Choose to challenge
Today marks International Women’s Day, globally recognized as a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge bias, discrimination, stereotypes, and gender inequities. It has significant relevance in today’s environment — and for me as a woman leader in finance and working mother.
Earlier in my career, I easily recall situations at work where I was the only woman in the room, not only as part of the leadership team, but in most of the meetings I attended. I found myself sitting in the back of the room, at the side of the table, trying not to “get in the way.” One day, based on the advice of a mentor, I chose to challenge the imbalance in the room and took a seat at the head of the table. The atmosphere in the room changed. The attention I was afforded by my colleagues changed. It was an interesting social experiment in challenging norms. Finding my voice and my place as a young woman leader in a predominantly male environment took more courage than I expected, but it paid off. Fast forward to today, and it’s refreshing to see how far we’ve come. I frequently see not only more women represented, but a wide range of diverse perspectives and cultural backgrounds. We can #ChooseToChallenge inequities.
Today, as a mentor to several working women, I often ask, “How do you focus on your growth?” and “What do you want your brand to be?” But, all too often I ask, “Why do you say sorry so much?” This is the one that usually surprises women the most. Why say, “Sorry, I am just getting back to you,” instead of “Thanks for your patience”? Turn “Sorry I missed that” into “Great catch, it’s corrected here.” Women can be each other’s best champions. We can #ChooseToChallenge stereotypes.
As a mother to two daughters and a son, I spend a lot of time focused on ensuring that they understand the world around them. We look for ways to expand cultural experiences, talk about current events in an age appropriate way, and celebrate differences. In the wise words of children’s cartoon Daniel Tiger, “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same!” I’ve had some challenging discussions with my children over the past year, but through conversation and education, I #ChooseToChallenge discrimination to foster a world where they aren’t beholden to perceived or actual inequities.
I believe we’ve come a long way, but we can always keep going. As you reflect on Women’s History Month this March and how to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in your community, be responsible and deliberate in your thoughts and actions. Create a more inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so I invite you to #ChooseToChallenge.
At Fannie Mae, you’ll find a team that strives for an inclusive environment and respects diverse perspectives. Search our open opportunities and join our team of Future Makers today.
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