My Reflection on Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, highlighting women’s contributions in history and society. This year especially felt unique to me because I am on the Women of Uber Global Board as the Program Lead, overseeing all the projects to facilitate conversation, drive awareness, and improve the numbers of female leaders in the organization.
Many research and statistics still signal that inequality is prevalent around the world. For example, estimated earned income of women is only 63% compared to that of men, according to the recently published Global Gender Gap Report from World Economic Forum.
This post, however, does not attempt to reinforce the many inspiring movements and document studies but is rather a reflection of my own path and a call for an open, honest, and candid dialog.
My involvement in women advocacy has been years in the making. For those who are close to me, I’ve been searching for meaning in my work and career for years. In my last job, I reported to a self-acclaimed “female ally” but his actions often made me wonder if he is truly what he said he is. Joining Uber felt like a breath of fresh air (I know what you think: aren’t there numerous accusations, including Susan Fowler’s post, citing sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior?) because my team and the people I work with are upbeat, intelligent, and driven. But that is not to say there aren’t times I felt like an outsider, especially when I’m still a minority (woman) in my immediate team. Sometimes I wonder why my original ideas became others’ credits, and sometimes I doubt if I will ever be able to manage those very Type-A stakeholders because of my under-promise, over-deliver philosophy. So I did my research and read wonderful books related to the subject: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Women, Men Explain Things to Me, We Should All Be Feminists, and Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. I also attended last year’s Grace Hopper Conference and was so inspired by successful female entrepreneurs and thought leaders like Jessica O’Matthews and Nora Denzel. Most importantly, I was able to connect with other women who have similar aspirations within Uber and started getting more involved in employee resource groups (ERG) striving for the same cause. To say every step of the journey has been rosy and without heartache would be an understatement. Regardless of gender or race, conflict is common when working with groups of people. I have to learn from various perspectives and pick the fight that’s near and dear to my heart for advancing equality and women’s representation in leadership.
- Fuel actions with aspirations: Although many projects start with solid budgets, for internal ERGs money could be a challenge. I’ve seen people base decisions on whether there’s funding or not, and consequently stall the progress and miss out on the purpose behind why we do what we do. The desire for change and the will to make change happen must come before the financial resources.
- Practice balance and patience: I joined the WoU board earlier this year with a grand plan and many ideas. Nearly two months later I felt slightly burned out just by assisting coordination of International Women’s Day. It’s one thing feeling inspired and compelled to roll up your sleeves and executing; it’s another balancing people’s opinions and preferences and trying to make the best of the opportunity at hand. The Me Too movement originated in 2006 but did not go viral until the last few years because the timing was not optimal. The point is that most plans take time, resources, and commitment and dedication to take flight. Before embarking on a journey for the common good, take care of oneself, balance the amount of giving without burnout, and remember to be patient.
- Allyship counts: I once attended a workplace equality workshop and realized over 80% of the attendees were women, which at first felt comforting. “I’m not alone,” I thought. Everything I learned about in that workshop — everyday workplace bias, barriers to career advancement, stereotypes and double-standards — made me feel helplessly agitated. It is so easy to fall into the victim mindset and ignore the bigger picture. That is, changing the status quo requires awareness and recognition of the issue itself from the general public, or at least the majority of it. If men are the majority in the workplace and in the leadership positions, how can women afford losing that subset of the audience? Perhaps not every man listens and recognizes the issue (or cares to), but we must try. There are allies out there who are willing to admit their blind spots and take a stand to do what’s right for future generations.
What are you reflecting on or aspiring to?