International Women’s Day: Hands Raised High
Author: Kate Mougey
March 8, 2021
There are events and then there are EVENTS – shared dates we recognize and commemorate. International Women’s Day (IWD) may not make the calendar of major or even minor league events. But for organizations seeking to recognize the contributions of women and empower what’s close to half of the global workforce, it’s an important day to mark.
Women are inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
Women are world and local leaders.
Women are entertainers and executives.
Women are scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians – though, not nearly enough.
Women are artists, teachers, writers, doctors, and nurses.
But women are faced with a disproportionate number of gender-specific challenges.
I’m proud to be part of a company “choosing to challenge” gender bias, and inequality, and putting names and faces behind the #choosetochallenge oath, IWD’s theme this year, and a company that recognizes this day along with the achievements of women around the world.
As part of a community-building exercise, LiveArea and PFS hosted an International Women’s Day leadership panel. Colleagues from around the world joined to discuss ways to nurture growth and opportunity in the workplace. Stories (sometimes war stories) and insights were shared from across careers and companies.
The panel, led by Consultant Margaret Regan of FutureWork Institute, offered an unvarnished view of the challenges and opportunities in today’s work world – lately, one defined by a pandemic that has wrought havoc in homes, workplaces, and most certainly for the retailers and brands LiveArea and PFS serve. Many of the observations colleagues shared are universal, which is why we’ve curated outtakes and advice from the conversation.
Why So Emotional?
Men are “passionate;” women are “emotional.” Men are “leaders;” women are “bossy.” Assertive equates to aggressive, and in the case of women, it’s cast as confrontational, and unprofessional. This dissonance is a shared experience for many women.
The solution, says Dyana Rivera, LiveArea Director of Quality Assurance: “Everyone needs to a step back and understand what’s behind the ‘feeling’ whether it’s joy, frustration, excitement, or passion. We need to communicate better rather than attaching labels and dismissing someone’s point of view or approach.”
Covid 19 Looms Large
Working from home is the ultimate juggling act in these pandemic times. “In some ways, Covid has leveled the playing field for men and women because now we’re all home with the children,” observed Jamie Saucedo, PFS Vice President of Business Operations.
But it’s not just the day-to-day challenges. A long-term effect looms large. As many as two million women are considering taking a leave of absence or exiting the workforce as a result of Covid-19. This is the first time there are signs of women leaving the workforce at higher rates than men. In the previous five years, McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace, report states, women and men left jobs at similar rates. The report concludes, “If women feel forced to leave the workforce, we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership—and far fewer women on track to be future leaders. All the progress we’ve seen over the past five years would be erased.”
“Covid has leveled the playing field for men and women because now we’re all home with the children.”
Jamie Saucedo, PFS Vice President of Business Operations
Confidence + Competence
Confidence and competence are two superpowers that go hand-in-hand. While this is true in any walk of life it’s particularly true in technology where women tend to be underrepresented. The key to leading with confidence in tech, says Alexandra Wood, LiveArea Director of Solutions, is credentials, which, of course, is a demonstration of competence. Yes, it’s a virtuous cycle – competence breeds confidence, which communicates competence.
“In an area that’s traditionally male-dominated, you might be the only woman in the room. So, it’s important to credential yourself early on,” said Alex. “Establish that you have a voice, a unique point of view on the subject at hand and that you have competence. Women bring a different perspective to solutions and how we think about scenarios, and there’s a lot of value in this diversity.”
Silencing your Inner Critic
“Who do you think you are?” asks the inner critic who owns real estate in the minds of many women today. This voice is bent on perfection, sometimes self-sabotage, and sometimes both.
“The inner critic can be pretty loud, telling you not to speak up in a meeting, saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, but you have to shut it down – don’t give it any airtime. It goes back to competency as Alex was saying, and knowing your value,” observed Courtney Hedges, Area Vice President of LiveArea Performance Marketing. “Easier said than done at first, but it’s a muscle that must be built.”
Hand in glove with the inner critic is imposter syndrome. “I used to ask myself ‘am I up to the job? Am I going to get found out,’” said Samantha Gray, a client partner in LiveArea. “But it’s important to remember when you have that kind of self-doubt that you’ve built up this library, this briefcase of transferrable skills you can use in any role, in any sector and industry.”
“The inner critic can be pretty loud … but you have to shut it down – don’t give it any airtime.”
Courtney Hedges, Area Vice President of LiveArea Performance Marketing
Apology Not Accepted
Women apologize more than men. It’s a fact revealed in study after study spanning years. Not too long ago a freelance writer searched her inbox for the word “sorry.” It was revealed 150 times in just one month – sometimes legit, most times not. Apologies are so chronic there’s even a ”Just Not Sorry” Google Chrome plug-in that polices use and builds awareness of this tic. Sure, we all need to be humble, and certainly accountable, but everyone agrees apologies diminish authority and dilute credibility.
“I used to find myself apologizing,” said Courtney Hedges. “I’m so sorry, I have to run my child to the doctor. I’m sorry. I have to go to his play.” Now, she makes a concerted effort to be unapologetic. “Instead it’s, I’m going to his play because I have I’ve been able to shuffle out my meetings so that I can go to the play; it’s about being more confident and self-assured in your contributions.”
A Line in the Sand
Where does the day start and end? That’s something everyone grapples with, especially women with families and particularly in the time of Covid when work and home lives bleed together. Putting a coda on your day or even restricting hours can be challenging. It’s a potent cocktail mixing guilt, shame, and hyper-responsibility. Again, though, it circles back to confidence, along with knowing and acknowledging your value and setting boundaries.
“I have a period when I go dark – usually from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. I’m going to have dinner with my child. I’m going to be involved in bedtime. There are exceptions sure, but as a rule, I set expectations with my clients, my team members,” explained Jamie Saucedo. “I would encourage everyone to think about how to carve out time and be just as passionate about honoring that time – as you are about making all your meeting commitments.”
“Women bring a different perspective to solutions and how we think about scenarios, and there’s a lot of value in this diversity.”
Alexandra Wood, LiveArea Director of Solutions
Coming Together as a Community
We’re not in this alone – and struggles women face are shared by men, too. Coming together as a community and sharing positive energy and lessons learned, finding mentors, identifying people you can help raise up – all of this is key to success. PFS Solutions Senior Manager Stephanie Klein offered this guidance, “One thing that’s helped me in my career is having someone in my corner. So, try to find someone in the organization. It doesn’t have to be a manager, a direct manager or leader – just someone who can be your cheerleader and fight for you.”
Kate Mougey is Director of Content Strategy and Creation at LiveArea.