The original version of this article was published in Half Times, the digital magazine for Robert Half employees.
Robert Half and our subsidiary, Protiviti, a global consulting firm, celebrated Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in March. It was a month filled with events designed to honor the achievements and milestones of individuals who identify as women — all centered around this year’s global International Women’s Day theme, #BreakTheBias, a call to action to accelerate gender equality.
One special event, hosted by Global Employee Women’s Network (GWEN), a Robert Half Employee Network Group (ENG), and Protiviti ENGs iGROWW and GETIT, featured soccer legend and activist Abby Wambach, who spoke about the importance of calling each other out on our biases when they impact others, the room for growth and the respect that can come from new perspectives.
We also wanted to explore how women at Robert Half are helping to #BreakTheBias in the workplace and our communities, and get their perspectives on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day. Here are responses from seven inspiring women who work for our company in North America:
Describe a time when you encountered bias and how you handled it.
Yvette Merk, practice director, Ontario, Calif.
As a woman of color, not only does my identity intersect with two historically underrepresented communities, but I am also in an interracial marriage and have a blended family, which has not fully been accepted by some people in my life. The bias I encounter spans across three of my core identities and has been, and still is, a struggle to navigate.
A pivotal moment for me was inspired by our Black Employee Network (BEN), which hosts ongoing Be The Change conversations. Experiencing dialogue with colleagues from different backgrounds and experiences led to similar conversations with my family in our home. As my husband would listen to these calls with me, we realized we could take a similar approach in our personal lives. We felt the importance of knowledge, learning, sharing and space to process could happen in our family.
We are on a consistent journey to overcome these biases, and what keeps us going is believing in who we are, taking care of ourselves, and understanding we can work to break down the biases and create a new world with room for everyone to be their authentic selves.
DeLynn Senna, senior district director, legal, San Ramon, Calif.
Growing up, I was immersed in traditional values and surrounded by heteronormative, gendered expectations. I knew early on that forgoing a career, staying at home, maintaining the household, and raising kids was not what I envisioned for myself.
After my husband and I were married, we waited 11 years to have children because I was fortunate enough to be thriving in my career with Robert Half and traveling 90% of the time. The motherhood bias confronted me again after giving birth to my first son and deciding to return to my role. This meant that my husband stayed at home with our child while I returned to work and travel. I was determined to follow my passion and inspired by my dreams, so I was able to ignore the judgment from others.
I am all about breaking stereotypes and not being what some expect a woman to be — there doesn’t have to be one mold for all women. Women are powerful, beautiful, strong, inspirational, warm, and just cool. Being a woman in 2022 is truly whatever we desire it to be, and that is liberating in and of itself. I feel a sense of responsibility to help women of all generations find their voice and confidence to choose how they want to live their lives.
What can women do to help people recognize bias, and how does it shape our decisions and what we think of others, including ourselves?
Nina Moore, senior product manager of experience design, San Ramon, Calif.
I am inspired by every woman who has overcome biases, difficulties and prejudices. Recognizing bias and acting requires strength and determination. Anyone can serve as an advocate for change and work together to break the biases that women, and other marginalized groups, experience.
I am proud of the women in my family, going back four generations — starting with my great-grandmother. In the early 19th century, pre-Soviet Armenia, a woman’s role was to stay home and take care of the family. My great-grandmother became a dentist, combining her career responsibilities with her role of raising kids and grandkids. Because of my great-grandmother’s dedication to success, my grandmother and mother continued the trend of being independent women. They also broke the bias that “women can’t do this or that” and taught me the importance of education, persistence and resilience, along with empathy and kindness.
The generations of women before me have taught me how to empower my daughters to become individuals with strong values and big hearts, and to develop a sense of purpose to advance the collective good, regardless of whether it fits the mold of what’s expected.
Mary Schulman, executive assistant, San Ramon, Calif.
All people can help recognize bias by believing that we can be more than what society prescribes us to be — women, men, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming individuals — and instead, choose to accomplish and achieve more.
This very idea shaped my decision to pursue post-secondary education. The youngest of three, my siblings and I went through the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program in school. It seemed we were on the fast track to success, and while we all graduated high school with high GPAs, we decided to pursue employment and forego college. Thirty years later, I went back to school to earn a degree in Psychology. I will be graduating in December with a master’s in Urban Ministry, with plans to obtain a doctorate in Divinity.
My mom helped me to see that anything is possible for women. She decided to go back to school in her 50s and graduated with a master’s degree, breaking generational patterns. I admire women who decide that the “status quo” no longer fits them or realize it never did.
Who’s acted as a role model for you when it comes to breaking gender inequalities?
Abbie Boen, network services engineer, Deer Park, Ill.
In the fight for women’s equality, I strive to recognize implicit biases and actively counteract unconscious biases through practicing self-reflection, avoiding assumptions, and widening my social participation in underrepresented groups. Serving as my inspiration on this journey, I’ve looked to the women in my life who raised me and broke the mold of what was expected of them.
I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, where women were expected to forgo a career, maintain the household and raise children. For women who pursued careers, it seemed that they had to work harder than their male counterparts for recognition and promotion.
However, my stepmom and aunts forged their own way forward and started their own businesses while garnering respect from their communities and customers. My stepmom became a well-known tailor and seamstress and has her own fashion line to this day, while my aunts were well-known beauticians and aestheticians. They were, and still are, hardworking individuals who overcame so many social biases and remain successful and independent to this day.
Aicha Haidara, credit manager, Ontario, Canada
I’ve had incredible mentors, including my amazing managers, colleagues and friends, who’ve supported me, inspired me, partnered with and cheered me on throughout my career. But my special inspirations are my sisters and my daughter.
I admire their hard work, ambition and tenacity. I love seeing them work tirelessly to attain their goals, however realistic or outlandish, and they drive me to do the same. My daughter’s fiery mindset and audacity gave me the courage to continue my journey to overcome color and gender bias. They are also my support system: there to provide a listening ear, to motivate me, but most importantly, to remind me that the sky is the limit.
This is a tribute to women for what we’ve accomplished! I’m confident that with a dedication to excellence, and a bit of tenacity, success will always be ahead.
Chelsea Piekarski, senior talent director, St. Paul, Minn.
I have a deep respect for Laverne Cox, an Emmy-nominated actress who identifies as a black, transgender woman from Mobile, Ala. Laverne’s advocacy and vulnerability relentlessly continue to pave the way for trans visibility, education and acceptance.
She was an executive producer of “Disclosure,” which tells the story of Hollywood and the media’s evolving view of transgender people over the years. It depicts the violence the trans community faces as well as showcases how Hollywood has represented the trans community. “The ways in which trans people have been represented have suggested that we are mentally ill, that we don’t exist,” Cox said in the documentary’s trailer. “And yet, here we are, and we’ve always been here.”
Representation is incredibly important, and us challenging society’s representation as well as our own biases is just as important. We as women are continuing to push forward and break biases, but including advocacy and creating safe spaces for our trans sisters needs to continue to be at the forefront. We are stronger together, as equals. Let’s #breakthebias!
If you’re interested in working for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we’d love to have you join our team! Robert Half is an Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans. You can view our current job openings here.