Women in Leadership Share Challenges of Workforce Diversity, Pillars of Success

October 18, 2016 at 9:00 AM by Kathleen de Lara


Being a woman in the workforce lends itself to unique challenges. While many companies support gender diversity, workplace equality remains an initiative yearning for action.  

So often the picture painted for working women isn’t favorable. We’re 15% less likely than men to be promoted, earn less than men for same roles, and continue to be professionally underrepresented, holding under 30% of roles in senior management. Evidently, at the current pace, it’ll take longer than a century before there’s gender equality in the C-suite.

If you’re like me, reading through that might have been mentally exhausting. Good news about women in the workforce can be few and far between. That’s discouraging, especially in the midst of groups taking action on diversity and inclusion, like Project Include, Catalyst, Code2040, Lean In, and Paradigm, just to name a few.

In light of this, we’re drawing the attention back to the power of potential, and narratives of growth. Entelo’s Reflect, Grow, Empower will share lessons on being bold and resilient, as told by women leaders in tech. Leading up to our panel, we spoke with speakers Linqia’s Maria Sipka, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko, and Decker Communications’ Hilary Davis to learn more about their pillars of inspiration, success, and hustle.

How do you define success?

Hilary Davis: My vision of success has always been closely aligned to what is interesting. As a kid, I longed to travel, live in a big city, and have interesting friends and the freedom to explore. San Francisco and my career thus far have afforded me all that and more. Now what’s interesting to me is figuring out how to keep that sense of adventure and curiosity while raising a little person and instilling in them the drive to chase what interests them. Another part of success has to do with potential. I don’t ever feel “successful” in the traditional sense, but when I am working toward my greatest potential, I feel like moments of success, everyday wins, are right around the corner. As long as I’m pursuing those moments, I feel successful.

Maria Sipka: Success is discovering your unique talent and gifts, having the courage to dream, igniting your passion and the stamina to pursue that dream. It's that feeling every day that you are moving towards something that you envisioned. Embarking on a journey of #noregrets and honoring the highs and lows of each day.

Ann Miura-Ko: Success to me is being driven by goalposts I've determined for various parts of my life. I have goals around returned investments and being a top 5% investor over my career.  I have goals around my family. When my kids grow up, we will have a relationship strong enough that they will want to call me regularly to tell me about their lives, and with my husband that when my kids have flown the nest, we will really cherish our alone time – finding each other as interesting, funny, and compatible as we do today.

Can you share three lessons you’ve learned that have had an impact on how you work today?

Hilary: I have learned so much from the mentors I’ve worked with. Each role I’ve held has taught me something important, but if I had to boil it down:

  • Bloom where you are planted. You’re in each role for a reason and for a season, so dig in and make the most of the role you have while you’re in it. It’s not always about being the shining star and getting credit and spring boarding to the next thing. Sometimes it’s about getting dirt under your nails while you do grunt work, stay late, and learn things. Even stuffing envelopes for a political campaign can teach you something if you’re open.

  • Be helpful. Be the person who is willing to help, rather than the person who is too busy or too important. You may, in fact, be extremely busy and important most of the time, but I’ve found that I’m usually not too busy to listen for an extra five minutes or pitch in for an extra hour on a project. My first boss was also a fabulous listener who would do anything to help her team succeed. Her willingness to help others is something I internalized and always strive to do. If Kathy, the VP of a major corporation, can drop everything to help someone, so can I.

  • Have courage! In my early twenties, I was brave. But being brave is about plunging in, not caring about the consequences. In my thirties, I feel more courageous. I’ve taken risks, felt the sting of failure…and decided to keep going anyway. I’ve written a book and now am in the processes of editing, meeting with agents, and trying to get published. Ten years ago, I would have blithely assumed that everything I write is gold and sent it to every agent in the market. Now I know that some things I write should never see the light of day, and yet, I am going to try and get published anyway. Courage isn’t really about grit, it’s about letting your grit and hard work shine when the time is right.

Maria: It was an incredible experience to be an area director for the entrepreneur organization. I traveled extensively across Eastern and Southern Europe tasked with invigorating our chapters with leadership workshops, inspiring prospective members to join and increasing the diversity of the membership base. I learned how important it is to build an international network of smart, accomplished entrepreneurs – relationships that are nurtured over a lifetime. Volunteering amongst your peers and giving back is the smartest way to establish your voice in the ecosystem. Spending time with people outside of your region or country brings a heightened level of appreciation and sensitivity for nuances of cultural differences that makes you a richer person.

Ann: Always work with people for whom you have tremendous mutual respect and affection. Think like an owner, not an employee. Work with people who will expand your worldview, not narrow it.

What drives your hustle?

Hilary: I never wanted a traditional career path. The idea of staying with one company for decades and moving up doesn’t appeal me. My approach has been to collect experiences, stories, lessons and skills for my arsenal, like a magpie, and then figure out what’s next. Having all these interesting skills makes me agile and able to do a lot, but it also means I have to hustle because I can’t rest on the laurels of title or years of experience in any one company. It’s definitely a millennial mindset, and the way the workforce is shifting.

Maria: As early as my mid teens I was aware of how short our time on this planet is because my father would always remind us of how fast time flies. I had a deep desire to squeeze every bit out of the endless possibilities and experiences that the world has to offer and instead of being a 'tourist' being a contributor. As morbid as it may sound, that sense of lying on your deathbed with a smile on your face and thinking 'Wow! I lived and loved so deeply. Let's do it all over again!' satisfies me.

Ann: I'm very competitive and very curious. I obsess over my losses because I hate losing more than I love winning. I love learning things deeply and not just at the surface level, something I learned getting my PhD.

If you’re in the Bay Area, join the conversation and hear more from Hilary, Maria, and Ann on being a woman in leadership. We’d love to hear about what you’re working on.

Recommended articles:

Bay Area Diversity Advocates Gather at Entelo to Discuss Their Company D&I Initiatives
How to Scale Diversity Hiring at Your Organization
Why Transparency Builds a Positive Candidate Experience

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