At Xero, we’re passionate about opening up the conversation when it comes to gender issues. This International Women’s Day, Xero Denver and San Francisco took the opportunity to further that conversation – hosting panels that explored the very theme of this year’s day of recognition: #PressforProgress.
In Denver, we were joined by two of our very own; Small Business Specialist, Sophia Barrientos, and Keri Gohman, Americas President. Rebecca Picociolo, Entrepreneurial Services Manager at DJJCPA, and Anaïs Bovagnet, Marketing Manager at SimPRO also joined.
In San Francisco, we were joined by Greenbox Co-Founder and Xero customer Megan Kistler. Cristina Cordova, Head of Business Development at Stripe was also on the lineup. From the Xero team, we had Kathryn Apte, Americas VP of Marketing and Brand and Mary Buckley, Strategic Partner Development Manager.
Having confidence in your ability
We heard from a number of panelists who, earlier in their careers, feared they may not have the credibility with their peers. This was a feeling Cristina experienced when she was getting started in tech. To allay her fear of appearing too young or inexperienced, Cristina even went so far as to remove the details of when she went to college from her LinkedIn profile. She soon came to a realization and shared her advice for women experiencing similar feelings.
“In tech, we’re all doing everything for the first time,” Cristina explained. “Have confidence in yourself that you can do this work even if you have not done it before.”
Sophia described a similar experience, where she struggled to be taken seriously in previous jobs.
“Once you move to a new organization or a new position, you have to start over,” Sophia said. “Therefore, no one really knows what you can do. The way I overcome this is by leading by example. This is something that I heavily believe in.
“Another thing I like to do is to show my work ethic and work progress instead of telling them. This allows me to gain their respect and trust. However, getting to that point can be a challenge. Learn, be yourself and move forward. It’s important to show what you can do.”
Megan saw firsthand how different the male small business owner experience is to women’s. In founding Greenbox with her partner, she felt that she had to work twice as hard to gain respect because of her gender and not having come from a restaurant background.
“It was not only with the kitchen team that I felt less respected – our landlords, investors, and sometimes even customers treated him as if he was more important,” Megan explained.
“I was very discouraged by the way I was treated and felt defeated. I began to lean on [my partner] William to direct the team. He quickly disapproved of that and pushed me to make my voice heard. When people would go to him with questions he would tell them he didn’t know, Megan was in charge. It was awkward at first, but it worked and eventually, our entire staff would come to me for direction first. I had to press myself to become stronger, before I could gain respect.”
Engaging men in the conversation
Megan’s story is a great example of how men can lean in and help advance their female peers. Mary challenged the men in the room to understand how different work can be for women.
“Don’t wait for someone to tell you what’s going on,” Mary urged. “Find your female counterparts and ask them to tell you a story. Assess the situation, don’t assume every woman is going to speak up.”
Kathryn agreed that there is no better time than now to engage in these types of conversations.
“If you watch the way the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are evolving – this is the first time women are feeling confident to speak up,” Kathryn said “Ask questions – it’s how we get to this shared understanding. I think that advocacy can happen in big and small ways.”
There are many ways for women to also be advocates for other women at work. A more well-publicized incidence of this happened recently when actress Jessica Chastain tied her deal for a movie to force producers to offer a matching deal for her costar, Octavia Spencer. Keri said this serves as a great example of women supporting other women.
“One of the things we can do is support each other,” Keri said. “I think we have an opportunity to reset the playing field. I’m tired of conforming. We should see what happens when we are who we are. We are going to define what happens for the next generation right now.”