Choose to Challenge – what does it mean to you?

by Haley Lentz     |      March 22, 2021

That was the question that panelists aimed to answer during the International Women’s Day Panel, hosted by the African Ancestry Network and Women Connected employee resource groups at Lexis Nexis. The panel – led by moderator Jessica Morel CMO & Head of Employee Experience, LexisNexis IP on March 10 was the first event co-presented by the African Ancestry Network and Women Connected chapters to provide the organization with a look into the challenges faced by female peers that often go unnoticed.

LexisNexis employee panelists Para Agrawal, Theresa Gibson, Haley Lentz, Judy Rogers, and Debbra Truong spoke to the individual experiences that shaped their worldviews and careers in technology. With more than 80 employees in attendance, the audience included both men and women seeking to expand their knowledge and awareness of implicit and explicit bias and the other issues facing women in 2021.

International Women’s Day this year took on critical importance as we mark the one-year milestone of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging data shows that women in the workforce have been disproportionally impacted globally by economic downturns. For example, women makeup 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses. This amounts to a sharp regression in gender parity in the workforce which was lagging even before the onset of the pandemic.

Judy Rogers addressed the extra pressure that many women are facing as the primary contact for their kids’ education and how work-life balance has been disrupted by remote school “I had to watch my grandkids at one point. All three are in elementary school. It let me see what some of my staff are going through as far as having to monitor their kids while they’re in school while also trying to meet the expectations for production and output of their day jobs at the same time. I can’t even imagine if my kids were younger how I would juggle that.”

Spanning a range of experiences and backgrounds the panelists provided attendees with a multi-faceted view on additional topics such as race, bias, and gender norms and discussed how the recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have shaped the workplace for African American women.

Theresa Gibson reflected on this through the lens of a working mom experiencing the fear of her children being racially profiled and how that compounds the routine stressors that women face in the workplace, “It adds an extra layer of stress as a mother, having to, to worry about my sons and having to constantly communicate with them and remind them ‘when you go out if you get stopped, just don’t do anything, just put your hands up. And that fear, in my mind on a day-to-day basis makes work-life rather difficult I’m trying to concentrate on what’s going on at work, but at the same time, I’m worried about what’s happening outside of work with my children.” It’s a fear that millions of working moms must confront each day.

The group not only offered up opinions on the topic of bias and gender stereotypes but offered solutions to peers on how to overcome feelings of self-doubt and how to build on one’s qualifications to advance one career. Debbra Truong discussed pushing herself outside of her comfort zone to apply for jobs she didn’t feel qualified for. “It’s one thing to have that desire to advance and it’s a whole other thing kind of figure out how. When I had the desire to advance my career. I had to put myself out there and I look at that as an obstacle. It’s about really just putting yourself out there to learn more, to do more, even applying for positions that I might have not been qualified for at the time, but taking away the interviewing experience, the feedback that I got from those people. And honestly, it just puts your name out there and it’s just, it takes you one step closer to where you want to be.”

Jessica Morel opened the session with the International Women’s Day motto, “A challenged world is an alert world and with challenge comes change.” International Women’s Day is a great way to continue broaching difficult discussions, and continued conversations plus action are key to a changed world. It is clear from the attendance and response to the International Women’s Day panel that employees and leadership around the organization are committed to continuing the conversation and taking action toward making positive change.