International Women’s Day 2021: Celebrating the Ways Women #ChooseToChallenge the Status Quo

Maven Wave, Google Cloud, AODocs, Happeo & BetterCloud Celebrate This Year's Theme

This International Women’s Day, we take a moment to reflect. Kamala Harris declares a sacred oath in front of the U.S. Capitol to become the first woman, first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to serve as Vice President of the United States. Serena Williams sweeps the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant, without dropping a single set. Ruth Bader Ginsburg secures equal rights for all after arguing six landmark cases on gender equality before the United States Supreme Court. Ava DuVernay becomes the highest-grossing Black woman director in U.S. box office history, despite first picking up a camera at the age of 32. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black female viral immunologist in her mid-30s, co-develops the Moderna vaccine that’s protecting millions of Americans from COVID-19.

These are the glass ceiling bursting moments when women chose to challenge — to see something that had never been done and chase it down full speed anyway, forging a new path and leaving a trail of “firsts” in their wake. History books will bear their names and inspire legions of girls to go after their dreams, never taking “no” as an answer.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Choose to Challenge” — a rallying cry to encourage women and allies to stand up against gender bias and inequality. Together, we can help to create the inclusive world that we want to see. A world where all women feel seen, heard, represented and respected. Today we remember the famous women who paved the way, but also our everyday heroes: single moms asking for a raise, female executives who lend advice and encouragement to their colleagues, and the strong women who raised us to be fearless.

We invited our colleagues and partners to provide their thoughts on three key questions that get at the root of this year’s International Women’s Day celebration. Read their responses below.

Women and allies: Who is one woman, either historical or in your own life, who inspires you during challenging times and why?

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, a ‘Heart-Centered Leader’. Her leadership style is what motivates me — creating a vision, finding courage in your convictions, and unleashing the power of your people. – Anupam Kaur, Client Executive Partner, Maven Wave

My 5-year-old daughter. She is fearless, willing to try anything, empathetic to others, and she calls everyone her friend regardless of age, gender, color, or country. If she sees a kid in the distance she has never met before she will ask “Can I go talk to my friend?” I wish the entire world had this attitude. – Brad Foster, Partner, Maven Wave

Michelle Obama has always been an inspiration to me. She has reiterated that the First Lady is not a paid position, even so she impacted so many children in engaging them in healthy lifestyles and fitness. She has influenced so many children to be better and is an inspiration throughout all of her advocacy efforts. Michelle Obama continues to inspire me in challenging fights because of her perseverance and not backing down on her beliefs. – Kate McKenzie, Order Management Specialist, Maven Wave

My Mom is my biggest advocate and ally. I am a strong woman because a strong woman raised me. A very hardworking and determined single Mom; she taught me the importance of persistence, gratefulness, and always standing up for what I believe in. She still inspires me with her courage and fearlessness today. – Michelle D’Aquino, Director of Partner Alliances, AODocs

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a woman who really inspires me right now. She’s not afraid to challenge the status quo, stand up for herself when others try to belittle her, and fight for what she believes in — all while rocking some red lipstick. – Paige Krzysko, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Maven Wave

Can you share a time you’ve been challenged at work and how you’ve overcome that obstacle?

Never have I been more aware that I worked in a male-dominated field than since I had my children. Returning to work after maternity leave, juggling parenting and career, last year when we briefly had online-only school to today. I’m incredibly fortunate to have an amazingly supportive husband as well as work for a fabulous company that lets me arrange my day and schedule in a way that suits me and my family best. – Shawna Wilson-Desbois, Technical Account Manager, Google Cloud

I have been in a couple roles where I was the only woman at the table for meetings or the only woman on a business trip. It was intimidating at first but when I finally was able to get out of my own head about it and be myself/speak up, I found myself becoming much more comfortable (and a lot of times being the chattiest person in the room!) – Grace Leland, Client Success Manager, Maven Wave

