Inspired by a desire to create opportunities for women to expand their skill sets, SpareFoot employees Leslie Hall and Megan Oertel co-founded the Women of SpareFoot (WoS) organization in August 2016, with the mission to empower women at SpareFoot to meet and exceed their goals through advocacy, awareness, development, and outreach.

Beginning in 2018, the mission of The Women of SpareFoot is to create the means to develop, support, and empower women at SpareFoot and be known externally as a champion of women in the workplace.

“SpareFoot executive support has been critical,” said Megan Oertel, who was involved in workplace women’s groups at prior companies. “CEO Chuck Gordon and the rest of our leadership team have been on board from the beginning,” Oertel said.

“We introduced Women of SpareFoot as a platform for our female employees to advance their personal and professional goals,” said Leslie Hall. “Early on, the emphasis was on connecting with our female colleagues across the company and providing events that met their greatest needs,” Hall said.

What We Do

During the first year, many members hosted an event for their colleagues, providing opportunities to learn new skills, grow professionally, advocate for women, and participate in outreach in the community. Topics included web design and coding, project management and analytics, and tips on PowerPoint presentations. There was also a book club and plentiful volunteer opportunities.

“I was thrilled when Megan and Leslie approached me about creating the Women of SpareFoot,” said SpareFoot CEO Chuck Gordon. “We want all of our employees to know they are valued and feel comfortable that they are being treated and paid fairly, so they can focus on doing great work,” said Gordon.

The group laid the groundwork for another effort, SpareFoot’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce. This team took the lead on ensuring that SpareFoot is a leader in pay equity. The company had an employee analyze anonymous data to ensure fair pay, and was also one of the first companies to receive SameWorks equal pay certification.

Oertel also led the effort to create a Mother’s Room that is among the top 3% of Austin companies that participate in the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program. She has written more on her experiences in Quartz at Work.

“We’ve outgrown our founding mission and our new goal is for Women of SpareFoot to be known externally, and to participate more in the community at large,” said Hall. “I want women to feel respected, empowered and championed — I also want people to know that SpareFoot is a great place to work so that we can continue to recruit talented women.”

Leading the Way

Through their Women of SpareFoot work, Hall and Oertel learned there was a need for leadership in starting and maintaining similar groups at other organizations across Central Texas. As a result, they co-founded a separate non-profit organization, the Austin Diversity & Inclusion Project, along with Christine Luo, a Product Manager at Indeed.com. Their mission is to provide leaders and emerging leaders with resources to promote diversity and champion a culture of inclusion within their own organizations and Austin at large.

The group created a logo and associated branding thanks to designer Giselle Marsh, and launched a Women of SpareFoot Blog to promote the work that is being done in SpareFoot and the larger Austin community. In the near future, the Women of SpareFoot hopes to continue its book club and volunteer opportunities and launch programs on public speaking, improv, unconscious bias training, and more.  

“One of the best things about the Women of SpareFoot is the skills we have developed and the relationships we have built,” said Emma Nostrand, SpareFoot Director of Technical Services. “There’s more to be accomplished, but I believe we are on the right path, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that is setting the standard for other groups across Austin and nationwide.”

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Liz Elizondo