by Carson Miller
2020 was not kind for many as everyone’s sense of “normal” was disrupted. For women in the workplace, this has been especially true as women’s participation in the labor market hit a 33 year low. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s imperative for each of us — both men and women — to reflect on our own journeys and what we can do to continue to promote women in the workplace. As I reflect on my journey, particularly around International Women’s Day, I think about the following:
Male Allies. One of the most important things in my career thus far has been mentorship by several men, some of whom are in leadership positions within IBM and some in external organizations. What each of these allies has done is take the chance to get to know me, first personally and then professionally through various work products. By having that personal relationship, there is an immense sense of trust in who I am and thus what I will bring to the table. With this at the foundation of the relationship, I also trust them for their opinions on a variety of topics and know they are looking out for what is best for me — not just what is best for them or a similar colleague.
Inspirational Females. I often examine the careers of many women around me and how they have navigated the ropes and trail blazed their own paths. I often think of what Caroline Roche, an all star IBM partner told me: don’t let potential barriers or concerns be something to solve until they are actually a problem. What’s most important in identifying females to look up to is why. What is unique about them and what they do, besides being female? There’s much more to each person than the label of their gender.
Understanding What I Bring to the Table. This one is sometimes the hardest, but it has been key in allowing me to best position myself and those around me for success. I’ve learned to think about what drives my best work and what I want to be known for. By understanding these pieces I can concretely tell others what I need from them and how I can best contribute to ensure the success of a project, trip, or anything else.
Meaning of International Women’s Day (IWD). This day holds a special place in my heart for several reasons. First, it’s the celebration of the impact that women have had around the globe. The day acknowledges women’s accomplishments while also allowing them to share their stories and continue to advocate for equality. Second, this year’s IWD celebrates 10 years since I received the honor of a lifetime from President Clinton, as One of Ten Most Inspiring Women from Around the World during his decade of difference. Having earned this recognition days before my 15th birthday reminds me that I need to channel the same ambition, passion, and perseverance throughout life in order to help continue my own progression, as well as to help other women around me.
My ask to each of you as we conclude the month of March, is to think about what each of the above means to you. For the women, think about how you best elevate yourself and also how you can bring other women with you on your journey. For the men, think about what actions you’ve taken, but also what additional things can be done to better understand women’s experiences and provide support. Together we can continue to reach higher and accomplish even more.