Companies often talk about how committed they are to both creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce. While we have come a long way in terms of equal opportunity, there still remains a long way to go.
The reality is that even in 2019 with many women leading multinational companies and emerging as leaders within critical industries, the modern workforce as a whole continues to exclude, underpay, overlook, and exploit half of its available talent. In fact, the proportion of women at every level in corporate America has hardly changed.
According to the Women in the Workplace 2018 study conducted by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.Org, progress on gender diversity isn’t just slow, it is stalled. To achieve more substantial progress, diversity and inclusion must be treated as a key business priority.
Amid all of this, many women continue to strive and move forward, beating odds, climbing obstacles, and ensuring themselves a seat at the proverbial table where key decisions are made and business battles are lost or won. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we talked to a few amazing women, who shared with us their journey, their story, and what drives them to strive for their goals every day:
Managing Editor, Asia Media International
“As a journalist, I have one vision: the work I do has to be an agent of social change and advocacy. Coming from India, my nationality and sex, both, work as double entendres in the workplace; an inspiration as well as stereotypes I get to defy. The only answer is resistance—as fellow women will agree—in the face of a heterosexist environment that stretches beyond any measure of geography. My mother taught me that a thousand people will bicker about and butcher everything you have to offer, so…just ignore them, or even better, prove them wrong. And the latter is only possible with education (very different from literacy). So, in all, I’d say my education, a refusal to comply with what’s expected of an Indian woman, and a strong passion for change continue to help me carve an audacious space in an otherwise stifling workplace.”
Global Demand Generation Lead, 3M
“I started my journey as a mom, going back to school, and looking to evolve into a professional. Maybe that’s why I worked so hard from day one. Now that I’ve been in my career for going on 10 years, I’ve found that there are a few keys to cultivating a place for yourself at work as a woman and as a professional.
• Work quickly. To deliver on time, or early, stands out in a crowded workplace.
• Be human. Schedule the meetings, be efficient, be firm when needed, but then ask about a person’s kids, their aging parent, remember when they just bought a house and talk to them about décor or their future barbecues. If people feel that you know them, they can be more honest and give you better work. Also, you might end up finding some lifelong friendships.
• Admit fault, then have a plan. This might be my most feminine quality at work – honesty. I don’t mind pointing out when something in a campaign didn’t succeed or when a file was missed. It was my mistake and by admitting that, your colleagues trust you more. Then the trick is to make a plan to fix it quickly or improve the process, so it doesn’t happen again.
I’ve had the chance to work with many smart and strong women in my career so far, and they have taught me these three lessons: To work quickly, be human, and admit fault then have a plan.”
Director of Content Development, Bython Media
“I started my journey in the world of new business creation (commonly known as startups) when I was just 13-years-old. My dad was quite entrepreneurial, and when he put out a new idea to us, I was there managing our team, working to satisfy customers, creating budgets and content, and figuring out ways to get work done (even when I didn’t know what I was doing). Still, with no official business training and over fifteen years later, I love the idea of building things from the ground up, creating things from scratch and learning from my trials and errors.
As a female professional in the workplace, I have had nearly all of the experiences women face in the modern work world. From being underestimated, not being given certain opportunities even though being qualified for them, being paid substantially less than my male colleagues who had similar or less educational and professional experiences, and being told I had to look, act, and speak a certain way in order to be accepted — the challenges for women in the work world today are both big and overcomeable. It can be hard to be the only woman at a meeting, or the only woman representing your company at events, or mistaken for the office assistant.
In spite of these challenges, if you pray, have faith, and work hard, pretty soon you don’t have to prove yourself, your work will speak for you. Over the years of creating a career path for myself, I’ve learned that you need honesty, commitment, passion, organization, and a stubborn will to succeed. It is okay to be both ambitious and not talk a lot; both strong and nurturing; both professional and human. Thinking for myself and being myself no matter what expectations are set, has helped me to succeed in life and work. You must be yourself because if you try to be anyone else or march to anyone else’s drumbeat, you are certain to fail. Nothing is ever easy, but if you’re the best you that you were created to be, any challenges you face are worth it.”
