Recently, I met 24 influential Black women as part of a professional recognition – I admire each of them for what they’ve accomplished and overcome in their careers and personal lives. Standing next to women whose professional achievements have significantly impacted different industries made me think: What were the key factors that help me get to where I am today?
1. Being Mentored. It’s played a critical role in my professional and personal life. Mrs. Thomas, my high school counselor, was my first mentor. She coached me through scholarship application and mentored me beyond the college application process, she went further to sponsor me which helped me to land a summer job very soon after I graduated from high school.
2. Being Sponsored. A mentor or coach strengthens a mentees ability to take charge of his/her personal and professional journey and concentrates on performance – reinforcing, elevating, developing and correcting. While a sponsor also takes attention on performance, unlike mentorship, sponsorship is done with the expectation of new outcomes, like creating links or networks with influencers or people who can make decisions. The sponsor is willing to advocate with this network with strong conviction, even to the point of risking their credibility. Most importantly, the sponsor will protect you when you are in high risk situations. Together, you will be able to achieve further success. Research shows a combination of mentorship and sponsorship works.
[Source: Barbara Annis, 2017]
3. Modeling This Behavior with Others. Having been mentored and sponsored myself, I feel a strong obligation to pay it forward to others. Last year, I started a mentoring circle with Mosiac. Mosiac is a group of US minority employees within Lenovo who work in different business areas and they have been identified as great pipeline for top leadership positions.
I meet with 8 people in each session, and we talk about various topics related to their growth, challenges and shared experiences I love this approach because it allows me reach more of my mentees, they learn from each other and create a network. I then take matters further to leverage my network within Lenovo to sponsor and accompany my mentees when necessary. As a sponsor, I feel the achievements are mutual. Success doesn’t come alone.
In the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, we should continue to “press for progress.” Mentorship and sponsorship will help us continue to make a difference in women’s careers.
Last week, I attended the 2018 Inclusion & Innovation Summit, hosted at Twitter’s HQ in San Francisco. We heard from an impressive panel of speakers on the challenges in promoting diversity in the workplace, and ways to overcome them. The panel’s credentials and accomplishments wowed me. We heard from Twitter’s Founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, CNN Hero & CEO of the National Center of Civil and Human Rights, Derreck Kayongo, and social advocate and mechanical engineer, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, just to name a few. The experiences that all of the speakers shared with us reinforced for me that, while bias and discrimination may be a tough weed to eradicate, we can and must seek to do so for ourselves and our businesses.
A diverse workplace isn’t a feel-good gold star to put on a company’s resume. It’s a crucial building block for success. Discrimination costs businesses in many ways, including financially. Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that companies paid approximately $484 million to victims of workplace discrimination. Beyond impacting their bottom line, companies miss out on critical opportunities to reach their customers and grow their top line. Dorsey noted that diversity is a reflection of who we serve, and to serve a diverse world, we must reflect that diversity in our companies.
It’s not enough to know that diversity is important – we must actively challenge the status quo to achieve it. Challenging the status quo requires us to check our biases at the door. As Kayongo reminded us, our viewpoint of the world has been continuously shaped since birth. Our subconscious forms its own opinions through information we receive from our families, friends and experiences, and numerous environmental sources. Unconscious bias can emerge among even the best of intentions; it can be hard to change, but it’s even harder if you don’t try.
So how do we change attitudes on diversity & inclusion?
Be wary of group think. The tendency to side with the majority share of voice creates blind spots. Real, mindful approaches to implementing change requires creativity. Assemble teams with diversity in mind, and encourage yourselves to examine an issue from all viewpoints.
Be the change you wish to see. This mantra is an old one, but a relevant one, and one that Dorsey touched on in our discussion – we can remodel cultural behaviors by doing. Be brave and set the example.
Implement a process. The effective path to change requires planning. Abdel-Magied highlighted how the Lewin Change Management Model helps us make changes that stick.
