events:

  • Slack group with channels for different interests including mom support (“Does anyone have a great trusted babysitter for moms who work?”)

  • Book or article club (“I work at a small company and need some examples to share with the team…”)

  • Neighborhood connections (“I could use some socializing with like-minded cohorts in my neighborhood, do you live nearby? Want to carpool?”)

The workforce will change when women help each other

According to the Center for American Progress, women earn 57% of all undergraduate degrees but hold only 20% of high-tech industry executive, senior officer and management positions. Then if you’re fortunate enough to climb the ladder, you’ll only find only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. It’s clear that senior leaders don’t reflect the diversity of their products’ users–unless only 20% of your users are women.

To help companies democratize their decision making and assumptions, Women in Product members need mentorship and job opportunities and senior leaders need to help by extending their time and network to support the next generation of female leaders:

  • Randomly assign coffee dates with a tool like Donut (“Everyone has time for a remote cup of coffee”)

  • Mentor speed dating (“Make it easy for senior leaders to meet potential mentees”)

  • Collaborative company events (“Co-host an employee event with a complimentary company to expand everyone’s network”)

Define what diversity means for us

Diversity and inclusion initiatives are well intended but can come off as marketing campaigns when brands talk about their initiatives without changing the underlying structure that reinforces bias. While many organizations are attempting to diversify their culture, individuals are still feeling isolated or treated with tokenism.

Using IBM’s Big Bets Prioritization Grid, event attendees prioritized top ideas for inclusion of underrepresented persons in the Women in Product community. The top idea was the most surprising: Let’s define what diversity means to us before attempting to solve it. As product people, we should practice what we preach (human-centered design) to avoid self-serving solutions.

Thank you

As the Women in Product Chicago chapter grows and matures we hope they’ll take these ideas into consideration to develop a stronger community.

If you like what you read and want to learn more about product discovery techniques, contact Upfront Work for a free digital handbook on Discovery Techniques. Upfront Work is a product management consultancy that helps companies with product strategy, management and training. Founded by product experts, we bring structure, scale and speed to products and teams.

Jess Mean