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Celebrating HerStory

Shweta Saraf

International Women’s day has been celebrated for 110 years to honor the great accomplishments of women around the globe, and to advocate for women’s rights and equality.

We certainly have come a long way. In fact, the one word that comes to mind to describe how I feel each March 8th is gratitude. I am thankful to all women who came before me and who worked relentlessly for equality, helping women around the world to have choices, to speak up and be heard. Thanks to them more women have the right to vote, the right to work, the right to equal education, and the right to control decisions about their bodies.

We live in unprecedented times. One full year into the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have all had our limits tested, from dealing with physical and mental health challenges to juggling family time, parenting and teaching children, and caring for elderly relatives — not to mention the realties of earning a living and investing in self care. And yet we also saw great examples of female leadership, including Kamala Harris shattering a major glass ceiling as the first Black, Indian-American woman to be elected Vice President of the United States and the female leaders of New Zealand and Germany setting the gold standard for responding to COVID with both compassion and grit.

There are those who don't believe in celebrating a day that is focused on one gender or limiting it to just a single day. I hear you all! In my opinion, International Women’s Day–and Women’s History Month– helps us not only celebrate progress, but acknowledge all the work that remains ahead, of which there is much. Based on the Global Gender Gap report of 2020 and the current pace of progress, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 54 years in Western Europe, 71 year in South Asia, 151 years in North America (reflecting lack of progress in the region this year), and 163 years in East Asia and the Pacific.

IWD (and now, Women's History Month) is a chance to advocate for equality and put even stronger commitments into action.

Paving the Way Forward

My journey in life has been full of ups and downs, but I’ve tried to make the most out of the opportunities available to me by pursuing my passions and working hard. Through this I’ve found the courage to stand up for myself and advocate for those who are still finding their voices.

I come from a large and close-knit family. Growing up, my thinking was influenced by strong women who did not have half the rights that I have today: my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother. Thanks to their sacrifices and support I was the first in my family to immigrate and build a life outside of my home country.

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My first moment of self empowerment and self actualization was realizing more people in tech need to take charge of their own careers. Imagine if your career is like your car, would you expect your manager to drive it or would you be at the wheel? This is especially true for women in the workforce as they are naturally good at balancing multiple priorities but retention and growth beyond mid-level IC or leadership is still very low. The main drivers include lack of support from employers, lack of inclusive policies, and the lack of meaningful work.

I am proud to work at a company (Equinix) where the leaders truly believe in creating an environment “I Belong, I Matter and I am Safe”. Thankfully, this is more than just words — they really do walk the walk.

There is nothing an empowered person can't do!

I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose in lifting others up around me. As I transitioned into engineering leadership, I was fortunate to find fulfillment in doing that professionally as well.

In addition to my role at Equinix, I volunteer time to mentor other engineering leaders. Some of them are first time managers, and many identify as women. I am continually amazed to see the impact you can have in someone’s life by actively listening to them, helping to motivate them at key moments, and encouraging them to realize their potential.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are far too few women leaders, particularly in technology. I was recently confronted with this truth when a female leader who worked at a gaming company in South America asked me “How many years do I have to wait to get promoted?” She worked in a company where she felt like a minority and didn't have role models to look up to, and assumed she had to wait for her work to be recognized instead of advocating for herself. I helped her realize this simple truth, create a strategy and approach to her leadership. I’m so pleased that she is now leading an entire division of engineers in a key part of the business. This goes to show the power of believing in oneself and investing in building a meaningful network of supporters and mentors.

I encourage you to remember that each and every small step and action counts. International Women’s Month is a great opportunity to start putting something new into action.

Here are just a few examples of what you can do today to make the world a better place for everyone, including women:

Acknowledge & celebrate the awesome women in your life. A little goes a long way.
Expand the conversation and celebration to allies and be inclusive of folks of all gender identities. This is how we can create the most impact and move the needle on closing the gender gap.
In the workplace, #choosetochallenge for creating a safe and inclusive environment where every voice is heard, acknowledged and respected.
Support women-run businesses and donate to charities that support causes that help women.

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