Unfreeze from the status quo. Help your team to understand that change is necessary. Show them what’s not working and how it can be solved.
Change the way you operate. This is the transitional period of implementing new policies.
Refreeze on the new standard. Adopt your new focus, and institutionalize the changes you’ve made.
These workshops are invaluable to me, not only for the fresh perspectives they provide, but also for the important reminder that we have to continually seek the best practices to grow and adapt moving forward. The learning curve never stops; in a dynamic, ever-changing world, new challenges are sure to be revealed – never stop seeking the solutions to the tough problems.
Sources: “EEOC Isues FY 2017 Performance Report”, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
15 November 2017 https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/11-15-17a.cfm
When I was a little girl, my mother taught me two principles about managing my money that have stuck with me.
1. When you earn money, immediately put it in three buckets. Put a percentage of your earnings into your savings account – you must save for a rainy day; give a percentage to your church – it’s important to give back; and with the rest, pay your bills. Whatever remains is for pleasures.
2. Don’t mess up your credit. Pay your bills on time.
As a young couple starting off, my parents didn’t have much, and with seven children, I watched my mother manage our money diligently. She ensured we had food on the table and we paid our bills. She made it look easy: She was a patient spender. She waited for things, and she knew how to separate needs from wants. I remember her putting clothes on layaway at Kmart – she made small payments over time, until paying off the balance. I remembered when she purchased our first upgraded car, a Lincoln Continental, Mark V. She proudly walked out the dealership with a big smile on her face because she got the loan, based on her great credit score.
During my college years, I worked and began to earn money. With my scholarship money, my cashier’s job at the local grocery store and the money I earned from internships, I graduated college debt-free, unlike most of my classmates.
After graduation, I landed my first professional job with Texas Instruments. Like my mom, I proudly bought a car on my own – my first one – and I didn’t need my parents to co-sign. Mom taught me to have the car payment automatically withdrawn from my bank account, on time, every month, so I would never miss a payment and keep a good credit rating.
In my mid-twenties, I found it easier to spend money than manage money like my mother had taught me. I traveled, furnished my apartment and kept my wardrobe up-to-date. It seemed all the things Mom taught about credit card debt, giving back to the church and saving money each paycheck, went in one ear and out the other. I then realized that what she made look easy, was actually very difficult. Unable to pay my credit cards on time, the interest kept building up, and I found myself living paycheck to paycheck. I discovered how easy it was to get to this place and how long It would take to get out, if I didn’t get some help.
This challenge led me to the realization that it’s not all about how much money you make (of course we all need a sufficient amount to live), it’s about how you manage what you have. Now I understood how some of the richest people could go bankrupt.
Fortunately, I had help. My husband, who is a trained auditor, took charge of the finances. By leveraging his strength and watching him manage our money, I learned financial maturity and discipline. We also hired a financial planner to help us consolidate our earnings, set budgets and make good investment decisions. Turning to an expert for advice, especially with stock, which was unfamiliar to us, helped us make good financial decisions, which will benefit us as we age.
Here’s the advice I’d give to my younger self and to others taking the financial journey of earning and managing their money:
1. Use a debit card. Don’t get into credit debt. Learn to be patient and wait on things out of your budget.
2. If you have to get a credit card, pay it off monthly so you don’t accrue paying interest.
3. Leverage financial planners – seek advice early.
4. In a partnership, consolidate finances. The sum is greater than individual parts.
5. Set a budget and stick to it.
6. Invest in 401K or retirement fund.
The movie “Hidden Figures” raised our awareness of the workplace dynamic and reality for many whose talents and contributions were unrecognized due to racism and unconscious bias. The inequity of being a Hidden Figure makes it no less alarming or necessary to address.
At the 2017 Grace Hopper Conference, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the topic of Hidden Figures. This caused me to reflect upon my own experience as a Hidden Figure and my journey towards becoming a business executive. I walked away recognizing how prevalent this issue is and how some of the best talent is not being fully acknowledged and utilized every day.
