International Women’s Day has been in existence for over a century, but it has usually garnered a rather low-profile celebration in the US. This year, things were different —the event felt like it had finally earned a seat at the holiday table, so to speak, and everywhere we looked people were using the holiday to jumpstart or continue important conversations.
As Rebecca Solnit wrote in her recent article, Feminist Have Shifted Power, There is No Going Back, “a dam broke." Something has shifted and that shift was palpable on International Women’s Day, 2018. This year’s theme was framed around the hashtag #PressforProgress; a reminder that while a shift has happened, we have to continue putting pressure on the barriers that still remain and keep moving forward.
Last Thursday we gathered to discuss the challenges, progress and celebrate how far we’ve come—even if we still have a long way to go. The evening was moderated by Amy Stellhorn, founder of Big Monocle and badass woman in her own right.
The panel started with the panelists Jina Anna, Senior Design System Lead at Amazon, Alana Washington, Data Experience Design Manager at Capital One, and Jenny Arden, UX Design Manager at Airbnb, about their personal climb to positions of influence. They shared wins—carving out a position for themselves among an all-male team—as well as the challenges they faced along the way—the unconscious biases that lead to men always asking women to run errands, no matter their role...
Below are a few of our key takeaways from the evening.
Level the playing field so that talent can rise
Recruit from unlikely places, find the underrepresented and push them to the top. If you know someone has the chops, have their back but push them off the edge of their own self-doubt.
Call it out
Many of our panelists have seen the power of employees talking to leadership about what is fair and what’s not. It’s up to us to hold leadership and colleagues accountable. If something feels off or injustices are occurring, don't be afraid to provide real-time feedback.
Sometimes you have to break the rules
A few years ago a team put together an excel document of salaries—something technically against the rules— to make it very clear on where the inequalities were. What they thought would be a hundred or so people participating, turned into thousands joining in which launched an equal pay movement within the company. This movement has enabled other companies to make a change and one of our panelists was even the recipient of the you aren’t making enough money email (It’s real!) from the CEO of the company. Keep looking for the opportunities to make change.
*Thanks to Amy Stellhorn who forwarded us the featured image from the 1973 International Women's Day protests in San Francisco.
Want to continue to press for progress? We recently launched a new action-oriented group to address the challenges women face in and outside of the design community. Some joined in because they’re passionate about organizing events and meetups, while others came because they simply wanted to find a place to share their story and frustrations.
If you’re interested in participating in the group, please fill out this brief form and we will contact you ASAP with the next meeting date.