This past year was one of dichotomy – in one breath division, in another, unity. In one breath celebration, in another, regression. In one breath desperation, in another, restoration and hope. When we chose how to recognize International Women’s Day here at Aprimo, we wanted to stay true to both the progress and challenges women see in the workplace. Our goals at Aprimo are two-fold: to celebrate and uplift women in tech and innovation, and #ChoosetoChallenge barriers to gender equity.
We recently sat down with four of our very own women champions at Aprimo to discuss two critical questions facing women in the workforce:
- How do we better support women juggling work-life balance in the face of motherhood?
- How can we better educate our young women on the myriad of career options they have available to them?
Our conversations yielded some powerful insights and stories, beginning with the challenges these leaders have faced specifically as women in their career progression. Petra Tant, VP of Product Management discussed the challenges and decisions she had to face as a mother and a professional. “My biggest challenge was becoming a mom. Having a child and having to decide whether you are going to keep on going or if you want to put your career ambition aside is a difficult decision.”
The choice Petra brought up is a deeply personal one – and it is a choice that fundamentally impacts women in the workforce. In a recent study from Understanding Society, 17% of women leave employment completely in the 5 years following childbirth, compared to 4% of men. Fewer than one in five of all new mothers, and 29% of first-time mothers, return to full-time work in the first three years after maternity leave.
The answer, said Anjali Yakkundi, Sr. Director of Product Marketing & Strategy, isn’t discouraging women from becoming mothers but encouraging both men and women to take equal part in balancing the responsibilities of work and parenthood. We #ChosetoChallenge maternity and paternity disparity head on by questioning the antiquated maternity and paternity policies at Aprimo. When asked about the progress she pioneered, Anjali explained, “The big thing for me is having no fear; say what you believe is right – whether that is an idea you believe in, a thought you want to share, or something you want to push back on.” Under Anjali’s direction and with leadership’s resounding support, Aprimo put policies in place today that are far more conducive to balancing parenthood and career trajectory.
In regards to better educating young women on the career options available to them, Leanne Fleck, VP of Sales shared her own inspiring story, “I grew up exceedingly shy, which is not something many people know – sales taught me how to find my voice. It has given me enormous confidence in my life. I wish more women, especially in the teenage years, would have exposure to sales – the confidence that it instills not only translates to your work life, but also to your personal life.”
Lisa Bowker, Director of Product Marketing & Customer Advocacy, believes increasing women’s exposure to male-dominated fields is essential for gender parity in the workforce. “One moment there will be a big education initiative for women in science and engineering, but the minute you take your foot off the pedal, that initiative goes back down.” Lisa #ChoosestoChallenge this education disparity by contributing to the Women in Engineering program at her alma mater, where she fosters a greater understanding and appreciation for women within STEM fields.
And while there are crucial areas of gender equality we need to improve upon, there has been incredible progress to date. Anjali, Leanne, Lisa, and Petra share the progress they’ve witnessed throughout their careers, and offer advice for young women just joining the workforce.
Lisa believes encouragement and support play significant roles when it comes to choosing a field of study, “While I talked about the importance of education, it’s incredible to see that in the decades I’ve been in technology, there’s been a huge shift – a lot more women are in technology roles and programs and degrees. I started college during a time when these programs were just starting to open up. We were encouraged as women to go into these programs, stretch our wings, see what we wanted to do, and take advantage of what are our aptitudes are.”
Leanne echoed Lisa’s insights and added that representation is powerful, “It is getting better. Now, there are far more people in a room that look like me.” Sometimes, all it takes is seeing just one person that looks like you – be it by gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., to reinforce the fact that you have a place at the table, too. And if there aren’t as many people who look like you? Petra advised, “Ignore the fact that you are the only woman in the man’s world – define your own zone and be respectful and transparent.” Lisa drives home that point, encouraging women to focus their effort and energy on themselves – their goals, their influence, and their path to success, “When you strive to be excellent at your job, to do it well, you will earn respect. When you earn that respect, it opens doors for you.”
Anjali offered a final and powerful piece of advice for all women, “Don’t be afraid to speak up. Oftentimes, giving voice to your opinion allows others to do the same. A lot of women are socialized to downplay their success and it takes a lot of active energy. I would say to be your own advocate, know what you’re producing, know your impact, and know how to measure it.”
Gloria Steinem once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” The fight for true gender equality is everyone’s fight – progress is fueled by your daily choices, by your action or inaction. Throughout our conversations, each woman shared the indelible, crucial impact male mentors have made on their lives and on their career trajectories. We take today to thank every woman and man who continues to lift the voices around them. We take today to thank those who see beauty in diverse thought. We take today to say – Happy International Women’s Day from Aprimo!
Interested in hearing more insights and advice from our Aprimo women champions? Watch their full interviews below.