How do you know you’re a Hidden Figure?
A Hidden Figure is someone who experiences a bias because of the color of their skin, gender, language, religion, nationality, just to name a few. So how does this manifest in the workplace?
They are not included in key meetings or social gatherings where often key information is shared or exchanged;
They are not included in decision making;
Their input or expertise is not sought or considered;
Their contributions are not embraced or recognized.
A Hidden Figure has to do more to overcome biases and stereotypes because people often make assumptions about them before they can prove and demonstrate their value. In other words, they can’t bring their whole selves into the workplace.
I have felt like a Hidden Figure. Navigating in high tech corporations as an African American female hasn’t always been easy. I have worked for companies whose core values include respect for diversity and inclusion, which is very important to me. However, I encountered individuals, who do not uphold these core values. So, I was faced with how to manage these situations.
Early in my career I applied for financial sponsorship from my company to enroll in an MBA program. I was qualified. My direct manager thought I was qualified and supported me. However, the next level decision-making executive denied my request. When I met with him to discuss my request which he denied, he couldn’t explain the reason for denying my request. A few years later, executive management changed, and I applied again. I was approved. I never gave up. I learned that resilience and tenacity breaks through even the toughest of barriers. I also learned the importance of having supportive leadership and sponsors, who recognize my potential.
I have experienced that awkward feeling of being the only one of my kind in the room. I have been in situations where I spoke up in meetings and no one listened or another person would repeat the same comment and get acknowledged. I missed out on being invited to the table for key discussions, attending parties and social gatherings where decision makers were discussing pertinent information for work and building relationships that transfer into the workplace – these things matter… a lot. This led me to feeling isolated and created a reinforcing cycle that made me feel less likely to contribute.
Today, I am a senior executive and over the years, I pushed through many barriers in the work place. I don’t have to force my way into conversations; in fact, I am sought out for my opinions or perspectives. It feels great to be valued and to have a sense of belonging. This is what employees who are hidden figures long for. I work with executives to ensure a strong culture of inclusion which enables our employees to bring their entire selves, ideas, experiences and talents to Lenovo. It is good for the employees and it is good for Lenovo. It makes us more creative, innovative and a stronger company.
Key Tips for Hidden Figures:
I feel a credibility and responsibility to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way with others who may be Hidden Figures too. Here are a few tips:
It is their issue…not yours. Don’t let your star be diminished because of someone else’s bias.
Create and leverage your team who can support, counsel and be our advocate.
Create a teachable moment when you see or experience conscious or unconscious bias.
Have support systems outside of the workplace – trusted family or friends who can lift you up, no matter what.
And finally, don’t give up. Find ways to turn being a victim to becoming a victor.
In my previous posts, I shared the first of several themes that guide my personal and professional life – never stop learning. Today, I’d like to share with you the other that complements it – get outside your comfort zone. If you look up the definition of comfort zone, you’ll find a description along these lines:
1 :the temperature range within which one is comfortable
2 :the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity
In this comfortable state, there’s little stress and anxiety because it’s familiar, and we know what to expect. So why is this a bad thing? It’s not, unless you get too comfortable, and it’s holding you back from learning and growing. I’ve faced several points in my life where I knew I had reached a comfort level, and I had to choose to remain there or face the risk and uncertainty of a new possibility. No matter the uncomfortableness of the process, I knew I had to choose the latter because it would help me reach my professional goals. Most recently, this came in the form of a three-year international assignment to Beijing, China shortly after I joined Lenovo.
Some of my family and friends were supportive of the decision and some were not. Living in China challenged me and my family, especially the first year. I moved from Austin, Texas with a population of 1M people to Beijing, China with a population of 30 million and a place where English is not the primary language. Talk about embracing the unfamiliar – new to Lenovo and new to China.
