International Women’s Day: Striving for a More Equitable World

To honor the 2022 International Women’s Day theme, “Break the Bias,” we asked women at Workday how they’re working to achieve a more equitable world. Read about their activism and guidance on caregiving, the gender pay gap, executive leadership, and more.

Activist Malala Yousafzai has been fighting her whole life to break the gender bias. “I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back,” she said.

“Break the Bias” is the theme for International Women’s Day 2022, celebrated on March 8. In honor of this annual event, and Women’s History Month (commemorated in March in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia), we asked women at Workday to share their perspectives on what this means to them.

We posed questions to women of many different backgrounds—including race, ethnicity, geography, job experience, and job field—about how they’re trying to break the bias in areas such as caregiving, the gender pay gap, and executive leadership. Here are some of the steps they’re taking to help achieve a more equitable world. 

How will you break the bias to improve equity in employment opportunities?

Nerida Priestley is a senior services executive at Workday based in Sydney, Australia:

I intend to break the bias surrounding stereotypical employees fulfilling particular roles within our industry. I break the bias by acting as a role model for other women working in the IT sector, speaking up when circumstances prevent others from reaching their full potential, and by sponsoring colleagues for roles and opportunities. Everyone plays a part in this by creating a new mindset around the jobs we fill and encouraging everyone to apply, no matter what their background is.  

My position on the APJ VIBE™ (Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity) Council allows me to encourage other Workmates—our name for our Workday colleagues—to step outside of their comfort zone, to be seen and heard in ways that are designed to contribute to their professional development. This gives women a better chance of being considered for employment opportunities. I also contribute to breaking the bias by educating leaders on intersectionality and inclusivity, to ensure they provide opportunities that are equitable to all employees.

How will you help break the bias in career fields historically dominated by men?

Caroline O’Reilly is general manager of analytics based in Dublin, Ireland:

We need to start breaking the bias from a very young age. I started this with my own two daughters—talking with them from an early age about maths and science and how they are intertwined in many aspects of their lives. I’ve been talking to children in our Dublin primary schools about how working in tech opens up opportunities to travel and work internationally, gain independence, and work on diverse international teams. 

I’m deeply grateful for initiatives like the partnership we announced last month with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin). Our goal is to equip early talent with the skills and know-how to pursue a career in technology and also encourage and support underrepresented groups to consider careers in STEM. The partnership will be an opportunity to focus on workforce development, collaborate on innovation with the next generation of engineers, and continue to engage with our local community.

How will you break the bias to decrease the gender pay gap?

Melissa Bowden is senior director, people partner and organizational effectiveness, APJ, based in Sydney, Australia:

There is a vast amount of evidence that indicates the key drivers of the gender pay gap include gender discrimination, occupational segregation, and years not working due to interruptions—such as child care and caring for elderly family members. I am committed to address this by doing the following: increase pay transparency and report on gaps, undertake pay gap audits and act on findings, improve work-life balance, increase availability of flexible work, change workplace culture and address unconscious bias, and enhance availability of shared parental leave. 

Gender segregation across the industry highlights that we need to focus on increasing the share of women in leadership positions. Evidence shows that by doing so, we can drive greater employee engagement and business performance.

How will you break the bias in the workplace to better support caregivers? 

Lindsay Eichenlaub is senior instructional designer of talent experience learning design based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s also a lead for the Caregivers of People With Special Needs (CoPS) Employee Belonging Council (EBC):

Growing up, my stay-at-home mom struggled with her transition back into the workforce. Knowing both motherhood and my career were important to me, I refused to accept the old way of thinking. 

Now, as a mom to a disabled toddler, joining a company that aligned with my personal values was my biggest driver. I feel fortunate to be part of an organization that truly recognizes its employees as the whole human they bring to work. 

I try to break the bias by talking about it. As much as I love my career, I’m a mom first, and I want my co-workers to know that. Outside of work, I mentor moms transitioning back into the workforce through an organization called The Mom Project. I’m constantly reassuring moms that it’s OK to have both!

Thanks to organizations like Workday and The Mom Project, the conversation about caregivers in the workplace is no longer taboo. 

Anubha Samuel is a support analyst based in Auckland, New Zealand. She also weighed in on the question of providing better support to caregivers:

Historically, women had the enormous job of being a homemaker, taking care of children, cooking, caring for the elders at home, and so on. Decades later, despite immense change in the work environment being more friendly and accommodating, women still face biases.

