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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Taking Steps Toward Gender Equality

Kristen Check

International Women's Day, celebrated annually on March 8, is a global observance of immense significance. It's a day dedicated to honoring the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide and to recognizing the progress made toward gender equality. It's a day that reminds us of the importance of gender parity and empowerment for a more inclusive and equitable society.

This year for International Women’s Day, Rocket Software’s Women Leaders in Technology & Allies (WLIT&A) group celebrated by shining a spotlight on the transformative power of innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age. These tools, when harnessed effectively, can pave the way for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, offering a promising future.

On March 7, as part of the WLIT&A Coffee Talk series, I had the privilege of hosting two exceptional women, Skyla Loomis, VP of IBM z Systems at IBM, and Cynthia Overby, director of customer solutions engineering at Rocket Software. These women, with their remarkable achievements in the tech industry, serve as a beacon of inspiration for all. Their passion for expanding opportunities for women globally is a testament to their leadership and dedication. Together, we discussed the importance of building courage, taking risks, and identifying soft skills to build upon.

Here’s a look at what I discussed with Skyla and Cynthia.

Risk-Taking 101

Building courage and taking risks are not just aspects of personal and professional growth for women; they are the catalysts. It's about breaking free from the fear of failure or judgment and instead embracing challenges as opportunities for learning and advancement. By pushing boundaries and venturing into uncharted territories, women expand their horizons and pave the way for others to follow, empowering themselves and those around them.

For women, embracing risk means challenging stereotypes, overcoming barriers, and seizing opportunities that may lie beyond traditional gender roles. It involves recognizing the value of taking calculated risks to achieve personal and professional goals, even in the face of adversity.

Furthermore, risk-taking is an essential component of innovation and progress. By daring to step outside the familiar and explore new possibilities, women contribute to groundbreaking discoveries, disruptive technologies, and transformative changes in society. Embracing risk allows women to challenge the status quo, break through glass ceilings, and redefine success on their own terms. Ultimately, it is through courageous risk-taking that women can unleash their full potential and shape a more equitable and inclusive future for generations to come.

The Value of Mentorship

Mentorship is a powerful tool for empowering women and fostering leadership development. From this guidance, women gain access to valuable insights, networks, and opportunities that can accelerate their professional growth and advancement. A mentor not only shares knowledge and expertise but also provides encouragement, support, and constructive feedback, helping women navigate challenges and achieve their aspirations with confidence.

“Mentorship can come in many different forms,” Loomis said. “It doesn’t always have to be a super formal relationship with someone—as long as there’s mutual value and respect, that’s the most important.”

Finding a mentor plays a pivotal role in this journey. They provide invaluable guidance, wisdom, and support based on their own experiences, helping women navigate career obstacles, make informed decisions, and build confidence. By fostering a culture of mentorship, organizations can unlock the full potential of their female talent pool, leading to greater innovation, productivity, and success.

The Future of the Workplace: Young Employees

Investing in young talent is crucial for fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. By taking risks on emerging female leaders, organizations can tap into fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and untapped potential. Providing mentorship, training, and opportunities for growth not only benefits individual women but also contributes to the overall success and competitiveness of businesses and society as a whole.

Investing in young talent is also crucial for driving innovation and sustainability in organizations. By providing opportunities for young women to develop their skills, knowledge, and leadership abilities, businesses can harness fresh perspectives and creative solutions to tackle complex challenges. Supporting young talent also fosters a culture of inclusivity and equal opportunity, empowering women to contribute meaningfully to the workforce from an early stage in their careers.

Soft Skills are Equally Important

Soft skills such as communication, empathy, and resilience are increasingly recognized as essential for career advancement. Women who develop and hone these skills enhance their ability to collaborate effectively, navigate conflicts, and lead with empathy and integrity.

  • Communication: Effective communication is key to success in any professional setting. Clear communication fosters understanding, collaboration, and trust, all of which are vital for career advancement.
  • Empathy: Empathy allows individuals to understand and relate to the emotions and perspectives of others. In leadership roles, empathy enables women to connect with their team members, address their needs, and make decisions that consider the well-being of all stakeholders.
  • Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to challenges, and persevere in the face of adversity. Women who cultivate resilience are better prepared to navigate the ups and downs of their careers, whether it's dealing with rejection, managing workload pressures, or facing organizational changes. Resilience enables women to stay focused on their goals, maintain a positive attitude, and continue to grow and develop professionally despite obstacles.

“There really are no online training programs that help women build soft skills,” Overby said. “Instead, I try to match people on my team that have complimentary soft skills that they can work on together. When we can give people the space to practice these skills in an open environment, the growth this amazing.”

Ultimately, the cultivation of soft skills empowers women to become more effective communicators, empathetic leaders, and resilient professionals, enabling them to achieve their career goals and make a lasting impact in their respective fields.

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