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Peer groups help high-potential women build confidence, excel in careers: Dizy

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March 13, 2023
By Talent Canada

Jo Ann Dizy, co-founder and CEO of #GrowTogether.

Confidence is a key trait in leadership, but it can be hard to find — and even tougher to sustain.

That’s doubly so for women, especially ones working in male dominated industries, said Jo Ann Dizy, co-founder and CEO of #GrowTogether, who delivered the keynote address at Women in Manufacturing earlier this month.

The event was hosted by Annex Business Media’s 14 manufacturing media brands, including Canadian Manufacturing, Plant, Design Engineering and Canadian Packaging.

Creating ‘trusted advisors’

To build that confidence, Dizy uses what her company calls Growth Circles to bring women together to network and build strong connections.


“We curate groups of about 10 high-potential women from different parts of the organization, ideally that don’t know each other and are peers,” she said.

The goal is to create empathy and trust in a community environment and establish what she called “trusted advisors” the women can lean on for support in their careers. It’s about creating a safe space, particularly in areas where they are drastically outnumbered by men, she said.

It also helps build engagement, something that has been missing for teams that had to go remote during the pandemic, she said.

“They weren’t able to build a community or build a network,” she said, which led to increased turnover and a decline in job satisfaction.

“This really aids with all of that. It’s for companies that want to engage, retain and advance their high-potential women,” said Dizy. “And it helps companies attract changemakers to their organization.”

Stretch assignments and imposter syndrome

Dizy said the changes are satisfying to watch, and they often come quickly. As the confidence builds, they start asking for stretch assignments and applying for promotions.

“We talk about things like imposter syndrome and how to speak confidently, how to present really effectively,” she said.

Along with those improvements comes stronger engagement, not just in their roles but also to the company in general, she said, because these leaders feel like their employers are investing in them.

Why not be mentored by your manager?

While time with a manager can be invaluable, they aren’t good candidates to act as mentors to their direct reports, said Dizy.

“There are things you just can’t say, right? Because they’re in charge of your career, so you don’t have that same level of feeling like you can be vulnerable,” she said.

Plus, few employees want to admit to their boss that they’re struggling in any area of their work — but they can open up in their peer groups about those challenges.

“You can say to them, ‘I’ve been asked to do this. I haven’t done it before. I’m not sure what I’m doing, so who can give me a hand?’ It also builds your network and community, which you don’t get when working one-on-one with your manager,” said Dizy.

Choosing staff

The program isn’t for everyone, and Dizy recommends an application process. It does involve a fairly significant time commitment, so you want to find employees willing to make that investment.

“You want them to feel rewarded when they get it, that it’s a special privilege,” she said.

HR often has a good idea of the paint points in the organization, where they lose women — “ a little bit of a cliff where women go up to a certain extend, and then they start falling off,” she said.

For more information, visit https://www.growcircles.com.

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