All of us are fully aware of the intricacies of work-life balance. Many of us have children and/or elderly family members to care for. It can be physically and emotionally draining to juggle everything in a day.

While companies understand this, unconscious biases do still creep in. For example, when it comes to promotions, it isn’t fair to choose the worker who has not taken a single day off over somebody just as competent who may have had to take intermittent time off to care for a family member. Or, when considering an employee’s leave or a flexible work arrangement for caregiving reasons, people leaders should remember that employees are Workday’s No. 1 core value.

To mitigate for bias, it is important to be mindful of the assumptions that people may have about gender and caregiving.

“We see how the strengths of an individual come from their experiences, their culture, and their backgrounds.”

Shruti Jana Vice President, Global People Partners Workday

How will you break the bias to help increase representation of women in executive leadership?

Erin Yang is vice president and chief technologist for Workday Ventures, based in the San Francisco Bay Area:

So far in my career, I’ve landed in roles that are typically dominated by men, usually due to a supportive mentor or sponsor who guided the way. I’ve tried to do the same for my community. When I led the technology product team at Workday, the majority of my direct reports were women. Having strong women leaders made it easier to attract and hire even more amazing women to the team. One new hire told me she chose our team because not only had she never had a woman as her boss, she’d never had her boss’s boss and her boss’s boss’s boss all be women! 

Today in my venture capital role, I have the opportunity to choose to invest in diverse founders, which we’ve done—35% of our current portfolio have been founded by women. Beyond just investing in their companies, we are featuring them so that we can normalize it for other women and encourage even more women to be founders. In fact, we’re sponsoring the upcoming Women Transforming Technology conference in April, which will feature three of our women founders/CEOs on a panel. 

Shruti Jana is vice president, global people partners and organizational effectiveness, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also shared her perspective on increasing representation in executive leadership:

It’s so important to have the perspectives of women in leadership, especially as it intersects with gender, race, and ethnicity across the workplace. At Workday, we see how the strengths of an individual come from their experiences, their culture, and their backgrounds. We acknowledge that we’re all better served when we have more of this richness on our teams—and we can also better serve our customers, who reflect this diversity as well.

When coaching senior leaders, we emphasize being very inclusive, to not presume what a success archetype is. We want to be open minded. We have all seen the impact of COVID-19 and not being able to compartmentalize work. There’s been an increased need for flexibility, especially for caregivers or when the unexpected arises. As a manager and leader, being inclusive and flexible in every aspect is important to me; for example, even scheduling an important meeting can make a big difference with performance and how people show up—making sure it’s at a reasonable time of day across time zones and doesn’t interfere with school drop-off or pickup.

As a first-generation female leader and an immigrant, I look to instill confidence and self-assuredness, advocate, and give credit, knowing there are few role models to emulate. I mentor and coach, both within and outside Workday, from students in high school or college to working professionals. Sometimes it’s just about helping women think about some of the small things they can do that can make a big difference in taking them forward in their career, like having the courage to raise a hand for leadership roles, not to wait for perfection, and to speak up. Being in this position gives me the privilege to both coach leaders of today and usher in a new generation that holds high value in the richness of diversity.

“Being a Latina woman in tech, I am often seen as the exception. In reality, I represent so many Latinas in tech who are smart, qualified, and deserving of opportunities.”

Liz Valadez Director of Business Operations, Product and Development and QA Workday

How will you break the bias to improve racial equality?

Liz Valadez is director of business operations for product development and QA, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also co-founded Workday’s Latinx EBC:

Studies find that we tend to get along with others like us because we see them more positively than those we perceive to be different. This is affinity bias, and it comes from personal beliefs, assumptions, preferences, media depictions, cultural stereotypes, and a lack of understanding of others who are not like us. All of this is to say that biases affect racial equality.

To counter biases and improve racial equality, I follow three rules:

  • Put myself out there. Being a Latina woman in tech, I am often seen as the exception. In reality, I represent so many Latinas in tech who are smart, qualified, and deserving of opportunities. By putting myself out there, maybe I can change someone’s biases toward me and others like me.

  • Slow down and act deliberately, especially when making decisions. Biases can surface unconsciously when we move too fast. Taking time allows us to control our thoughts, consciously overcoming first impressions and the biases that come with them, ultimately leading to a shift in mindset.

  • Approach every situation with curiosity. If you come from a place of curiosity, you will be more open to listening and understanding someone else, versus making assumptions. In the end, as Maya Angelou said, people will see that “we are more alike than we are unalike.”

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