October 26, 2021 I by Miranda Altman

The Space to Connect

During the past 18 months of the global pandemic, it’s been a challenge to not only create new connections but maintain existing relationships. Even with the camaraderie among us in the music product industry, the absence of an in-person Winter NAMM Show, face-to-face meetings and other events has been a roadblock to nurturing and growing relationships.

Back in March 2021, NAMM hosted a webinar for International Women’s Day. During this session, women were assigned breakout groups for about 20 minutes and given the opportunity to share out. Despite the virtual burnout that many of us had been struggling with, these dialogues were invigorating and promoted a meaningful sense of belonging for many out of a simple, relatively short, structured conversation. We realized that in this unprecedented landscape of our current times, the need for finding new ways to create connection is more critical than ever. The idea for Deep Dive was born.

Piloted by Smart Women in Music (SWIM), Deep Dive is a new, monthly, virtual series that serves as an inclusive forum where women in the music product space can share challenges, give and get advice, and commemorate each other’s wins in a small, breakout group format. The mission of SWIM is to support women within the industry to develop their leadership aspirations, as well as broaden and deepen leadership proficiencies.

In these groups, participants will address multiple topics to foster career growth and mentorship such as gaining influence, work-life balance, maintaining networks and creating equitable spaces within our companies.

In Deep Dive’s inaugural launch on August 26, women from a varied spectrum across the industry gathered to discuss the central topic of belonging — how to cultivate it in the workplace and our own personal experiences within the industry. Personal anecdotes were shared and diverse concepts were discussed. Though there are many perspectives on what inclusivity looks like, Harvard Business Review, in its June 2021, “What Does It Take to Build a Culture of Belonging?” offers up one quantifiable definition of belonging. It means employees are seen for their unique contributions, connected to their co-workers, supported in their daily work and career development, and proud of our organization’s values and purpose.

With limited representation in the top levels of leadership, fostering a sense of belonging can often seem like a hard hill to climb. To reflect further on how this affects our own careers, questions to examine include one’s own definition of what a culture of belonging should look like, what steps we can take to foster this at our companies and for ourselves, and examples of when someone stepped up to make us feel like we belonged and the effect it had.

This conversation around belonging was robust and provided an exciting jump start to Deep Dive. Research has shown that women who mentor and support other women in the workplace are more successful across all businesses. Often this doesn’t happen due to cultural and systemic barriers that are prohibitive to building and creating these support networks.

The ultimate goal of the programming will be to continue to open channels of communication and foster growth together despite these times of COVID-19-related burnout. Setting aside this space will help us become more open and comfortable to discuss the hard things and share experiences that can inspire and motivate. Deep Dive and SWIM are committed to providing educational opportunities that develop and expand women’s unique talents and strengths as we lean on the power of championing one another to amplify our voices.

To register for the next Deep Dive, please visit smartwomeninmusic.org. MI

Miranda Altman is the senior director of operations at Little Kids Rock, a non-profit dedicated to music education in schools.

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