Celebrating International Women’s Day

Today marks International Women's Day, and we thought it would be a great idea to gather feedback from a few of our leaders about what the day means to them personally. Emily Foote co-founded a successful tech company after completing law school. Her company, Practice, caught our eye and became part of Instructure last fall. 

Speaking of becoming part of Instructure, Bjorn Eriksson recently joined the company to lead our global marketing team. He has years of experience leading diverse teams, whether in the U.S. or in his native Sweden. 

Today, they both celebrate International Women’s Day by sharing thoughts on how we can continue to press for progress. 

Emily Foote, VP of Customer Engagement:

Visibility Matters

"It's hard to be what you can't see." While Marian Wright Edelman, the President of the Children's Defense Fund, said these words in relation to children of color and the fact that they do not see themselves represented in books, these words ring just as true for young girls who do not see women in leadership roles.

In the U.S., women hold more than 50 percent of all professional-level jobs; nevertheless, American women fall drastically behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership roles. Of S&P 500 companies, only 25 percent of executive and senior-level officials are women, only 20 percent of board seats are held by women, and only 6 percent of CEOs are women.

Visibility matters. Our girls do not see enough women in leadership roles. Consequently, it is incredibly hard for girls to believe that they can be leaders and incredibly easy for unconscious bias against women leaders to persist.  

Last year was an inspiring year for women. Our girls heard Hillary Clinton as she become the first woman to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. Our girls heard voices of women and men alike during their marches to protect the backbone of our country - vibrant and diverse communities. Our girls heard once silent voices become strong voices in the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

While our girls are hearing powerful equality and diversity messages, they need to see more women in leadership roles. At Instructure, we committed to interviewing at least one qualified woman for every open role, VP and higher as part of the Parity Pledge. While a great step, there is still work to be done. Visibility matters and we’re not there yet. Here’s to the hard work necessary to ensure a future where our girls and young women see what they can be.

Bjorn Eriksson, SVP of Marketing:

Leaders, Create Opportunities!

When I think about International Women's day, I think about creating pathways of opportunity. Some have been cleared by those who came before us, while others are ours to make. That involves a fight sometimes, but it’s worth it. 

As humans, we need to celebrate our differences and unique contributions, but above all, we need to let individuals make the choices that fit them best. International Women's Day helps us do these things in several ways:

First, it celebrates the progress that women have made over the last century in taking their place in society. Moving away from structures and attitudes that suppress female choice and potential has already produced huge benefits: from happier people who can realize their full potential to many economic and societal benefits. 

Second, it is a reminder that there still is a lot of work to be done. Both in our everyday lives, as a nation, and internationally. As a manager and leader, I'd like to share three day-to-day things that I believe will help leaders as we press for progress in the workplace:

1) Appreciate and adjust for individual communication styles. Not everyone is equally assertive when it comes to promotions. Try to look beyond what's projected and look at the substance. 

2) For promotions, start with what the job demands and write a job description that includes what achievements you want to see in six months. Then look at track record and capability to evaluate who is most likely to achieve that. Be aware of unconscious bias when writing the job description and take steps to reduce that. An excellent checklist is here.  

3) Provide the flexibility that people with small kids need. Whether they are men or women, parenting is a stressful time in people's lives. You can make amazing hires if you are willing to be flexible and help people stay connected to the workplace while they are going through this period in their lives. 

The freedom to know and express yourself is a fundamental human right. The more we can encourage and help that process, the more happiness and health we will have in our societies.