While painful at times, I grew a lot during this journey. And I learned the most from little mistakes. For example, I assumed the culture I absorbed for 15 years at my previous company would be the same at Lenovo. I thought believing what made me successful in one place would make me successful in my new company. Through this experience I learned it’s ok to leverage past experiences, but not to let it get in the way of being open to new experiences and a different way of doing things.
My colleagues in China gave me some tough feedback. Within six months in the job, I received feedback that I was not a good listener, and I took action too quickly. My excitement to embrace opportunities and fix problems translated to others as dominating and controlling. While difficult to take because you know deep down it’s true, I learned to see feedback as a gift. I took feedback from my mentor Gina Qiao to slow down and build relationships first and then align stakeholders around ideas. I began to see issues from an Eastern lens while at the same time, I had real experiences from my Western lens. I now seek out raw, critical feedback as a way continually being mindful of how I interact with others, from other cultures.
My move to Beijing impacted my entire family, and I’m proud that the men in my life adjusted well. Of course, they faced obstacles in adjusting, but my boys are very competitive and like a challenge. Once we signed up and moved to China they knew we had to make it work for our family. At the end of our time there, we all felt like we accomplished so much – developed new friends in China who we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives, learned to speak conversational Mandarin, tolerated cold, snowy winters (a big adjustment coming from Texas) and broadened our understanding and respect for other cultures through experiencing authentic Chinese food and traveling across Asia.
By embracing risk and unfamiliar situations, I’ve been able to do something I never would imagine. I’ve even co-authored a book that incorporated my experiences in China and developing Lenovo’s culture framework. Despite the struggles and the feeling of discomfort when taking risk, I wouldn’t change my decision. I realize what may have felt like a struggle back then was necessary to get to where I am today and share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way about getting out of your comfort zone.
Travel if you can within and outside of the US to gain an understanding of other cultures and traditions.
Diversify your friend group. I have a diverse set of friends representing various cultures – I partake in their celebrations, weddings, etc. I’ve attended Indian weddings and had so much fun dressing for the occasion. To me it makes life interesting.
Share your culture heritage with others. My roots are from Louisiana, so I enjoy hosting Gumbo parties at my house with friends who’ve never experienced gumbo or Cajun food
With risk, you may stumble, so fail fast, re-adjust and move forward.
Go with your gut. For me, after I’ve analyzed and decided it’s the right opportunity and I still have that tinge of discomfort, I know I need to do it.
Our company culture, #WeAreLenovo, supports working parents around the world in balancing their career and family. When I visit different countries, I’m always moved by the stories our employees tell me about how Lenovo gives them the flexibility to get the job done in a way that makes sense for them, especially our working moms. Today our efforts are being recognized externally – for the first time, Working Mother magazine named us as one of the 2017 Working Mother 100 Best Companies. We’re in good company. We share a spot on the list with other businesses like Johnson & Johnson and Bank of America, identified as leaders in creating progressive programs in the advancement of women, flexibility, childcare and paid parental leave. We are also honored to announced that the publication has named Laura Latrello, VP of Data Center Group has been named Lenovo’s Working Mother of the Year.
At Lenovo, 54% of our female employees in the U.S. are working mothers, a statistic that reminds us why we focus on creating a diverse and inclusive family-friendly culture. This award also helps affirm that all the work around new programs and policies we’ve put into place for our employees is working. For our employees and for me personally, I have a sense of pride to say I work for a company that actually gets it.
Our philosophy is about supporting the whole employee, whether it’s at home or at the office. To grow the diversity of our leadership, we’ve expanded our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) most recently with as the Hispanics of Lenovo Association (HOLA) and the African American Forum (AFF), and our long-standing Women in Lenovo Leadership (WILL) initiative is continuing to offer women professional development and guidance within the company. And we’re seeing these efforts pay off. In just the past year 19.1% of the women in WILL became an executive. We believe, and we have the data, that proves happier, more engaged employees leads to better work and better results. That’s not only good for employees, it’s good for our business.
