By Chase Poffenberger and Kate Simpson
One snowy evening back in the winter of 2015, I made my way to a gathering of women in a DC hotel ballroom called “Women in the World.” The panels—made up of impressive women representing a variety of fields—gave me my first taste of “live journalism” as legendary writer and editor Tina Brown defines it: “vivid storytelling, stirring videos, and provocative discussions.” I was hooked! The following spring, Kate Simpson, ATA’s President, and I attended the 3-day WITW summit at Lincoln Center in New York, and have attended each year since then.
This year, Kate summarized the activists, politicians, CEOs and changemakers that we saw on stage:
“From Stacey Abrams to Hillary Clinton, from Ashley Judd to the Soloway sisters (creators of Transparent), from a Uighur woman fighting the detention camp policies of China to a Jordanian woman who established the first self-defense school for women in the Middle East, from exiled Masih Alinejad who started a social media campaign in Iran for women to remove their hijabs to Ibtihaj Muhammad, the Olympic medalist in fencing, from Indra Nooyi (former Pepsico CEO) to Cindy McCain and Glenda Jackson… The list of women changing the world was long and powerful.”
Not only does this mini-retreat in New York feed our souls, it has been the catalyst and inspiration for us to continue to make our company better and stronger. Here are some of the changes we’ve made since attending the conference.
We offer paid parental leave: Kate and I are both mothers who strung together vacation leave and sick days to fashion our maternity leaves, as many, many mothers before us have done and continue to do. We knew we could do better for ATA’s new parents, and set out to find a way. What began as a new staff policy of two weeks of paid maternity leave four years ago has become a new benefit of 8 weeks of paid parental leave for either father or mother.
We no longer request salary history from job candidates: Requesting salary history in the hiring process disproportionately harms women who exit the work force more frequently than men in the course of their careers to raise their families. As a result, women can fall behind in salary. Our own instincts were validated at Women in the World when we heard Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City major Bill DeBlasio, speak passionately about her work to ban the practice entirely in New York. As a result, our hiring practices are more transparent than ever, and salary history is never a factor in determining a new employee’s starting salary.
We established a diversity and inclusion committee: We are a company that embraces difference and celebrates diverse cultures, and we believe in learning from those who do not share our backgrounds, our viewpoints, our experiences. We embrace these values both within our work and our workplace. Diversity within the workplace engenders enriched innovation and creativity, as well as better-informed decisions and well-rounded perspectives. The ATA Diversity and Inclusion Committee, founded formally a couple of years ago, has drafted recommendations on promoting diversity in our recruiting practices and continues to lead our staff training curriculum.
We remain committed to our philanthropic goals: Attending Women in the World reminds us that the world’s problems need passionate advocacy and a steadfast commitment to find solutions. We remain committed to our areas of philanthropy: diversifying the field of study abroad through our sponsorship of The Fund for Education Abroad, advancing the travel industry’s positive social and environmental impact with Tourism Cares, supporting displaced peoples through the International Rescue Committee and conserving our local environment with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
We can’t wait for next year!