Accepting the Challenge of International Women’s Day

March 26, 2021
Rob Evans
Accepting the Challenge of International Women’s Day

Please indulge me for a moment while I play the role of a proud father. My daughter Audree is a constant source of inspiration to our family.

She has traveled around the world by herself since age 16, helping communities in Kenya, Nepal, and India. Audree hiked the famously rugged John Muir Trail alone. And as she awaits entrance to medical school, she’s tutoring kids in the hard sciences.

But there’s something else you should know about my daughter. She’s humble to a fault. Audree thinks, ‘Yeah, so I hiked 350 miles in the wilderness by myself and came face-to-face with a bear,” and that it’s nothing special. She’s reticent to talk up her accomplishments.

She’s hardly alone.

When Boomi recently hosted a remarkable employee event to celebrate International Women’s Day, I was again struck by how many amazing women we have at our company. I work with them every day. I see how instrumental they are to our success.

Yet, it’s also a testament to our open culture that so many also were willing to discuss the career challenges they’ve encountered. One breakout session I attended – about self-promotion – was particularly eye-opening.

I heard a jaw-dropping statistic that 76 percent of women say that advocating for themselves and showcasing their talents is hard. Colleagues, whom I know are doing amazing things, shared about how they’re uncomfortable sharing their successes.

It just doesn’t come naturally for them. Often, women believe accomplishments should speak for themselves. But then those with less-than-loud voices are overlooked. They don’t get the recognition or career advancement they deserve.

I’m certainly not telling you anything you don’t already know. But women are woefully underrepresented in Corporate America leadership. That’s especially the case at technology companies.

Only 41 women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. A report last year co-authored by McKinsey called “Women in the Workplace” found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women advance. The disparity is even worse for Latina and Black women, with just 58 elevated at the same rate.

“If you want the culture to change, change the container.” — India Martin, Leadership Expert

Our Boomi event, echoing the International Women’s Day theme, was about challenging ourselves to make a difference and change statistics like those. The keynote speaker was India Martin, who is an inspirational leadership expert. I first met her through my own 52 Years nonprofit, which has a mission of ending systemic racism. Martin spoke eloquently about how traditional corporate structures never were designed with women in mind. And she described how people tend to behave the way the structure of the “container” – the company – dictates.

So, Martin concluded, “If you want the culture to change, change the container.”

That idea resonates with me. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Or maybe even some of the answers. I believe I’ve been able to help mentor many women on their career journeys. But I also accept that unless male leaders like myself are committed to using our platforms in meaningful ways, we won’t begin to close the business gender gap.

The day after our event, I reached out to two Boomi women, whom I greatly admire.

One person had an incredible year in 2020 as she excelled through trying times. But when we talked about that and where she might want to go in her career, she sounded remarkably like my daughter – humble. She downplayed her accomplishments as “just doing her job.” I countered that she’s doing it spectacularly, and I would work with her to amplify those accomplishments.

The second colleague has seen a meteoric rise through Boomi. It’s the kind of anything-is-possible trajectory that other women can emulate. We talked about what we could do to help her become an active mentor because even if she doesn’t realize it, she’s a role model.

“Unless male leaders like myself are committed to using our platforms in meaningful ways, we won’t begin to close the business gender gap.”

The last year has been hard on all of us as a result of the pandemic. That toll has disproportionately fallen upon women. Another finding of the McKinsey report is that one in four women are thinking about getting off the career fast track or leave the workforce entirely due to Covid-19.

But the last 12 months or so also has been a time of introspection. It’s allowed many of us to pause, listen, and reflect on the kind of changes we would like to see both inside our organizations and society as a whole.

At Boomi, it’s made us focus on being more inclusive, sensitive to others, and eager to embrace everyone’s authentic selves. I know Boomi is a much stronger company today because of honest conversations about our commitment to having a more diverse organization.

That includes helping boost the voices of those who in the past often have gone unheard.

The kind of sea change Martin is encouraging for women in the workplace doesn’t happen overnight. But I feel fortunate to be at a company that is challenging itself to be taking the steps needed to help that change happen.

So, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, I #ChooseToChallenge myself to be more open and curious about expanding my network to ensure a diverse talent pool for every new hire and keep finding ways to become a better mentor.

At Boomi, we take pride in surrounding ourselves with the best leaders that make us better as an organization. For more information on Boomi's company and culture, visit our company webpage.

About the Author

Rob Evans is Boomi's vice president of North American sales.