Women’s History Month gives us all an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of powerful women throughout the years. In 1987, the month of March was designated Women’s History Month, and since then, we’ve recognized the milestones achieved by figures like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Austen, and—more recently—the first female Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. And, while we celebrate this month to reflect on the countless accomplishments of women throughout history, we also reflect on the work that remains to be done in the movement for women’s rights and gender equality.
Today, the gender pay gap shows that women make 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The pay gap widens even further for women of color and women in the LGBTQ community. We also know that unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and mothers who face greater additional pressures as a result of at-home schooling.
As an organization, we’ve been privileged to hear and learn from women leaders over the course of the past month. Speakers at our Seismic Digital Shift industry and customer event earlier this month included Kindra Hall and Katie Sowers, who gave us a firsthand view of women who continue to push boundaries and forge new paths in their respective industries. As we reflect on Women’s History Month, we invited our Vice President of Global Inclusion to share her perspective on women’s history, as well as the steps we can take to make the workplace more equitable for all.
How have you been inspired by female leaders who’ve made history?
Donna: History is being made every day by female leaders globally. I’ve been inspired by the women who aren’t always seen in the media, or who may not have a book or movie. They inspire me because they were not afraid to stand up and fight for what they believed in. Many women have inspired me to not look back on what we’ve done, but look forward to what we can do: enrich lives, change the world, and be comfortable in my Black and German skin.
How would you describe the current state of affairs for women in the workplace?
Donna: Women have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic stalling their careers, being furloughed or laid off, and facing the challenge of at-home schooling. The crisis has presented an opportunity for our company. Flexible work schedules and remote work environments help our company retain high-potential women, continue to build a pipeline of women leaders, and nurture a culture where women can achieve their long-term career goals.
What steps can everyone take to make the workplace more equitable and inclusive for women?
Donna: Fostering an equitable workplace means that all employees’ needs are met—for all employees to have equal opportunities for promotions, equitable pay, and succession planning among other benefits. We can start by asking the question, “am I confusing equity with equality?” It’s important to know the difference between the two. Equality means ensuring that everyone is treated equally, while equity focuses on giving people the resources and support to be successful. We have to treat employees as unique individuals so that we can meet people where they are. It’s also important that individuals make sure they don’t have biased behaviors or stereotypes directed toward female employees.
What is a key lesson you’ve learned over the years as a woman in tech?
Donna: If you’re the only woman on a team, I say show ’em what you got—don’t hold back! Bring your diversity of skills, experience, and culture to the team and drop them a “bomb of success.”
I’ve also learned that you have to believe in your abilities. Earlier in my career, I tried to assimilate into the “boys club,” and was always concerned about my contributions in a male-dominated field. But I found that, as a high performer, this imposter syndrome impacted my mental health and performance. When you own your talent as a strong contributor, you perform better and your colleagues are forced to acknowledge unconscious bias and challenge their own stereotypes about women. Always respect yourself first!
Who has helped you the most on your professional journey, and how?
Donna: I’ve had many mentors across the globe. The most important mission in my career journey was building a network of people who could help me achieve my career goals. My mentors were very diverse—they came from different countries, cultures, experiences, and skill sets. They were men and women who spanned all levels of seniority. From CEOs to my best vodka-drinking friends, the diversity of my mentors was critical in navigating my career path. I was provided access to capital, career opportunities, professional and personal development, and, most of all, access to a network of high-worth and influential leaders.
To learn more about gender equality and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace, visit the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).