I had the privilege of meeting some wonderful women of MM.LaFleur during our MakerSights women’s trip to NYC last month. MM.LaFleur is a longstanding brand partner who has been integral to our platform’s machine learning from the very start; it is only fitting that they play a major role in shaping our inaugural women’s initiative program as well.

As we’d been in the discovery phase of continually creating and shaping a culture of empathy and inclusion at MakerSights, MM.LaFleur — known for its strong support of female empowerment in both its customer base and within the organization — was a natural partner to look toward for advice. Over coffee and breakfast croissants, Shelby of the Product Insights team and Bianca and Ashley of the Events and Community team shared several refreshing takes on how MM.LaFleur puts their values into action every day.

Let’s first take a look at their mission statement:

“When women succeed at work, the world is a better place.”

How cool is that?! As a female engineer in the male-dominated tech industry, I find it hard not to get inundated with countless headshake-inducing news articles and discouraging statistics about women in the workplace. How different it was for me to hear that not only is MM.LaFleur predominantly female (only ~20% of their organization is male), but also that those men in the minority self-selected to join the company knowing full well that most of their teammates would be female.

Bianca emphasized that setting expectations for the company culture is important; interviewees know from the get-go what MM.LaFleur stands for, and to be successful in the organization, everyone needs to work towards the common goal of helping women succeed inside and outside of work.

Helping women succeed can all start from the simplest of gestures in uplifting one another. A great example we learned from the MM.LaFleur team is their YGG notes, something that the MakerSights women have repeatedly talked about since returning from NYC. An acronym for “You Go Girl/Guy!”, YGG was described by Shelby as notes coworkers put on each other’s desks: a kudos to something positive they did, big or small. What started out as something the women did turned into something the men came to embrace at work as well.

In a similar vein, anyone at MM.LaFleur can be an MVP; weeks before an all-hands meeting, an anonymous form to nominate teammates for the title are sent out and then voted on. This keeps different teams in the loop on how individuals are contributing to the organization, and individuals can feel valued and celebrated for their work. It’s a clear win-win situation.

As we discussed the merits of expressing appreciation for those around us, the MM.LaFleur team asked us if we’d ever heard of the Japanese word “kizukai”? I hadn’t until this breakfast meeting. Roughly translated to “empathy in action”, kizukai takes the culture of supporting one another a step further in meeting people where they are. It’s one of MM.LaFleur’s founding values. Ashley provided us a concrete example: if someone visits the offices of MM.LaFleur on a hot day, kizukai is bringing someone a glass of water instead of just asking if they’d like one. It’s recognizing what someone needs and being proactive about it. It’s allowing workplace flexibility so employees can work from home when they need to. It’s providing paternity leave in addition to maternity leave. It’s creating top-down initiatives that encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work, including sharing stories about their kids, families, and personal lives.

As our conversation started winding down, the women of MM.LaFleur encouraged us to keep the conversation going, whether that’s with other brand partners, in local communities, online, or even at MM.LaFleur’s SF Showroom! (Stay tuned for more details.)

I’m happy to be able to say that I walked away from the breakfast full — full of inspiration, motivation, stronger relationships, and delicious pastries.

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