Founder & CEO, BYP Network
“My journey hasn’t always been a simple one. Some might know I was awarded a full athletic scholarship to the University of Florida to study for a master as well as to compete in the javelin – I had ambitions of following the latter. It was an entirely new environment, and I had to step outside my comfort zone and find different ways of making new friends. I met many talented young black people who were achieving brilliant things, so when I returned to the UK, I wanted to keep meeting similar people and expand my network at the same time. I went to networking events, but I found them too stilted or formal, and I wanted to find a way to connect the community in a way that was both open and comfortable for all. From there, BYP Network was born.
I worked incredibly hard during my school years and at the university to ensure I had the maximum amount of opportunities open to me, which led to me working in the FinTech and investment banking spaces where I didn’t see myself represented, which was one of the reasons I created BYP. However, as much as BYP was an idea that I cultivated and grew from my lived experiences, I was also lucky to have mentors along the way who supported and championed me and helped me to build the BYP that we know today.
I owe a lot to organizations who helped me to achieve, thrive and secure funding. Sky named me a Sky Woman in Technology Scholar, I won Founders of the Future’s F Factor Competition, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Sadiq Khan in Paris on his Business Growth Programme in 2018. I’m incredibly grateful to NEF (New Entrepreneurs Foundation) who opened me up to new networks and opportunities to meet investors. The programme has made a huge impact on taking BYP to where it is now.”
Senior Consultant, IBM
“Diversity in all forms is integral to the success of a business and all its employees. I have seen gender bias manifest in the workplace in unexpected situations. It can be difficult to be the only woman at a work event or the only woman at a meeting. However, I believe that it is important to fight past the discomfort to make room for more women at the table.”
Integrated Marketing Manager, Hearst Magazines
“It starts with one word: passion. Success is inevitable if you’re passionate about what you do. I’ve let my passion for digital marketing and content creation drive my success in the publishing world as a woman because I genuinely love what I do every day and take on projects with the mindset of not, “how am I going to get this done,” but instead, “how am I going to get this done, so that it’s better than anyone else who does it.”
I’ve always had a true niche for writing, but never quite knew where I wanted to take my talent until I walked through the doors of Hearst Tower on the very first day of my college internship at 21 years old. At that moment, I just knew. I knew that publishing was where I was supposed to be, and I fell in love with a career. I became passionate about achieving greatness as a woman in the workplace and pushed myself beyond my boundaries by believing that no task is too challenging and no dream is too big.
Over the last four years, I’ve worked in an integrated marketing and editorial capacity at three of the world’s largest publishing houses across 30+ U.S. media brands and I’ve become a published author with work featured across InStyle, xoJane, Elite Daily, and more.
I’ve cultivated a career for myself as a woman in the publishing world with a lot of hard work, dedication, (maybe a few trips to Starbucks?), but most of all, passion—a genuine love for what I do and a pure desire to be the best at it.”
“I knew I wanted to do something different with my life after watching my two older sisters drop out of university to get married and start a family. I decided early on that I wanted to finish my college education and then travel and see the world, and to wait on marriage. I succeeded in my endeavor to attend university and graduate. Not only that, but I am the first in my family’s history to graduate from university.
Fast forward to today and I am happily married for the past 5 years to a man who is a true partner, I am a mother, and I am also the CEO of a global digital marketing agency, Thulium. Life has taught me that we can have anything we want, just not everything we want. Our journey is about choices. Our experience today is the sum total of all the choices we made yesterday. Choose wisely.”
Every woman has the courage and ability to make a mark in their industry or line of work, no matter how male-dominant it is. With these wise words and inspiring stories, we wish all the women out there a very Happy International Women’s Day.