In honor of International Women’s Day, I sat down with Erica Terry Derryck, Vice President of Global Communications, Small Business, and Self Employed Group at Intuit, to discuss gender equity in the workplace. We discussed our experiences as women of color in the corporate world and entrepreneurship. Here are some of the tips we have for other women.
Take up space, especially if you're the only one who looks like you.
I’ll never forget my first day at my big-girl job after college. I was one of the few women, and I was the only Latina. I was working at a large tech company and I felt like I didn’t belong. I had no engineering experience and no one looked like me. However, over the years, I began to realize that my differences were my strengths. The fact that I didn’t know how to think like an engineer made me a valuable asset because I could see things from the perspective of our customers, who also were not engineers. The fact that I spoke Spanish gave me opportunities to travel to Spain and Latin America on behalf of my company. Now, as an entrepreneur, I have been able to lean into my differences as if they are my superpower—because they are.
I asked Erica what advice she had for somebody who walks into a meeting and realizes they are the only one there who looks like them. This is what she said:
“For me, I get a ton of strength thinking about all the women who got me into that room, and I get my motivation thinking about all the women I want to sit in these seats after me. That is what helps me stay focused and really commit to speaking up when I might be afraid—knowing that this is bigger than me. It's about making sure that more women who look like me have a seat at the table.”
Lead with courage.
Erica and I spoke about my platform and company, Courage Driven Latina. She asked me, “You have a platform that's all about empowering Latina women. What would you say is the number one thing that you impart to your clients?”
My response: Courage. Courage means that you're afraid but you still do it, and it's really difficult to go and do things that scare us. One of the biggest tips I have when it comes to leading with courage is to remember your why: What's the bigger picture? What's the bigger reason behind wanting to do this scary thing?
Typically, our biggest dreams are on the other side of courage.
Make the workplace more gender-balanced.
I asked Erica for some advice on making the workplace more equitable, specifically with regard to gender.
Erica said, I think first and foremost, you have to have more voices in the room. The more perspectives, the more backgrounds, the more actual diversity you have, the richer the conversation is going to be and the more ideas are going to come forward.
Second, we need to remind ourselves that there are no stupid questions. Creating an environment where people feel safe asking anything means that you're going to get the possibility of any answer, right? You're going to get way more contributions and good ideas coming to the table.
Lastly, don't be afraid to buddy up. Don't be afraid to ask someone who you see is great at something how they got great at it.
I wish some of my early jobs had done a better job of creating an environment where I felt safe to ask questions. All incredible advice from Erica.
Help other women.
Erica posed a great final question: What are some of the things that you think others can do to help women?
My answer: Invite us to speak up and hire women. There are a lot of us out there with a lot of talent. I have an all-women team and they are all incredible. I would say go to conferences, join community groups, and ask for referrals. To me, it’s important to know that I am giving women the opportunity to succeed in the workplace.
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