International Women’s Day: Choose to challenge

Remote work leveled the playing field for working women. The dogs, babies, and kids showing up in Zoom chats have revealed the human side of our colleagues.  Shouldn’t we be thinking about creating a more flexible, sustainable, and human work environment for everyone? After all, every one of us can do something to challenge the […]

Remote work leveled the playing field for working women.

The dogs, babies, and kids showing up in Zoom chats have revealed the human side of our colleagues. 

Shouldn’t we be thinking about creating a more flexible, sustainable, and human work environment for everyone?

After all, every one of us can do something to challenge the norm.

This International Women’s Day, women in technology have the opportunity to lead the challenge by being visible and vulnerable according to Neve Taylor, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Leader & Chief Storyteller at Together Equal, Chiedza Muguti, Head of Product at Penta, a digital business bank platform, and Annika Allen, Global Diversity & Inclusion at Barclays & Co-founder of the Black Magic Awards.

What we talked about:

  • The specific skills women bring to Fintech
  • What’s most rewarding about flexibility and remote work
  • What we choose to challenge this year

What women bring to work

Women often encourage the positive side of vulnerability.

In leadership, vulnerability is a powerful and compelling attribute to have. It helps people feel comfortable. Especially when things are going haywire. Like…say…the world is going right now.

That’s not to suggest that men can’t be vulnerable, too, of course. But in general, women are often much more comfortable with entering and staying in a vulnerable space. From that space, they can invite others to come in, open up, and share, too. 

Vulnerability is key because people who are in more junior roles might be fearful of leaders. But if you show that you’re vulnerable, and people feel like they can relate to you, ask you questions, and learn from you, then they feel safe and valued. 

“I choose to challenge myself to speak out and create a positive conversation out of something that is negative.” — Neve Taylor

Yet we shy away from vulnerability in business. We don’t let our thoughts get heard.

Young women in particular may be reluctant to speak up or ask questions. The traditional work culture hasn’t rewarded younger women, and we’re seeing women leave companies because they’ve gone for long stretches of time without seeing their kids awake.

Right now, while we’re building remote work cultures, women (especially minority women), have a real opportunity to stand up, speak out, and be vulnerable. 

Why remote work can reward everyone

At many enterprise-level companies, no one leaves at 5:00 pm. Women who don’t escape the office until 7:00 pm and then have to take an hour-long commute home may not see their kids from Sunday night to Friday night. 

“I’m a mom of a two-year-old, and so work-life balance is very important to me.” — Annika Allen

You can’t raise a family on the weekends. It’s not healthy, feasible, sustainable, or fair.

Remote work is creating new opportunities for women in this situation. Now, it’s possible to develop yourself from a powerful position and not eat up your entire week. For instance, you can pop over to the school, pick up your child, come home, and return to work — all while being trusted by your company.

Cutting out useless meetings, interruptions by co-workers, and that emotionally exhausting open office plan can trim your work hours back to something more manageable. 

Which begs the question: Will we ever return to face-to-face work?

If you’d asked all the big companies a year ago, “Would you ever do even virtual training for your employees?” 

They would have said, “No, absolutely not.” 

But over the past 12 months or so, we’ve learned that we can have working relationships in a virtual environment. We can connect. We can talk. It can work.

COVID changed work profoundly. 

We won’t go back.

“We’re seeing such a human side to our colleagues. You see the dog in the background or the baby crying, or someone just has to hold the child during a meeting.” — Chiedza Muguti

Choose to challenge

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is, “choose to challenge.” Each and every one of us can do something small to challenge the norm on a day-to-day basis. 

What are you choosing to challenge?

Cara Hayward

To seek out more senior-level female mentors who have families

I am in my 30s, and something that I’ve realized is that I have no one who has always pursued a career that also pursued family, balanced that, and made it work. That’s something that is on my goal list for this year. So that’s what I’ll be choosing to challenge.

Neve Taylor

To speak out and create a positive conversation out of something that is negative

Mine is for women at a certain stage in their lives. I’m going to be 50 next year. I have worked with women all my life, and I’ve seen young women struggle to speak up. I’m still reaching out to women who cannot be heard in organizations. 

In my position at Together Equal, I have a chance to talk to different organizations and encourage them to have their own voice. We can all say the word diversity and promote it, but for a lot of organizations, that’s just ticking a box. 

If you’re a black woman in tech, you’re golden. Everybody wants you. But how is this organization supporting you? How is its leadership enabling diversity to happen in the culture? 

Tech companies are happy to attract diverse talent. But the culture can feel so oppressive to different people from different backgrounds that diversity can’t be sustained. 

Chiedza Muguti

“I choose to challenge myself to be much more visible.” — Chiedza Muguti

Aspirational black women need models.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are good examples of that. You see the beautiful grace between them. While growing up, Naomi probably watched Serena and thought, “I can actually do this. It’s possible for me to get to that level of greatness.” 

I’m not Serena Williams, but as a black woman in tech, I recently started doing more podcasts. When I did, I began getting messages from other young black women who were inspired by what I said. 

I want to make myself more visible and talk more about my story, my journey, and my career. I want to share the cheat code, so to speak, to get to different places and overcome imposter syndrome.

Besides, it’s good to be visible and share more. 

It goes back to the importance of vulnerability. 

I’m big on that.

Annika Allen

They say it’s going to take 100 years to reach gender parity, and I personally think that’s way too long

I’d love to do things to accelerate this. It makes me angry that women get paid less for doing the same job, and, as a black woman, I know that the gap is worse.

When I started my career, I didn’t know certain jobs were available to me.  I think we need to do more, to promote certain jobs to girls so that they know they’re suitable for those kinds of jobs.

 

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Until next time!

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