March 08, 2021

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #choosetochallenge. As an organization we believe that real growth occurs when our assumptions and beliefs are constantly provoked and challenged so that we continue to grow and become a more inclusive place for women. In the spirit of transparency, we asked several employees to talk about some of the obstacles they have faced in their professional lives, as women, and how we can actively remove them.

When I first joined the Adform USA office we were 100% female - it was just the two of us. But still, we were probably the only exclusively female office in digital advertising, even if only for a short time. Indeed, we see more and more extraordinary women in the tech space, like Susan Wojcicki, Jacqueline de Rojas, and Sheryl Sandberg. However, these are only a handful of top leadership examples in this male-dominated industry. Historically, women have been more likely to be affected by impostor syndrome, making us question our competencies and run into glass ceiling situations, stopping us from advancing in our careers.  
I was recently reading Meena Harris' (yes, she Kamala Harris’ relative!) book to my friend's three-year-old daughter. In the New York Times bestselling piece, a young girl was hearing people labeling strong women in the public space as too loud,' 'too sensitive,' 'too angry,' 'too ambitious.' And I could not agree more with the book inviting us to collectively redefine and reclaim these discourses designed to put us down. We should be ambitious, actively ask for what we want, seek female-oriented mentorship programs, and see more transparent and well-documented progression opportunities in our work environments to help us achieve that.

Women face many obstacles, whether it is the gender pay gap, missing promotions to leadership roles, and the difficulty of combining professional as well as personal responsibilities. Consequently, we should encourage women to ask for what they deserve and offer role models at work and in society. I strongly believe that diversity is a key driver for companies to be successful and achieve their goals. We should acknowledge, that women provide different points of view, offer fresh ways of working together, and bring a great deal of passion. 

I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with amazing female (and male) colleagues across the industry, which has inspired me to follow my ambitions and I am grateful to have had managers who believed in my skills and helped me along the way. But we still have a long way to go to support women in their professional lives and improve gender balance. Women need to believe in, support, and applaud each other more often. And I am certain, that if on top we empower and facilitate women for them to be visible, confident, and heard, we can make the working environment a better one. 

Most of us are aware of the gender gap in our society, and we have all faced situations when it was more obvious than other times. Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility to continue educating ourselves and to spread awareness by highlighting our own success stories so that change can occur organically. The managers we have today are not only supposed to act as team leaders, but they are also supposed to be coaches, empaths, and key motivators. This is what organizations should aim to build. I also think that providing different types of coaching and encouraging enrolment is essential.  A quite eye-opening and insightful read is the book “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez which I truly recommend that every person reads.   
In summary, being true to yourself, being prepared, and being authentic is the antidote to any obstacle.

One of the obstacles that women face in their professional working life is that more focus is placed on obstacles we face rather than the contributions we bring. The biggest obstacles lie in never trying because we are afraid of making mistakes or getting rejected. Let’s face itmost of us do not have jobs where we will die if we make a mistake so we should be more comfortable taking risks in order to grow. So, take the bumpy road if it leads to your dream. Even if the road has blockers or you meet people who try to put you down. No one gets through a life without obstacles. Life hurts sometimes, and never believe in the messages that say otherwise, the successful people you see on TV and in magazines have been on the journey for many years. I promise you they also had a hard time along the way, and they chose to keep moving. That’s where success lies and where dreams come true. But you need to dare to take the risk from the outset. 

As a woman in a leadership position, obstacles and challenges present themselves daily. Being seen past my gender and past the title of a mother has always been a struggle. Each generation has made strides to improve the gender mix, but we have a way to go still. My wish is when my daughter is in a leadership meeting in her future, she will never be the only woman on the call.

I had to think a lot about the topic, as I am not a person who believes in obstacles and I never want to approach any situation from a victim’s perspectiveIn my career, I have never felt there were major obstacles for me. I felt I was always doing as well as I could with my experience, abilities, and the phase of life I was inSo, no grumbles here, but I do have some tips that might be useful to others.  

  1. Seek female role models: I have always been a big fan of looking at kick-ass women around me and trying to learn from them. I wish that other women saw each other a little more as inspiration rather than competition. There might not be enough women at the top, but it certainly looks better than ever. 

  2. Get rid of that unentitled mindset: Research shows that most women are conditioned to feel less than men (in all areas). Often inequalities in pay or career opportunities exist also because we don’t value ourselves at the same level as men (not saying I think you do, it's just research, ok!). I say forget that as it's not necessary. Speak up, have an opinion, grab that mike, try to go for that promotion you want.  

  3. Domestic load juggling: I happen to live in a country that comes across as forward-thinking and modern. However, if I look at a lot of women in my life, what is often also holding them back is the fact that they cannot share the home workload evenly. If it comes down to raising kids, looking after ‘life’ stuff they often carry 80% of the load. Often, they stop working altogether. I was super successful in my early thirties, took a break from chasing a career and, in the last 5 years now that my kids are teens, I feel like I can once again be the workaholic I always wanted to be! ;) 

As a woman working in Adtech, I often find myself in situations where showing feelings and emotions is not encouraged. There are often unspoken rules that dictate your mood, tone, expressions, and body language. If you laugh too hard, if you shed a tear, if you raise your tone a notch, you are instantly labeled “unprofessional” or “too emotional,” while your male colleague is simply determined to be passionate about his work. I choose to challenge that because I believe that acknowledging your feelings and finding the right, respectful way to express them contributes to personal and collective mental health, happiness, productivity, and authenticity at work, which all leads to better results. We can change that by raising awareness, challenging the status quo, and taking a lead in showing feelings to demonstrate how we can become better professionals and leaders, not despite but because of that.



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