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International Women’s Day 2024: Real talk on women’s challenges

March 8th marks a global celebration, International Women’s Day (IWD), a moment to honor women’s achievements and advocate for gender equality. 

This year, the theme “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress” underscores the importance of empowering women economically as a catalyst for advancement. Join us as we explore the significance of this theme, distinguishing it from the campaign theme “#InspireInclusion,” and delve into the impact of investing in women’s economic opportunities on the journey towards a more equitable world.

At the heart of our discussion lies a simple yet profound question: What is the one key aspect of the challenges you’ve encountered in your professional setting that you’re eager to see transformed? Join us as our beautiful contributors embark on a journey of introspection and exploration to pave the way for meaningful change.

Jeanny Zhang, Power BI Data Scientist, MaxMine

“It is common for women in male-dominated fields to experience imposter syndrome. I’ve faced it at various points in my career, particularly when entering the engineering environment. Reflecting on my accomplishments and reminding myself of what I’ve achieved helps. However, what has helped me the most is learning to speak up when I don’t know something and asking for help when I need it.

“We need to encourage this in the workplace to give others the confidence to ask for help when they need more knowledge in a particular area. It is ok not to know everything, but every experience of not knowing is an opportunity to learn something new. Many times when I’ve spoken up, I’ve found someone else in the same boat as I am, and we can learn together. It’s also an opportunity to remind people that it may not be as clear, easy or apparent as they think and that there’s always room to make something better.”

Manuela Cadd, Head of Global Strategic Partnerships at Vudoo

“Early in my career, navigating the ad tech space as a non-native speaker with a strong accent presented unique challenges. Despite seeing few female leaders, I wasn’t discouraged. Starting my own company was not just a personal ambition but a mission to prove success based on knowledge, regardless of background. This ‘blessing in disguise’ gave me the confidence to forge my path and inspire others.”

“Women in tech will face obstacles, but my advice is to persist. Don’t be intimidated by technical jargon. Build a strong network with mentors both inside and outside the industry to support your success.”

Rachel James, Senior Manager, Brand & Communications

“Coming from a creative agency background myself, I know there are fewer female creative directors than male creative directors, leading to a loss of valuable perspectives. For women to feel empowered and succeed, we need to invest in mentorship programs specifically designed for creative leadership and, crucially, offer flexible working options to accommodate childcare responsibilities, which often fall to women.”

Janani Krishnamurthy, Director (Product)

“Personally, something that I am deeply passionate about is increasing gender diversity in senior leadership. The challenge lies in empowering women to embrace bigger roles while also offering them the flexibility to balance family life without facing tough trade-offs. For me, the scarcity of women in top positions made it hard to envision a path to leadership.

“I think it’s crucial for future generations, especially those who share my Indian heritage, to see that reaching leadership roles is both possible and encouraged. Driving this change is essential for fostering a future where diverse leadership is celebrated and seen as the norm.”

Rowena Westphalen, Senior VP of Innovation, AI & Customer Advisory, at Salesforce APAC

“Addressing intersectional challenges faced by women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, and other marginalised groups requires a multi-faceted and inclusive approach.

“I’ve touched on a few already, namely inclusion through business cultures of authenticity, transparency, and flexibility and the importance of broader education and awareness among employees. Still, there’s also something to be said for creating communities of mentorship and safe places. 

“That’s why we created the Salesforce Women’s Network in 2008, Salesforce’s first business resource group (BRG) that amplifies the progress of women in every step of their journey, through professional and personal development, allyship, supportive connections, and taking action on gender equality. Since 2008, we’ve introduced 12 more BRG’s including Abilityforce, a place for employees to work together to advance accessibility and accommodation strategies, Outforce, a group that aims to promote an open and inclusive culture that empowers employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work every day, Boldforce, which aims to expand and empower the Salesforce black community and our newest group, Salesforce Parents and Families which is focused on driving equality and equity for employees in all stages of their unique parenting, family, and caregiver journeys.” 

Marilyn Wong, CFO

“When I was a younger woman looking at progressing in my career, I was always hesitant in applying for roles in which I didn’t tick all the boxes of the role scope. My shift in mindset occurred when I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” where Sheryl described the difference between men applying for a role and women.

“A man would apply for a role if he only was able to do 60% of the job whereas a woman would only apply if she could do 100% of the job. That was me!  From that point forward, I consciously decided I would think more like a man and just go for it. That changed my entire career trajectory, and I am proud to say has led me to where I am today. I cannot be more grateful to Sheryl for imparting her words of wisdom to women all over the world just like me.”

Jeddah Ryan, Director (Marketing)

“In my career, I’ve found, women often step back from advancing their careers when they start families, not because they lack ambition, but due to the overwhelming task of balancing work and home life. They trade leadership opportunities for more flexible roles, hoping to reduce stress, largely because the support they need to manage these personal challenges is missing.

“These women have the potential to be our future leaders. We must recognise this gap and work to provide the necessary support, ensuring that we’re not only retaining great talent but also nurturing our next generation of leaders. It’s essential to fill the pipeline with capable, supported women ready to lead.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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