On the Journey to Gender Equality
On March 8th we will celebrate the 108th International Women’s Day. As I reflect on how far we have come on this journey to gender equality, I am heartened by the progress made by our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers to build the foundation of a world where women are able to be the best they can be. As I look toward the future and the world my daughter will inherit, I realize there is more to do.
About ten years ago I read an article stating that women will never truly break the glass ceiling if they don’t start helping each other. The article explained that women don’t help each other in the same way men do. You see, there was no “good ol’boy” network for women. I remember thinking how disastrous it was that there was truth in the statement! As I thought about my own career at the time, I realized my male colleagues were the ones who had helped in my career and not the females. In fact, I could not think of a single woman leader who I considered my mentor or coach. As I sat there and continued thinking for a longer time I realized I had two choices - do nothing and keep the “status quo” hoping it would change or I could do something to make it change.
Our mothers and grandmothers had fought for and won us our rights and the legal protection of those rights with landmark legislation such as Equal Pay Act (1963), Title IX (1972), and the grandmama of women’s rights legislation, the 19th Amendment (1920). Yet there I sat in my chair reading how it was not enough. I realized it takes more than laws to affect lasting change. You have to change the hearts and minds - a far more difficult challenge.
While I am not a politician, policy maker, or judge whose decisions can impact hundreds of thousands of women, I am a senior woman leader in an industry dominated by men. If I can change the heart and mind of a single woman or man and get us one step closer toward lasting change of gender equality, I will. My personal mission is to mentor and coach the next generation of women. I will give them the benefit of my experience so they don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. I will champion them with my bosses so they can move higher and farther than I have. The glass ceiling will shatter because of the hundreds of thousands of cracks being made by women pushing harder and moving higher.
But, how do we accomplish it?
To be completely candid, while it is one thing to make such declarations, it is entirely different to actually do it and I had no idea how to actually do it. It is not like you can walk up to the next female engineer you see and say, “Hey, I want to mentor you” but actually, that is just about what happened. Fortunately for me, the company I was at had just started a "women in tech" affinity group and one of the areas of focus was mentoring. I began my journey and volunteered my experience, strength and support to these aspiring leaders by becoming a mentor. Each time a woman reached out to me to for guidance or support, I said yes. I joined groups whose purpose was to help women find women who would coach and mentor. I have had the great fortune to mentor dozens of women over the past 10 years
Most recently I joined Netflix, known for its Freedom and Responsibility culture where I lead a team of highly talented engineers. All employees at Netflix are encouraged to challenge the status quo but to do so respectfully and inclusively - no brilliant jerks allowed. It is the candor, openness and the notion that we can always get better that gives me hope that we will reach the aspiration of gender equality. I have found that this very culture that attracts a diverse group of talented engineers also fosters the opportunity for senior leaders to help mentor and coach new female technology leaders. As I continue my journey here at Netflix, I am surrounded by highly talented, accomplished and inspiring women who travel with me on a similar journey. My fellow women leaders at Netflix have been a great source of inspiration, guidance and energy as we each in our way strive to bring us all closer toward a time when gender equality is the reality and not the aspiration.
On March 8th we will celebrate the 108th International Women’s Day. I am grateful to the inspiring and strong women who came before me and I am even more committed today to do what I can to keep moving us forward. I encourage you to start you own journey or join someone else on her journey. Every woman, every step, every crack in the ceiling gets us farther down the path. Let us all build on the great strides made by those before us and give to our daughters and granddaughters a better and equal world.