I am so excited that it is the fourth year in a row that we are celebrating International Women’s Day at SHRM. In Russia, where I grew up, IWD or March 8th is a national holiday that signifies the important role that women play in the world. This holiday is truly special to me. Even as a girl, I would get presents and flowers from my Dad for March 8th. It is also a tradition in Russia for boys to get together and give small gifts to the girls at school. On this day, all children give flowers, usually yellow mimosas or tulips, chocolates and hand-made cards to moms, grandmas, teachers, and other women. I treasure memories of these traditions because my culture taught me that we must appreciate women’s contributions and accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
As a female professional and mom, I now see IWD in a whole new light. Having lived in DC for almost 10 years, I see so many ambitious, hardworking and successful women who do an extraordinary job building careers and balancing their busy work schedules with other priorities. Since the origins of the IWD in early 1900s, women have achieved so much in the workplace. Something that a century ago people could only dream about is now a reality – women are CEOs, pilots, Nobel Prize winners, Supreme Court justices, Presidents and presidential candidates. In the US, we now have more women than ever serving in the U.S. Congress, yet they are still in minority at only 24 percent of all members.
While there have been many positive shifts, in 2019 IWD is as important as ever because this day raises awareness of the challenges that women face today in every part of the world and in every facet of our lives. We need more opportunities for girls and young women to get a quality education, better maternal health and healthcare for all women regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Serena Williams, who I admire as both an athlete and an advocate for women empowerment, once shared a quote that I truly believe in.
“In order for change to really be made, men and women have to work together…They have to have the same message; they have to support each other.”
Regardless of whether women work on the tennis court or in the courtroom, they deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect, receive the same access to opportunities for growth, and be rewarded based on their expertise and skills — nothing less. The change will happen only if our entire society works toward this, including women making an extra effort to support other women.
Talented women are in every industry, in every city, and in every organization. I would love to see more opportunities created for women to show their potential. And, to create more opportunities, we need more champions like Serena Williams; champions in the workplace who truly believe in us and who recognize the value that professional women bring to their teams.