Jennifer Locklear: Nurturing diverse leadership and the community

Jennifer Locklear is passionate about nurturing diverse leadership. As chief talent officer of ConnectWise, and co-founder of Fe League (alongside Keri Higgins-Bigelow), a Tampa Bay area women in leadership group to advance women in corporate roles, Locklear knows diversified leaders strengthen a company.

As she explains, “you want the people you hire to reflect the concerns of the full population. If you’re in a field that’s doing clinical research, for example, and you have any underrepresented group, when it comes to important projects like clinical trials, you’re not going to have the range of focus that is necessary. You want to know that you’re fully representing who you’re trying to help. If you don’t have diversity, whether it’s race or gender, you’re going to miss huge pockets of people that can be helped through the work you’re doing.”

Overseeing more than 1,100 employees for ConnectWise, an established global leader in IT for decades, with a wide range of technology and services platforms, Locklear particularly notices the dearth of women in STEM fields. 

“Especially in technology,” Locklear says. “Many companies struggle to find top diverse talent. And when you look at the percentage of women with STEM degrees, it’s dropped down to about 24% of the degrees that are given, so already you’re at a deficit trying to find diverse talent. Companies now have a great opportunity to step up to support a diverse workforce, specifically women. If you think about things like flexible working arrangements including flexible hours, benefit packages that help women, or mothers, leadership programs and career investments — those steps can help overcome the deficiency in STEM talents.”

Locklear believes the pandemic has opened the door for rethinking work parameters that in turn, opens the door for more diverse hires. 

“By removing the physical barriers around where people can work, it is really opening up the talent pool and that’s allowing us to look at different candidates,” she says. “Companies are reconsidering positions that traditionally required people to be in the office for all working hours. Now they can start looking at more flexible hours and that’s supporting women in the workplace and others who are trying to raise families and help their kids, who can still get in a full day’s worth of work with remote capabilities. And that’s really encouraging for a lot of workers.”

For Locklear, maintaining the overall well-being of a company is as important as securing diverse talent. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Locklear learned early on the importance of individual health and the local community.

Her father was a life-long employee of the American Heart Association and Locklear’s earliest memories involve community service, such as Jump Rope for Hearts in elementary school.

As Locklear explains, “I knew from a very young age things like, never put salt on your food and make sure you’re exercising. And that’s the kind of basic education people need to have healthy, longer lives. I want to make sure that everybody has that information. When you think about women’s health, specifically, most people don’t know that heart disease is the number one killer of women, more than all three top cancers combined. The more we can get that message out, the healthier and longer women can live and have better lives.”

It was natural for Locklear, and ConnectWise, to join AHA’s Go Red for Women Initiative. Go Red is a comprehensive educational platform aimed at increasing heart health awareness for women.

“I would love to make it seem like I’m doing great work for AHA, but the reality is, they’re doing so much for us; they educate us and then we educate our company connections and wider communities,” she says.

Locklear cites an example when lockdown first started and AHA reached out immediately to give advice and support.

“AHA were the first people to contact me and talk through opportunities to make sure people are staying heart-healthy and keeping active,” she says. “Over the summer, when diversity, equity and inclusion went under the spotlight, they called us and said, ‘Hey, we have some programs that can help all your underrepresented groups, not just women.”

We’ve got the greatest benefit, as an employer, to be able to support our people fully, not just their professional careers, but their physical health which affects their mental well-being, too. We owe a lot to the American Heart Association. They’re doing great things in our community.”

Being a role model for the larger community is important to Locklear on a personal level, too, as the mother of three girls.

“I want my daughters to know their overall health is important and realize it is vital to find a good company who will support you,” she says. “Nowhere is perfect, but at ConnectWise we’re making great strides to ensure we’re supporting underrepresented groups. And if local companies engage in great causes, like AHA, you will empower employees who are grateful and can find a bigger purpose for their roles than just what they do on a day to day basis.”

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