Celebrating International Women’s Day with Our Own Inspiring Role Models - #IWD2021 | Unit4
International Womens Day Unit4

Celebrating International Women’s Day with Our Own Inspiring Role Models - #IWD2021

March 8th is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is: Choose to Challenge. From challenge comes change, and change is what we need. Diversity is an important topic these days, with unconscious bias and gender inequality some of the most well-known. The beauty is that we can all choose to challenge this. We can all call out misunderstandings and celebrate women’s achievements. Together we can create an inclusive world.

Despite several initiatives and the United Nations focusing on gender equality with Sustainable Development Goal #5, gender equality still remains a big challenge to address. Especially in leadership positions. The technology sector is struggling to find the right gender balance in the workforce and although we’re trying hard at Unit4, it’s still not 50/50. At the moment 38% of Unit4’s global employees are women. Of our leaders, 33% are women.

It’s a topic that’s close to my heart. As an active Women in Tech member I try to be a role model and inspire other women to get into the technology sector. (It’s fun and the opportunities are endless – trust me!) To reach gender equality I strongly believe we need more role models. Because you can’t become what you can’t see.

Although we’re not there yet, I am proud to work at a company that challenges the status quo and has inspiring female leaders. Once again, to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, I asked some of them about the #IWD2021 ‘Choose to Challenge’ theme and what it means to them. Here’s what they had to say:

What’s your approach to addressing challenges in your life?

International Womens Day 2021 Arancha
International Womens Day 2021 Kirsty

Beata Wright: My approach is to embrace challenges and look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow. I believe that every challenge, whether in my personal life or career, has guided me to further discover things about myself and to accept success and failure as part of life’s journey. No one gets it right every time so it’s important to have a compassionate attitude toward ourselves and grow from these opportunities.  

Lisa Dodman: Head on, life is full of experiences and opportunities to push outside of comfort zones, whilst there may be unknowns, we only learn if we embrace those challenges.

Julie Knight: There are two things that I focus on when presented with a challenge. First, I try (not always successfully) to keep my emotions in check. Letting fear, frustration or anxiety take control will cloud your ability to look at the challenge - large or small -- objectively. My second problem-solving technique is to challenge my assumptions. Instead of leaning on your assumptions and rushing to make a decision or “solution it”, it’s often better to slow down, think through the issue and then see if your solution makes sense. We don’t always have the luxury to do the above when a quick decision is required, but these are some techniques that have worked pretty well over the years.

Esther Haaksman: My natural approach to challenges is to embrace them. I am a person that looks at life in a positive way; my glass is always half full. Challenges that you encounter in your business or private life can be positive or negative, but I believe having a positive attitude is always the right start.

International Womens Day 2021 Ellen Mona
International Womens Day 2021 Michelle

What is it like to work for a company that chooses to challenge?

Michelle MacCarthy: We’ve all heard the expression that if you always do what you’ve always done - you will always get what you’ve always got. I love working for a company that doesn’t rest on its laurels, and pushes our employees to self-reflect, that evaluates performance against smart goals, and allows space for us to create our own career path with the supportive tools to do so. It shows a real care for and understanding of our people. I want to “run” to work each day excited for the challenges it brings and the impact we can all have.

Arantzazu Bueno: It’s very important to me that Unit4 as a company #choosestochallenge, because that implies that there is a commitment to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes and helps us promote an inclusive company, society and world. As a company it’s a very good starting point that completely matches my values. Now, we all need to contribute to make it happen, and this is a long journey that starts with our own awareness. I feel very proud of all the activities that we’ve been executing, with the intention to move and shape our culture. And I believe, next to gender equality, we also need to ensure we grow further by embracing all aspects of a diverse and inclusive culture and positively impact society where and whenever we can.

Esther Haaksman: I would not like to work in any different environment, as challenges give me joy and energize me. In an environment that chooses to challenge I know I can make a difference.

Ellen Mona Prytz Warholm: I think being challenged and choosing to challenge is what drives us forward, and although it can be uncomfortable, it usually brings rewards. On a personal level, the times I have felt completely out of water is when I have grown the most.

Kirsty Graham: I have been fortunate to have leaders who have believed in me and stretched me to be the best version of myself. For this I will always be grateful. I have a great team who also challenge my thinking and I love that, as we need to feel we are able to question and look at things from a different angle as there are many ways to achieve something and there might just be a better way than the initial idea.

International Womens Day 2021 Lisa
International Womens Day 2021 Beata

What will you choose to challenge this year?

Beata Wright: As things start to slowly improve and open up in 2021, I will challenge myself, my team, colleagues, and partners to make time to unplug, learn something new, and reconnect with people to build deeper personal and professional relationships. It’s always easier to overcome challenges with a refreshed mindset and renewed energy. #PeopleFirst.

Julie Knight: I'll continue with a challenge that my husband and I have been focused on for a number of years which is helping families who face food insecurity. According to Feeding America, food insecurity means that someone has limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life. Here are a few facts from their website:

  • Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States.
  • More than 35 million people struggled with hunger in the US, including more than 10 million children.
  • The COVID pandemic has only worsened the situation

Food insecurity has a broad impact not just on the individual but to communities and to the economy overall. It’s a moral imperative to fix this issue and one that will likely be a challenge that I focus on for years to come.

Michelle MacCarthy: I am in a space right now where time is just in fast forward - and I am often looking back on this reel where I want to push pause. I am going to challenge where I am spending my time and energy this year, as they are my most important resources.

Arantzazu Bueno: I would like to say going through such an important transformation journey as we’re on at Unit4 during the current pandemic is enough of a challenge. But I want to add, how paradoxical this might sound, that in my role as People Success leader I want to find more time to challenge my own thoughts to find unconscious bias – which I hope then helps me in challenging others to do the same.

International Womens Day 2021 Esther
International Womens Day 2021 Julie
Savana ter Burg Unit4

Savana ter Burg

Savana is an enthusiastic communication professional with an interest in the technology sector and passion for innovation. She gets energy from making people smile and succeeding together.

Savana is a Communications Program Manager at Unit4 and volunteers as Outreach & Engagement Lead at Women in Tech Netherlands, where she organizes (online) events to educate and motivate (future) women in technology.