There’s an adage that encourages people to “lift as they climb.” As Angela Tolliver (BBA ’92, EMBA ’14) helps women move up the corporate ladder, she might well be the saying’s very embodiment.
Tolliver, Cox Enterprises’ director of information services governance, joined the company in 2000 and steadily rose through the ranks in the male-dominated field of information technology. When she became a direct report to the chief information officer, she sought the opportunity to help other women find their path to corporate success. Her idea: host a lunch to celebrate the women of Cox Enterprises.
“Being in technology can feel like a boys’ club because women are the minority in the field,” she said. “I thought having some type of luncheon would be a way for women to be more connected, and if we were connected, we could help each other.”
Within two years, Tolliver had brought together 75 women in her department, and began inviting women across the Cox family of companies, including from the automotive sales, communication, media and entertainment divisions — and their interns.
“Student interns may know they want to do something in technology, but coming to a forum and hearing six to eight women talk about their careers and seeing the range and variety of their jobs, it’s very exciting,” Tolliver said. “Not only does (the luncheon) promote diversity in the company, it gives interns unfiltered insight into these jobs.”
In addition to the frank panel discussions, networking opportunities, and keynote addresses, the luncheons include awards for female Cox employees who reached high levels in technology or business and used their positions to help others.
“I was motivated to continue to put my time and energy into this, even though most people would consider it a non-work activity,” Tolliver said. “It was something I felt was missing and I saw a need to do years ago, but I never felt like I was in a position to make it happen. But then I realized that if I wasn’t in a position to initiate something like this when I started working for the CIO, then who is? I decided to be the change I wanted to see.”
A recent luncheon, attended by more than 400 women from Cox Enterprises, included a panel moderated by former longtime WSB-Atlanta news anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson.
“The panel discussion we held this year featured women who were very candid about the ups and downs in their careers,” she said. “That’s something that differentiates what we do from a conference you pay for.”
Interest in the event grows every year, Tolliver said. Her only regret is not starting it sooner.
“One thing that has come up in our forum is that women in technology don’t always have the same confidence as their colleagues,” she said. “We oftentimes talk ourselves out of doing things, questioning whether or not we’re capable or worthy to do a particular role.
“I shared in this year’s forum that during my 19 years at Cox, although I saw a need, I continued to convince myself I was not in the right position to make this happen,” she added. “My encouragement to the attendees is they should never shut down their dreams because they could be robbing themselves and others of opportunities.”