Sara Sanford, MPA, PMP®

Founding Board Member, Executive Director, The Gender Equity Network (GEN)

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Sara Sanford is the Executive Director of Gender Equity Now (GEN) and the architect of the GEN Certification, the first gold standard for gender equity in U.S. businesses. She was a popular speaker at 2018's TEDx Seattle and was recently recognized as one of this year's Women Who Lead by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

An expert in the field, Sara inspires audiences to believe that equity and equality are within reach. She helps organizations embrace the idea that changing mechanics, rather than mindsets, can create lasting change at scale. Unlike many trainings on diversity that bring awareness of the barriers to equity but fail to educate attendees on what steps to take next, Sara's presentations emphasize tangible solutions that business leaders can incorporate into their organization's culture, starting right now.

In collaboration with the University of Washington, Sara conducts research on what drives equity within organizations. Working previously in the financial services sector, Sara saw that ignoring the needs of underrepresented clients and talent meant leaving money on the table. She has pioneered programs to integrate equity into business strategy, giving organizations a competitive advantage that unlocks both social and financial returns.

Earlier in her career, Sara worked in the nonprofit and public sectors, driving initiatives for equity in K-12 public classrooms and sustainable development efforts in Central America. She also helped Fortune 500 businesses shape their Corporate Social Responsibility strategies to have greater impact on the immediate needs of their surrounding communities.

Watch Sara's popular TEDx Talk

Summary of Workshop and Speaking Offerings

#NotATraining: It's Not Personal, It's Systemic

So far, approaches to workplace equity have been scattered and progress has stalled. U.S. businesses spend $8 billion each year on trainings that don't work and actually backfire. The cycle of recruiting women, asking them to Lean In, and conducting diversity trainings misses a crucial understanding of the problem: It's not personal. It's systemic.

In general, there is a lack of clarity over what works – what behaviors, mechanics, and processes should be tracked to catalyze progress towards workplace equity. GEN has identified these systems and created the first standardized certification for gender equity in U.S. businesses.

In this session with Sara Sanford, Executive Director of GEN, attendees will become familiar with an equity maturity model that quantitatively defines what equity looks like and identifies cultural levers that can be adjusted to create systemic change. This is not a training on personal behaviors. It is an opportunity to plan for equity like any other critical business function, identify measurable opportunities for improvement, and implement sustainable cost-effective solutions that yield social and financial returns.

Women and Wealth

Women make up 47% of the American workforce, women-owned businesses represent trillions in economic activity, and women now control over half of personal wealth in the U.S. The majority of financial advisors and professionals in decision-making roles in financial services, however, are still men. Despite data showing that women-owned hedge funds have delivered higher annual returns than all other hedge funds from 2000 to date, women make up a scarce 10% of all mutual fund managers and fewer than 30% of all advisors. Attrition is chipping away at the number of female advisors at a time when their complementary strengths and like-minded perspectives are in demand.

As a former financial services professional and current contributor to Jackson National's platform for thought leaders, Sara helps financial services firms understand how they can prosper by prioritizing equity and belonging as business imperatives.

Negotiating While Female 

Should women feel free to negotiate as often as men? Yes.

Are they treated differently than men when they negotiate? Also yes.

Does that mean women shouldn't negotiate? No.

It means that women will benefit more from using different language and tools when negotiating.

As the Executive Director of GEN, Sara's research has focused on how bias plays out in the workplace and how certain processes and behaviors can counter it. This research led to her identifying methods that women can use to face biases and shift power dynamics in their favor. Acknowledging the unique barriers women face when negotiating, Sara provides actionable tools for treating negotiation as a process of discovery and tactical empathy to get your opponent on your side. Participants walk away with the following:

Past participants have used these skills to successfully renegotiate salaries, job titles, promotions, remote work schedules, and childcare subsidies.

Sara is also available to deliver workshops on the following topics:



Sara's speaking engagements include:

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