While we’re humbled by being named a 2017 Working Mother 100 Best Company for our focus on employee benefits and programs, our people are our best testament to our culture – they say it best. Here are some stories about how Lenovo supports them as working parents.
“I have been lucky enough to change my work schedule to accommodate my kids’ school schedules. I get to work at 7:30 and leave at 3:15 every day to pick my 6-year-old son Max up from school-we play at the playground together and then pick up my daughter from pre-school. We have time play together, cook together and just relax and hang out together so I can be with them as they grow up-which of course is so important to me as a mom!”
Oona Newman-Floyd, Senior Manager, User Experience
“Life as I knew it completely changed on August 5, 2015. My then fiancé’ suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke (bleed on the right side of the brain with full paralysis on the left side of body). During the entire process, I kept myself busy (and sane to an extent) by being able to work remotely. I’m grateful that I had the support of my Management Team and peers during this very difficult time.
The rainbow at the end is that I didn’t miss the 1st time he opened his eyes, said words, wiggled his left hand/fingers, stood up and walked on his own.?I was/am even more grateful to Lenovo for allowing the flexibility for me to work ‘off the grid.’”
Anitra Henry McKoy, Global Account Fulfillment Manager
“I was 6-weeks into my maternity leave at Lenovo when I saw an opportunity posted that I wanted. I interviewed while holding my 6-week old in my arms praying she didn’t wake up and disrupt the calls. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to start until August – did I mention that it was only May? I got the job and I got it because Lenovo said that I was the right person for the role, regardless of when I was able to start. I have had two kids while working here and not once did I feel that my career was stalled or that I was held-back.”
Brandi Einhorn, NA Learning Business Partner
“I love working for Lenovo because as the husband of a working wife and the father of two beautiful and active girls (ages 11 & 2), the Organization understands the importance of a healthy work life balance. Having a flexible schedule available (when needed) and a management team that is also supportive of a healthy work life balance has been instrumental in helping my family achieve our goals and master our daily routines. Items that seemed impossible to achieve before. I could not be more thankful to Lenovo (and I am sure my family feels the same) for being a company that just “gets it” when it comes to the work life balance argument!”
Marcus Cole, Worldwide ThinkPad Product Manager
“My 82-year-old mother got sick a little over a year ago and had to put her in hospital. Once she got better I then had to sell her house move her into my home as she was no longer able to live alone. I am able to keep an eye on her as I am fortunate enough to be a home worker and take her to doctors as needed. Lenovo is a wonderful company to work for and I feel they really care about me and my ‘Work Family Balance.’ I have received nothing but great support from Lenovo. I am proud to say I work for Lenovo.”
Donna Rust, Adv. Sales Management Support Specialist
“When I was offered a role in December 2013 to run the Public Sector business for Lenovo Canada, I was extremely hesitant to accept the position as I was actually 3 months pregnant and hadn’t yet announced it. Once presented the offer, I shared my hesitation and [was] told to please not let that be a reason to decline the role and that Lenovo was very interested in having me here for the long haul. I pretty much decided on that spot that Lenovo was where I wanted to be knowing how supportive they would be of me having a family, and would very much respect work/life balance!”
Cheryl Stookes, NA Chief of Staff
We know growing a career and family isn’t easy, but we’re proud that 33 percent of our senior leaders on our executive council are women – many of them working moms – and we’re working to increase our number of female executives across the company. In this video, you can learn about how they manage both career and family.
Join the conversation about the 2017 Working Mother 100 Best Companies on Twitter by following @_WorkingMother_ or #WM100Best. You can also hear more of our employee stories by following @LenovoPress on Twitter and @WeAreLenovo on Instagram.
Never stop learning. My parents taught me that lesson early in life, by example. As the youngest of seven children, they wanted a better life for me than their own.
