March 19, 2021

Choosing to challenge: Lessons from inspiring women in leadership

On International Women’s Day, Ceridian hosted a panel discussion with four inspiring Ceridian women, all with different experiences, point of views, and wisdom to share on how they choose to challenge – this year’s IWD theme – throughout their careers and their lives. Here, our VP Talent Development Lisa Bull shares some thought-provoking insights from the panel.

While International Women’s day has passed, it’s never too late to acknowledge the energy and intentionality required of women and women-identifying individuals to navigate the multiple roles and responsibilities in their lives. Those roles can include acting as leaders or employees, caregivers, partners, friends and the responsibilities are often to work, their families, and their communities. This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, three women leaders from across Ceridian’s global team lent their expertise and experience to a panel, moderated by our President and Chief Operating Officer, Leagh Turner. Here are the stories and perspectives from each of our panelists and their strategies for navigation.

View challenges as opportunities, not confrontation

Kim Colbert, Global Head of Employee Relations, HR

The word challenge – many of us see it as a confrontation. Well, I challenge everyone to challenge the word challenge, and to instead view it as a desire to understand, as an opportunity to ask hard questions, and to gain deeper knowledge of someone’s experience. I view the word challenge as a desire to understand.

Frame it like this: Can you help me understand why this was the approach that was taken? From there, we can work to shift the paradigm, then we can identify if there’s work that needs to be done. Think of the challenge as curiosity, not confrontation.

Related: Ten ways to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises

Kim Colbert, Global Head of Employee Relations, HR

Sing your own praises. This is something that women are often hesitant to do. I once had a mentor who told me I did something great, and she encouraged me to tell the head of the department – which I was extremely hesitant to do. Throughout my career, I have learned that it’s important to be your own advocate. It’s important to brag about yourself.

You don’t have to be aggressive to be a female leader

Sangeet Reen, VP Services, Implementation

There’s a known stereotype that in order to be a female leader, you have to be aggressive. Don’t believe that. You have to have confidence, yes, and often times you have to be assertive, but you can do both of those things with elegance and grace. In my opinion to be a recognised leader, you just have to show up and add value, just don’t be a sledgehammer when you do it. It really is that simple.

Rethinking the word balance – life is a seesaw

Sangeet Reen, VP Services, Implementation

The word balance is thrown around a lot. Well, I choose to challenge the concept of balance. I’m okay with being imbalanced. It’s a seesaw, as a single mother sometimes my kids are going to take priority, and sometimes work will take the priority. And the way to get that seesaw moving is to have good boundaries, be organised and be transparent. This applies to anyone; accept that you are human, and you can’t be perfect all the time – takes the pressure off doesn’t it?

Have empathy as a leader

Shelley Ng, VP Product

As a leader, it’s important to understand the needs of your employees – and to have empathy. Reinforce to your employees – both male and female – that it’s okay to go look after your kids, your parents, it’s okay to take the time to look after yourself. Let them know that it’s okay – and even encouraged – to take the time they need to address their personal lives, so they don’t have to worry that they’re making the wrong move for their career. They don’t have to choose between work and their lives.

Use technology to address bias and grow your pipeline of women in STEM

Shelley Ng, VP Product

On a broader basis, leaders should embrace technology to better understand how to combat bias. Artificial Intelligence and human capital management software can help businesses mitigate unconscious bias when used effectively. Increasing diversity within an organisation starts by addressing potential biases in the recruiting process and leveraging the right technology to help. To see more women in STEM, mentor girls and the younger generation about the possibilities of tech careers that will help grow the pipeline of women entering the workforce in this field. If they can see a career in STEM in their future through existing female leaders, they’ll know that they too can do it. You need to see it to be it.

Whether you’re an experienced leader or someone just starting in the workplace, there are so many lessons to be learned from these leaders. There’s also validation that many of us are facing similar challenges and that we’re not alone. The more we’re able to share our stories and learn from each other, the easier the journey can become for all of us.

To conclude, a final message shared by Leagh Turner resonates: “When you believe in people, you ask them to do more than they think they’re capable of doing.”

Let’s continue to believe in each other, lift each other up, amplify each other’s and our own voices, and celebrate the accomplishments of women and women-identifying people everywhere.

Lisa Bull

Lisa Bull is Vice President, Talent Development at Ceridian where she oversees learning and development, performance management, onboarding, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs globally. 

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