#ChooseToChallenge for International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day for us to celebrate strides made in gender parity and reflect on what still needs to change.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. This call to arms is about celebrating what has been achieved while raising awareness around bias, calling it out and taking action in the fight for complete gender equality.

As the official IWD site explains it, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”

At Rakuten, uplifting women in our organization has been a priority. The employee-run group Women@Rakuten is a Rakuten Americas initiative focused on strengthening women’s leadership by improving hard and soft skills, offering education through a speaker series, and creating networking opportunities across business units. The primary goal for Women@Rakuten is to bring together our diverse mix of successful women from across regions and scale a program broadly that will reach all women across the Americas.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we spoke to the women of Rakuten.ca to learn more about their personal experiences, aspirations and next steps.

Here’s what some of them had to say…

As a female, what has been the most significant barrier in your career and how did you overcome it?

Alison, Product Marketing Manager: Being perceived as the young, timid, Asian female too afraid to speak up. So, I raised my hand more, spoke up, looked at how other female leaders paved their own ways via articles, blogs, videos, and through trial and error – I continue to work on how I carry and portray myself as a strong, thoughtful, confident teammate, leader, and working professional

Claire, VP of Marketing: Self-doubt, and thinking that I couldn’t be what I couldn’t see, were my biggest barriers. So, I focused on developing my areas of expertise, feeling more confident in my abilities, and embraced feedback from the leaders around me.

What is one thing you would recommend to make a positive impact on women in the workplace?

Reja, Retention Marketing Manager: Transparency (amongst fellow female coworkers).  Women inherently compete with each other, especially when trying to advance in a corporate world that is often dominated by men (who typically encourage competition as the expectation for advancing careers).

Krysta, Director of Business Development at Rakuten Advertising Canada: Pair up men & women in the workplace and encourage monthly meetings to relate to one another. When we know our colleagues, we care about them more. We need to expose our young leaders to the opportunities they should aspire to. ‘Bring your child to work day’ is a great way to educate a younger generation about workplace life and different careers. In the same vein, why not encourage senior leaders to bring younger female colleagues on a shadow day.

Can you share a memorable experience?

Swati, Email Producer: One of the discussions arranged by Women@Rakuten has been inspiring. It was heartening to know that women in leadership roles go through the same insecurities, confidence dips as others and how they worked around it often being the only woman on the table and made themselves heard.

Lauren, Marketing Coordinator, ShopStyle Canada/AU: Most of my team is female and I every time one of us has a “win” at work we celebrate no matter how big or small. Something as small as a slack message saying “congrats!!” goes a long way 🙂

Katusha, Jr. Marketing Operations Specialist: Having a female as the General Manager of Rakuten Canada.

What is one thing you would recommend to make a positive impact on supporting/lifting women in the workplace?

Graziella, PR & Brand Manager: Stop competing with other women. Unfortunately, the system has been designed for us to compete out of fear. I myself was guilty of doing this earlier in my career. I was so anxious that another woman’s success meant I was a failure. The second I let go of the competition and started working TOGETHER with my female colleagues was when I became a stronger employee, leader and person. We all have something different to bring to the table – so make room for others.

What are you excited for?

Jen, General Manager: I’m excited to see the changes and the work we are doing today, leading towards the total elimination of these barriers for our future generations.

Pawan, Associate HR Business Partner: The female speaker series has been great. It’s amazing to see all these women in leadership roles, who are willing to share their stories of success and provide us with encouragement, empowerment, and motivation, for everyone listening to know that we can also get to the top one day.

Who inspires you when it comes to female leadership?

Shagun, Digital Marketing Manager: Oprah Winfrey. Her invigorating energy, charisma and transformational voice has inspired me for many years. Her professional journey and the way she lifts up women encouraging them to feel a deep sense of pride in their existence and voice is beautiful.

Lexi, Social Media Specialist: My mom. She’s the breadwinner in our family, with responsibilities that surpass many of the men in her field. She worked really hard, but also saw the importance of female allegiances and mentorship. Some of her closest friends of the women she rose up with early in her career.

We’d love to hear from you – leave a comment in response to one of the questions above; let us know what you’re doing to support women in the workplace, or gender equality; tag a woman who inspires you and let her know!

Lastly, we’ve created a Spotify playlist (our first) of songs by strong, independent women about strong, independent women. Give it a listen and get ready to feel musically motivated!