In consulting, I feel that we face challenges every day, whether it is with a client or just learning new skills. I felt challenged in a very positive way when I began a new project at a significantly more difficult client. The client work was more demanding and there was more C-suite visibility than I had previously been accustomed to. I leaned very heavily on my mentors and trusted the rest of my team to make sure we were able to succeed. In addition to relying on the wonderful people around me, I also dug deep and started reading a lot of books on how to better prioritize my time so that I could be more efficient at my job. I think once I understood that my mentors had gone through similar struggles and there were also good methodologies I could read about, I was less afraid to jump into the fray of work and start getting things done. – Uma Vandegrift, Principal, Maven Wave

Being a woman in technology for over 20 years has presented many challenges. In many cases it has meant that I am the only woman in a meeting or on a team. I’ve learned that the skills I possess and the experiences I’ve had as a woman are valuable and unique. I’ve learned that I need to show up each day as myself and have confidence in the skills I bring to the table. – Christine Linde, Business Development Manager, Maven Wave

I’ve been challenged by the imposter syndrome at various points in my career. What I’ve learned to do is to remind myself that you’ve been asked to be in a room for a reason. You bring unique value that others cannot. Remember that! – Jessica Wesley, Senior Marketing Director, Maven Wave

What piece of career advice would you give to younger women?

I felt like I was in crisis mode when I was 20, because everyone around me seemed to know what to do and I didn’t. The thing is, you can’t always plan a dream. I was lucky that I had the right people around me, so my advice would be to surround yourself with a very diverse group of people. You can learn invaluable lessons from their experience.

It’s what inspired me to travel and network a lot outside of my normal bubble. I did different internships and just jumped on opportunities. That’s how life pointed me in the right direction. I didn’t dream of working in tech when I grew up, but I’m definitely living the dream right now. – Maarit Huhtala, Head of Partner Development at Happeo

Lean into discomfort. The best growth happened when I pushed myself to do things that used to terrify me… right after engineering undergrad, that was public speaking for me. I did sales. After working for multiple large companies, I had a fear around taking financial risk. I consulted for start-ups for nearly a year, with no guarantees on cash flow. There are many other examples of this in my own career where each step into my “uncomfort zone,” opened up my perspectives profoundly. Everyone owes themselves a chance to try what they may not think is possible, sustainable, enjoyable – whatever the blocker may be! – Polly Israni, Global Marketing Lead, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Google Cloud

Grow your career by building your network. Find ways to work on projects outside of your team that showcase your skills. – Brittany Murphy, Sales Enablement Manager, Maven Wave

Be your own advocate! Even the most supportive managers and leaders can’t know exactly what you need to feel fulfilled, or always have the resources to amplify your achievements. If you have ideas, need additional resources to be successful, or want to be considered for that role or promotion, speak up and start the conversation; don’t be deterred by the perceived “social cost” of asking. – Caitlin McDevitt, Senior Channel Manager, BetterCloud

I would like to tell younger women to trust your intuition. Your intuition leads you in the right direction for your career, where you live, and who you surround yourself with. Sometimes you have to quiet your mind in order to give that intuition a voice. I changed the direction of my career when I was in my late 20’s. It was scary and challenging, but I knew deep down it was the right move for me. That change has opened up so many new, exciting, life-giving experiences. – Allison Potter, Partner Development Manager, Google Cloud

Don’t ever let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you can’t succeed. Work hard to achieve your goals but prioritize yourself along the way so you can enjoy the process and your accomplishments. – Rubina Umarji, Deployment Technical Lead, Maven Wave

A career is not a ladder, it is a mural wall. You build it bit by bit, paint it day by day and shape it upwards, downwards, sideways until you complete your picture. It is uncharted, it is different from person to person, but it is up to you as you how you want to shape it and make it become. – Ninh Do, Partner Marketing Manager, Google Cloud

We’re constantly inspired by the women at Maven Wave and our partner organizations who lead by example and teach us what it means to choose to challenge. For another celebratory International Women’s Day story, check out last year’s spotlight on the all-female marketing team who, alongside other woman-led teams such as recruiting and human resources, positioned the Maven Wave brand to be a buyable asset in 2020.

Today and every day, we celebrate incredible women — from the boardroom to the Oval Office, and everywhere in between. Are you interested in joining the team and working alongside the incredible women featured in this post? Check out our open job listings here.

March 8th, 2021

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