The most important lesson I learned from them – grit. You make your own opportunities through perseverance and hard work. And they showed me what that looked like firsthand. My father, a seaman by profession, didn’t receive formal education. He worked his way up from sweeping the galley to Chief Cook on his ship, and in his spare time, he taught himself to read. I still remember sitting next to him as a little girl as he taught himself to read and write at the kitchen table. As the Chief Cook, he used what he learned to write his shopping lists and to create menus.
My father, deceased now, inspired me by what he said and what he did.
My mother wasn’t standing still either. She went back to school as she raised seven kids: First she earned her GED, and then again to earn a certificate in child care technology.
My mom’s 80th birthday highlight – meeting Michelle Obama.
These powerful examples formed the backbone for my insatiable appetite for lifelong learning, taking risks and trying new things. Often in college I was the only woman, not to mention African American woman, in my engineering classes. When I spent three years on assignment in Beijing after Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s PC business, I looked different from the majority of the population. Like my parents, I had no guarantee of success in any of my endeavors, but I knew the upside outweighed the fear, uncertainty and change that came with each decision. In order to grow, I’ve learned to embrace the unfamiliar and pursued new experiences, beginning early in life. In high school, I went to a predominately white school where I felt the frustration (that precedes learning) of being the different one. In my career, I’ve also experienced the frustration employees have when they feel limited in their role and the exhilaration when they create new opportunities for themselves to be challenged and learn. That reference helps me in my HR role to help create an organization that’s constantly finding new ways to cultivate our diverse employees at Lenovo.
As an engineer and consumer, I’m continually fascinated by technology’s ability to impact our lives. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential, not just in the smart home, but on the go, is becoming accessible and relevant to mainstream consumers. Personal computing now really has become “personalized” computing, as I rely on my smartwatch to track and analyze my fitness, and in the future, to predict and prevent health issues. I recently visited MIT’s AI lab to learn more about how Lenovo can tap into the research and innovations coming from university talent and pair it with our own AI work. I’m truly amazed at how devices are getting smarter, and it’s becoming more important than ever before to make sure systems are diverse and inclusive. For a personal device to be truly useful, it must understand all the nuances of “diverse” individuals, and that comes from collecting diversity of input and context from a variety of people representing different cultures, ideas and perspectives.
Back to my engineering roots playing with robots at the MIT AI lab.
Never standing still and continually learning embodies who I am and the company I work for, Lenovo. From constantly iterating each product to make it better, we’ve got the same drive to challenge the status quo. I’m continually looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve in my personal and professional life. That’s why I keep learning by reading what’s trending on social media, listening and valuing what my kids and their friends say and remembering that new challenges at work are opportunities to grow. That’s what keeps me inspired.
Navigating the intersection of a tech career, marriage and family
Today, I am 50 years old. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at 50. When I was 40, I thought 50 was so far away and old. Now that I’m here, I don’t feel old – instead, more confident, accomplished and wiser.
For the past 20 years, I’ve delivered many speeches and mentored many people, especially women. They always ask me, ”How do you do it?” “How do you travel around the world, as a global Vice President, a wife, mother and daughter?”
While on the surface it appeared easy, as most things usually do, underneath my accomplishments laid years of experiences filled with trials, tribulations and divine interventions. They got me to where I am today.
At 50, I’ve grown wiser because of all of those rich experiences, and it made me pause to think about what I would tell my younger self. If I had to start all over again, what would I change? I’ve thought about this periodically through the years, and if I had to do it all over again, even though there are things I wish I had handled differently, I wouldn’t change it because of how it has broadened my experience and added depth to my life.
For the next 12 months, in honor of my 50 years of this God giving life, I’m going to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and how they’ve helped me become who I am today in my personal and professional life.
I’m going to start focusing on the personal because I’ve learned that if things aren’t humming in my personal life, it can affect my professional life. Getting this right has been the foundation for my success in the workplace.
