Celebrating International Women’s Day: #BreakTheBias for Gender Equality
Every year on March 8th, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, a day to recognize women’s achievements, as well as challenges, but it moves beyond just one day and requires a collective effort where intentional actions are taken every day to achieve gender equality and to break biases. The official theme this year created by the International Women’s Day organization is #BreakTheBias, because biases exist whether deliberate or unconscious, making it difficult for women to rise to the top. Simply recognizing that bias exists is a start, but it’s not enough. Action is needed to break down biases to accelerate progress.
As a second-generation female executive in marketing, I’ve witnessed firsthand the challenges women face in the workplace. I was a child when my mother rose to the top and earned her seat around the boardroom when she became Sr. Marketing Executive at Kronos.
Here are some lessons I learned from my mother:
- Women can do it all! Not just anything that men can do, but anything.
- Set boundaries: Set boundaries and be firm, especially when it means improving your happiness and the happiness of your family.
- Never be afraid to stand your ground and defend your boundaries, no matter what challenge presents itself but pick the battles that matter most
- Recognize, mistakes are opportunities: My mom used to tell me, “People don’t remember the mistake, they remember how you recover from the mistake.”
I have taken these lessons with me in my career. At Ivanti, we live and breathe our core values, values that are rooted in teamwork, being the best for our customers and always focusing on outcomes that are most important for our employees and customers. I am a firm believer that a company and its leadership team must put their money where their mouth is. So how is Ivanti walking the walk when it comes to breaking the bias for gender equality and ALL equality? Ivanti’s executive leadership team is comprised of 50% women!
At Ivanti we believe that women and men need to be partners in breaking the bias. So, we asked a few of the men that sit at the leadership table this question: How have you participated in breaking the bias and what do you plan to do to #BreakTheBias for women at Ivanti and women in your lives?
Here’s their responses:
Al Arun, Chief Customer Officer: I learn and see more about the bias that exists in the workplace, at homes, at schools, in sports, in different countries, etc. from my wife, daughter, my two sisters, my mother as well as from numerous work colleagues and leaders. It is very difficult for people who are not impacted by a bias to understand what it feels to be on the receiving end of that bias. I was in a family get-together recently where a family member made a comment to his sons to ‘not swing his baseball bat like a girl.’ My 14-year-old daughter took exception to that statement and corrected him by asking what was wrong about playing sports like a girl. I noticed that her grandmother immediately jumped in to explain to my daughter not to talk back like that to her uncle.
I realized based on the above experience that these gender biases are not restricted to men but can also apply to women. Sometimes, statements that were considered normal for a certain generation or era have no place in current society. Phrases like ‘Man-up’, ‘Don’t be a sissy’, etc. can appear normal to some people, but can be painful for women who have to hear this.
I use these lessons to remind myself that I must constantly have my learning ears open and try to remove conscious and unconscious biases from my mind and try to understand what a lot of women have to deal with that I cannot possibly experience directly. I have had great mentors and leaders like Nayaki Nayyar, Mary Trick, Helen Masters, Brooke Johnson, Melissa Puls and other great women leaders that I have had the opportunity to learn from directly. They have strengthened my already strong beliefs that we, as men, can learn so much from women.
Jeff Abbott, CEO: I have taken the Ivanti Senior Executive Team from 10% to 50% women in two years. I have an open-door policy and that means connecting with employees one-on-one and listening to employee concerns, thoughts and ideas. I will continue to identify any biases that exist within this organization and take action to stop them. How? By facing them head on and having those tough conversations with those who need to hear it most.
Jason Incorvaia, SVP, WW Operations: I have historically and continue at Ivanti to mentor, create opportunities and promote women. I personally invest time to mentor and train young women to provide a pathway into higher visibility roles and some ultimately found careers in other functions like HR. Currently at Ivanti, we have amazing, talented women leading functions like Revenue Operations, Global Commissions, Hardware Operations and Global Proposals. This is built on my belief and Ivanti’s, that empowering and enabling women, and most importantly taking action to create change and opportunity, breaks the bias.
Michael Mills, Chief Experience Officer: My brother and I were raised by a strong single mother since I was 5 and my brother was 1. She put herself through med school, taking twice as long as it should have because she was working several jobs to afford school. My Mom taught us that strength, courage and intelligence had no gender or race boundaries. BTW – a lesson we were taught after making the mistake as kids of suggesting that she couldn’t dress up as batman for Halloween because she was a girl! She went as Batman and just to make sure we got the point she went as Hulk Hogan and the Hulk in later years! You could say my mom taught us about #breakingthebias way back in 1978!
Recently after talking about gender bias with a work colleague, she shared a moment recently where an all-male group was gathered in a casual conversation where she felt she was not welcome in the conversation due to its composition and “tone”. I made a commitment to her and myself that I would ensure that any social gathering or group I was part of, I would make sure all would be made to feel welcome and encouraged to be involved.
As we reflect on the achievements and challenges that women in our lives have experienced, my question to you is what does breaking the bias mean to you?