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In honor of Women’s History Month, Willow Malone, lead of the Women of SWCA ERG, shares a bit about herself and her career path, the priorities of the ERG, and how she became the group lead. Willow also discusses some of the challenges faced by women in the workplace as well as ways to address these challenges. 


Q: Thank you for sharing your time with us today. Would you like to get started by telling us about yourself and your career?

A: I started with SWCA in 2019 with a previous seven years of experience prior in both government and non-government biology positions. I am currently working as an associate project manager on NEPA and compliance projects and becoming a team lead is my next goal.

When I started managing projects, I realized how valuable leadership skills are for project management and fostering good relationships and that translated into a lifelong passion of mine to empower others to achieve their own vision of success.


Q: What are some of your interests, hobbies, or passions outside of work? 

A: I am very motivated and have several goals I set each year – I am currently training for a half marathon and plan to do my first century (100-mile bike ride) this year. I also read a lot of books, love to cook, and I’m a BIG fan of game nights.


Q: How and why did you become the Women of SWCA ERG lead? 

A: I’ve been the group lead since spring of last year – Sarah Sappington (former group lead, current executive sponsor) reached out to gauge my interest and I jumped on it. I thought it would be a great way to put my career goals into action, and I saw it as an opportunity to help cultivate a more inclusive, engaging, and effective place to work. 


Q: What are some accomplishments, priorities, and goals for Women of SWCA ERG? 

A: Our intent is to promote, connect, and empower women at SWCA to achieve their career goals by providing them with resources, discussion, and support in a safe and shared space.

Our group serves as a platform to amplify women’s voices in the company, including those historically excluded, promote empowerment, and to foster open dialogue within SWCA to increase understanding of the issues women face in the workplace.

We have a lot of action-based priorities as an ERG, like committing to completing one action each month that will better ourselves and our workplace. It’s been cool to see everything we have accomplished as a group in 2022, like sponsoring amazing women guest speakers in top leadership positions across the country. We achieved a lot in 2022 and hope to achieve more this year. It has also been great to see SWCA’s wider Inclusion and Diversity goals turn into achievements, like winning the Comparably Best Workplace for Women award.


Q:  How have you benefitted from being in the Women of SWCA ERG?

A: I love talking to women across SWCA and making connections, sharing resources, finding guest speakers, and building a network of strong women both in and outside of SWCA. I’ve found it really rewarding. This group provides useful tools to navigate my career and personal life as the group provided workshops and discussions on various topics such as tying in your life purpose to career goals, providing feedback to peers and supervisors, radical candor, and identifying and fighting biases.


Q: What are some potential challenges for women in the workplace?  

A: There are a lot of challenges women and historically excluded groups face in the workplace.  Some of these include a lack of representation, gender pay gaps, skewed performance review criteria, and unconscious bias in hiring and promotions.


Q: What are some ways women can advocate for themselves / How can a company better support women in the workplace?

A: One way for women to advocate for themselves in the workplace is to start leading conversations about salary and benefit negotiations – only 30% of women negotiate their salary. Keeping track of your wins, positive feedback you’ve received, and your contributions throughout the year provides a comprehensive and concrete list of accomplishments to reference during performance reviews and promotion discussions.

Leadership can support women in the workplace by using unbiased metrics for hiring and promotions, providing sponsorship over mentorship, paying attention to I&D efforts, making a deliberate investment in women, and being open to feedback.