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International Women's Day 2021

To celebrate #InternationalWomensDay2021, we delved deeply into this year’s theme of #ChooseToChallenge, and what this means to us. By reaching out to several members of ThoughtWire, who are all working to encourage the empowerment of women in STEM, we discussed confronting gender bias and inequality, celebrating women’s achievements, and what we can all do to help create a more inclusive world

Nargis Akter, Senior Test Engineer:

What does being a woman working in STEM mean to you?

Statistically speaking, the number of males in STEM override women. As a result, being a part of the minority population in the field has definitely boosted my confidence and expanded my knowledge. It's a very satisfying feeling to be able to contribute towards the progress of humankind with creative and innovative solutions.

Do you feel you have equal opportunities?

I think equal opportunities meaning always misinterpreted. To me equal opportunity means  treating everyone as an individual according to their needs, abilities and interests so that everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. Fortunately I had that opportunity in my family as well as in my workplace.

Eitab Dabbous, Technical Support Specialist: 

Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?

I studied Creative Industries during my undergrad. I took an interest in researching how emerging technology was changing traditionally non-creative industries, such as the legal and healthcare sectors. Learning about the intersection of technology and creativity was what really sparked my interest in STEM and what inspired me to learn computer programming. 

What do you love most about your job?

I love the diversity of the work and collaborating with others. I am constantly learning new things and challenged to tackle a variety of tasks, which is what makes my job fulfilling. 

Vanessa Williams, Principal Software Engineer:

What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman working in STEM?

Being taken seriously by men. Especially as you progress in your career you encounter more men less inclined to believe that a woman can really be their peer -- let alone know more than they do about some technical subject. It's exhausting, sometimes. And of course, women almost always get paid less and promoted more slowly than their male peers. I have learned to live with it all over the 3 decades or so I've been in the field, but I don't think that younger women should have to put up with it.

How can you encourage younger girls to be more exposed and interested in STEM?

For software in particular I think it's important to emphasize that the whole world runs on software. And whatever it is that a girl or young woman is actually interested in, software is always going to play a big role in accomplishing that or moving it forward. They need to be able to understand that it's a tool or lever for changing the world. Being able to make a computer get up and dance is empowering. What they do with that ability is limited only by their imagination. Looking at it from the other side, if more girls and women don't get involved, they're ceding all that power and possibility to men. Do they want to live in that world? 

Tahia Shah, Delivery Consultant: 

What does being a woman working in STEM mean to you?

Being a woman in STEM means I get the opportunity to be a role model and am in a position where I can help others succeed. I try to embody this by fostering new connections for people within my own network, as well as volunteering for organizations that focus on supporting and inspiring young people in their professional careers.

What do you love most about your job?

I never truly understood the importance of having a strong team culture before experiencing it for myself. Now that I've found a place where collaboration, learning and having overall positive relationships with the people I work with is integral to the work we do, I cannot understate the value of it and it's one of the best parts of my job. The impactful and meaningful solutions we bring to healthcare organizations, and the bright people we get to interact with is another one. Back during pre-COVID days I also enjoyed the giant containers of cheese puffs in the office -- it would be a close third favourite.

Leanne O’Brien, Director, Marketing & Communications:

How might we encourage more industries to consider the long-term implications of gender messaging? 

Perhaps the most obvious yet elusive way for industry to consider the long-term impacts of gender messaging is the lack of data to measure whether gender equality actually exists within the companies that champion it. Sara Sanford, PMP, MPA and her team at Gender Equity Now partnered with the University of Washington to create the first standardized certification for gender equity  in U.S. workplaces. This International Women's Day, I'm looking forward to the time when GEN Certification goes global.

Do you feel you have equal opportunities?

I really like how Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, has said, "Men and women should be equally represented at the boardroom table and at the kitchen table. To get there we need reform of our policies, we need to encourage women to fulfil their ambitions and we need to encourage men to do their part in the home." This resonated with me as I imagined how a true representation of the population would impact the world: in industry, at home, and in society. It is all connected. 

These inquisitive responses on what it means to be women working in STEM, and what the future holds for female empowerment, enforces the importance of continuously choosing to challenge the biases, stereotypes, and restrictions that prevent us from living in an equal and abundant world. Making the decision to follow your dreams, choosing a career path that may challenge you, and succeeding, shows how the women of ThoughtWire truly embody the theme of #ChooseToChallenge, and have hope for the future on this International Women’s Day.

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