W@TS Circles: Fostering Authentic Connections Among Women

Learn how W@TS Circles help foster authentic connections, mentorship, and a supportive community at Two Sigma.

A primary objective of Women at Two Sigma (W@TS), one of the company’s four employee resource groups (ERGs), is to foster a supportive, friendly, and inclusive working environment, along with allyship and mentorship.

In 2016, the leaders of W@TS recognized the challenges of establishing and developing authentic connections with colleagues beyond immediate reporting chains. So, with this goal in mind, W@TS introduced Circles, a program inspired by the Lean In Circles made popular by former Meta Platforms COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Their aim was to create a tight micro-community where women could discuss career progression, work-life balance, and other related topics that might not be as easy to discuss candidly in existing settings. By starting Circles, they aimed to provide a safe space for these conversations, fostering a strong sense of community and support.

W@TS Circle Communities

Since their inception W@TS Circles have evolved and expanded to incorporate circles dedicated to the following themes:

  • Topical: For participants to discuss various topics at the group’s discretion
  • Early Career Engineers: For junior engineers to share experiences of navigating the workforce post-college
  • Mid-Career in Modeling and Engineering: For mid-career (~5-15 years of employment) individuals in technical roles, such as quantitative modeling, engineering, and data science
  • Managers: For current managers to discuss their experiences managing others at the company
  • Mothering: For expecting and current mothers to discuss motherhood, with a focus on prenatal and early stages of childhood
  • Parenthood: For all parents/guardians to focus on work/life balance and parenting children of toddler age and beyond

When forming a new Circle, W@TS tries to bring together women from across the organization and from different direct reporting lines. Aside from offering the benefit of meeting women in other areas of the business, this method is intended to encourage open dialogue among participants.

Ingrid Beerer, a member of the AI Core modeling team, notes that W@TS and her Circle supported her transition from a software engineering role to modeling, in addition to offering more general support.

“I find W@TS Circles extremely helpful and refreshing,” she says. “It’s really nice connecting with other women, when most of the colleagues I work with day-to-day are men. There are just certain issues I feel most comfortable talking about with other women.”

The conversations within W@TS Circles communities have also helped Two Sigma identify how it can better support women across the firm. For instance, input from W@TS Circles helped shape company policy around fertility treatments and related women’s health care coverage.

Supporting the Next Generation of Leaders

In addition to creating a supportive space for women at Two Sigma, the Circles program also offers opportunities for members to undertake leadership roles outside their primary areas of responsibility.

In the initial stages of the program, W@TS leaders noticed that the Circle communities that thrived most had an inspiring leader who encouraged active participation and a commitment to showing up for Circle meetings. To enhance the experience for all Circle participants, W@TS now appoints a leader for each one. This individual plays a crucial role in facilitating engaging discussions and sustaining a Circle’s momentum.

“In order for the Circle to thrive, the members need to commit to making it a priority. This starts with great leadership,” says Katie Rice, a managing director in Modeling and a founder of W@TS Circles. “A Circle leader who is committed helps members feel inspired to show up for themselves and the other Circle members.”

Melissa Isaacs, head of the End User Services engineering team, shares that leading a W@TS Circle brings its own rewards, in the form of reverse mentorship.

“As leaders, we show up at our Circles and everybody there, senior or junior, shares their experiences and struggles,” she says. “Leaders have an opportunity to listen to—and act upon—what more junior colleagues are telling them. We try to help, and in helping, we get fulfilled.”

Leaders have an opportunity to listen to—and act upon—what more junior colleagues are telling them. We try to help, and in helping, we get fulfilled. Melissa Isaacs

While W@TS appoints a leader for each Circle, all participants are encouraged to lead at least one monthly meeting. This approach not only ensures a wide variety of topics and points of view are covered, but also helps foster new leaders for future initiatives.

“As my career has progressed, I’ve found allies and mentors in Circles,” says Ingrid. “I’m excited to fill those roles myself. I’d love to be a resource to recent grads, for example.”

The Future of W@TS Circles

As Two Sigma continues to grow and adapt to a hybrid work environment, the members of W@TS Circles aim to preserve the original spirit and purpose of the program by emphasizing authenticity, vulnerability, and action.

“When I got to Two Sigma, Circles helped me feel totally comfortable that I was working at the right place—and I want others to feel that, too,” Melissa says.

She offers this advice to those just beginning their careers on how to get the most out of networking programs such as Circles: “Show up as yourself. Be your authentic self. Always be vulnerable, share, try to learn something from everything you do. Then, do something with that information—don’t just sit on it. Listen, learn, and do something.”

W@TS Circles serve as a testament to the power of community, authenticity, and shared growth within a corporate setting. As the program continues to evolve, Two Sigma and the W@TS community remain steadfast in our commitment to upholding and embracing the spirit of connection and support that has been at the core of the Circles initiative since its inception. We are excited to see how these Circles continue to inspire genuine connections, mentorship initiatives, and leadership opportunities.

Learn more about Two Sigma’s culture and community here. Interested in working with us? Visit our Careers page to learn more.

This article is not an endorsement by Two Sigma of the papers discussed, their viewpoints or the companies discussed. The views expressed above reflect those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of Two Sigma Investments, LP or any of its affiliates (collectively, “Two Sigma”). The information presented above is only for informational and educational purposes and is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or other instruments. Additionally, the above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Two Sigma makes no representations, express or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information, and the reader accepts all risks in relying on the above information for any purpose whatsoever. Click here for other important disclaimers and disclosures.

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