1 + 1 > 2 (Celebrating IWD21)

I am a woman on a mission to…Photo by Valentina Conde on Unsplash

Every year around International Women’s Day (IWD), I share my reflections on equality and empowerment. In 2019, it was a response to the Global Gender Gap; last year, it was a tribute to a tribe of fearless women I shared a hobby with. Fast forward to this year’s IWD, and a lot has changed. For one, COVID has fundamentally changed our lives. According to a WSJ article and McKinsey & Co., over 54% of COVID-related job losses were women, even though they only make up 47% of the labor force. The impact has been even starker on women with young children.

So what does that mean for us? Temper our ambitions and hold off on starting a family?

No. If anything, we should dream bigger and push harder, with help from one another.

Let’s face it?—?dreaming and pushing takes a tremendous amount of courage, let alone self awareness and interpersonal boundaries. In her recent book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown talks about how essential it is to own vulnerability and to set boundaries. “We can’t both serve people and try to control their feelings. Daring leadership, ultimately, is about serving other people, not ourselves, and that’s why we choose courage.” Knowing and choosing to bring your whole self as a woman is already hard, and now we have to make that conscious decision over back-to-back Skype calls and Zoom meetings, on top of all the normal fire drills and my favorite “oh, QQ, can you do this really quick, it shouldn’t take you much time” demands. The new normal makes me wonder if we have forgotten that we are dealing with others’ emotions and baggage and egos all tucked away behind a screen. I certainly can’t say that I have mastered courage and strength and self-awareness at work and in life. What I can say though, is that having a community of fearless women to turn to is so powerful and liberating.

I was fortunate enough to be exposed toa group of amazing women after last year’s Women in Product virtual conference. Through countless exchanges, we realized most of us share similar challenges at work and in life?—?pursuing ambitions while fulfilling responsibilities at home; managing up while establishing our own credibility; addressing imposter syndrome while embracing our true selves. Everyone mentioned in this post has seen me going rogue, unfiltered?—?tears streaming down my face and raw feelings running amok. And they stayed by me. They stay with me when I am at my highs and at my lows, and they accept who I am and lift me up because of our bond.

To think that we are all alone and that nobody cares or relates to us is what sets us back. To counter social isolation, we need to seek out and find those whom we can be real with. And only through bravery and connectedness can we show up wholeheartedly.

I am so grateful for the women who have mentored me and lifted me up over the past 12 months: Lisa Kostova, Rosa Welton, Deepa Chand, Michelle Pruitt, MyLinh Yang, Charlotte McGuire, Yvonne Stoehr, Grace Wang, SuiLin Yap, and my accountability partner, Danielle Zimmerman. I am also inspired by those who have launched the women mentorship program with me for the local API community: Irene Thomas, Erica DiBiase, Jeleen Sindall, Mila DeChant, Jenny Nguyen, and Guila Roales. When women help one another, everything is possible.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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