The Invitation to the Table
Awareness AND celebration. International Women’s Day is a moment to lift up and look around at how far we’ve come and how far we have to go to embrace equity. The reason we take a day to focus is because gender equality around the world is not in balance. Are we making strides? Yes, but there is more work to do. It starts with ensuring that girls in all countries have access to education and are not suppressed from learning to read and write. It expands to encouraging young females to pursue higher education and to follow their interests and pursuits. And it leads to corporations and leaders supporting women in the workplace and ensuring equal opportunity and access to professional development and career opportunities.
In my thirty-year journey in the workplace, I’ve experienced being the only woman in the room and being surrounded by some of the most amazing women in the room. I’m lucky. I’ve had women to support me in this journey—the “sisterhood” or “female tribe” as I like to call it. Even if they don’t know me or have had limited interactions, the number of women who have freely given their time to mentor and support has been inspiring. “Pay it forward” is always the message and is also what I say to others as the guidance and coaching is passed down the chain.
Women support networks may be a huge help, but men have made tremendous impacts over the past decades to achieve strides in gender equality. Some contribute in their positions of leadership, such as political leaders or those with authority who can open doors to start the process of accessibility. However, some of the most influential men are those riding along on a women’s personal journey.
I have had a lot of men who’ve supported me, starting with my dad and husband, who instilled in me that I could accomplish anything I put my energy to. Peers, bosses and executives followed up, invited me to the table and encouraged me to “get in the arena” and “act as if” I knew exactly what I was doing. Trust me when I say that it’s not always going to be that case—be confident and just “get in there.”
In the early part of my career, a male boss of mine invited me to join the technology council for our company as the product representative. The members from our organization, all men, would meet on a regular basis with representatives from each of our technology partners, also all men, which included the likes of Microsoft, Intel, Dell and many others. The invitation to the table was the first step, but the encouragement to lean in, discuss, debate and engage in active dialogue about our company’s business and technology strategy instilled me with a new sense of confidence. It also gave me access to learning more about how to impact the business. I’ve never forgotten the invitation to the table.
Today at Brightly, we celebrate the women around the globe who support and carry each other every day to lean in, bounce back and be resilient. As a company, we strive to find ways to extend invitations equitably across the workforce. These invitations are ways to stretch our teams, succeed and fail in a safe environment and doing so, in a way, that balances work and family. Building a workforce that is diverse is not only important to building a great culture and a great place to work, but also ensures diversity in thought, which leads to better business outcomes.
On this International Women’s Day, take a moment to ensure that you are embracing equity around you. “Lead Deliberately” to extend opportunities and ensure that accessibility to experiences and learning are available and extended with equity.