OHBD 2015

OHBD 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

International Women's Day #MAKEITHAPPEN

Recently, my company had it’s first formal International Women’s day celebration.  On the day after, we had sites from around the globe connect via video conference.  I was asked to wrap up the event.   There were some amazing speakers and I feverishly took notes as they spoke so I could identify themes.  I shouldn’t have worried: themes just emerged – from people who were at early or later parts of their careers and from different parts of worlds.  They resonated with me:
  1. Stories empower.  Role models inspire. We all need to encourage the women and little girls in our lives to dream big and know all is possible for them including careers in STEM.
  2. Taking initiative as a leader and over-coming fear is a vital component of success for yourself and others.
  3. Know what matters to you, what you need and ask for it.
  4. Learn the skill of brutal prioritization and apply it to all facets of your life.
  5. Use data and statistics as you make a case for action or ask for what you need.  Make them your friends; they have power.
I then shared my story including my inspiration which hit some of the same themes.

As women and as humans, we all have many roles.  Professional roles like the one I have and the ones prior which ranged from my most recent as Legal Director of France and the one furthest from my formal education as an attorney as Director of Competitive Strategy and Negotiation.  I have the privilege in my multiple roles across many years to collaborate with amazing women and men from all walks of life and backgrounds.

It is humbling to remember why the day was created over 100 years ago and to celebrate all the progress we made since.  We also need to acknowledge the work left to do.  The opportunities I enjoy are thanks to those amazing women and men who came before me, including my two amazing grandmothers who survived harrowing WWII experiences including one living through a spouse in a concentration camps and one a terminally one, supporting the Dutch resistance while raising their many children (11 between them) in the most difficult of times, my amazing mother who supported herself as of 17 and moved to the US while still a young woman to start a new life.  Another hugely influential “woman to be” in my life is my little daughter.  Born in Ethiopia over 6 years ago, she experienced massive change and challenges in her short life.  Her ability to fill a room with light and laughter while never shying away from the tough question or difficult situation fills me with AWE.  I want her grown up world to provide girls like her more opportunities than exist now.

Our roles often extend to spouse, friend, sister, cousin, mentor, leader, team member and so many more.  They all make up the mosaic of the person we are becoming over the arc of our journey.  More and more I see a role I need to play in equalizing opportunities.  Two life events that made this part of my mosaic come starkly into focus were being diagnosed with cancer at 37 and bringing home our beautiful daughter on my 42nd birthday.  

The first reminded me, in a way I couldn’t avoid, life is precious and fragile and not guaranteed.  Going through that experience made me want to leave this world a little better place no matter how much time I was given.  And the second made me face the simple and unfair fact that where you are born can make a huge difference in what path you can pursue, especially as a little girl.  

Because of life circumstances, country of birth, gender, race or culture – or some other factor, many people have less opportunities.  By supporting each other on International Women’s day, we take one step closer to making the same opportunities available to all.  I see celebrating and standing together for a common purpose as a beautiful part our humanity.  I am proud to be part of the amazing group that made our first celebration of IWD such a spectacularly special one.  Thank you all!  

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