Lesson #1: Choose Your Partner Wisely
Pick a spouse or life partner with no ego and who will support your career aspirations. Boy did I get lucky. When I met my husband, Chris, we connected instantly. I just knew in my soul he was the one. In fact, after seriously dating for three months, we got engaged on a romantic trip to Jamaica, and we married within one year. The first year was the toughest of our marriage. I was 28 years old and he was 32. We were both independent, and we had to learn how to exist under one roof, as one. We sought counseling to work through our issues: It was the best investment of time in our marriage. Sometimes couples are afraid to seek counseling or admit they’re going because they think of it as a negative, but we saw it as a positive. We were two different people, committed to making things work and saw the value in leveraging an objective party to help us. It was worth investing the time.
I admire so many things about Chris, but I appreciate most of all his ability to support me as a successful, African American woman – some men are uncomfortable with a woman who challenges the status quo. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to do an international assignment, which required working and living in Beijing, China with my family. One of the reasons I appreciate working for Lenovo is because of the opportunities the company gives employees to grow and learn at all different levels. This opportunity would increase my business acumen and leadership skills at a global level by stepping out of my comfort zone living in another country. I recall the conversation with my husband. I wasn’t sure how he would respond as this would require him to put his career on hold for me. He reacted with genuine excitement for me and immediately explored taking a leave of absence with his job. Long story short, he took a leave of absence for the first year and then resigned to support my career. We spent three years total in China. During that time, I fell in love with him all over again. I saw a man who managed our household and our two young sons with style and grace, while I worked crazy hours and traveled the globe. He adapted in a country with almost 30 million people speaking Mandarin Chinese as the primary language. When we returned to the US, he went back to work.
At the beginning of our relationship, I didn’t know he would be so open to my demanding schedule and global travel, and I didn’t know my career would take me to Beijing. But I sensed early on a committed man, willing to do whatever it takes to make our family successful and to make me happy. I didn’t realize at the time how important this would be. We communicate constantly and collaborate on the things that are important to us and our family. We have mutual respect for each other and share responsibilities so we flex and check in a lot to stay on track. We’re both keenly aware of the balance of power and responsibility: My role doesn’t eclipse his role, even though on the surface, I may have the bigger more visible role. But underneath one would discover that he holds other critical pieces of our puzzle that are based on our commitment and values.
Having a supportive spouse with no ego let me balance my desire to have a career and advance in the executive ranks, while being a wife and a mother. He understood the multifaceted nature of my life, and that has made all the difference. So, younger self, definitely follow your instincts when meeting a partner. We often know when it’s right or not. Don’t settle. And, please be sure to look for signs that ego stays set aside.
“We All Live Here” – what a simple but powerful phrase. When I hear those four words, I think of Lenovo’s diversity and inclusion belief statement, “connected people change the world.” I love that Lenovo embraces the things that make each of our employees unique and celebrates differences that ultimately make us better. June brings great opportunities to celebrate diversity at Lenovo, both generally and in acknowledgement of LGBT Pride month.
This week in our Chicago office, interns learned about how we approach diversity by giving back to the communities we serve. The interns helped install a mural at a local elementary school working with We All Live Here an organization that promotes inclusion and diversity through public art projects. Interns also helped run the school’s field day activities, having fun and breaking down barriers by dispelling stereotypes between themselves and the students from the under resourced community.
Employees in our Morrisville offices will be volunteering with the John Avery Boys and Girls Clubs of Durham by conducting STEM activities for under-resourced students who attend the club. Students in grades 3-5 will be designing a backpack that incorporates an LED circuit, challenging the students to exercise both engineering and design skills. Middle school students will be learning about electromagnetic induction by building electromagnetic motors with Lenovo volunteers activity.
To celebrate Pride month in June, Chicago employees will be marching in the Chicago Pride Parade on June 25 with Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for human rights and equality.
In alignment with our support for LGBT individuals, Lenovo is proud to offer transgender inclusive health benefits (currently provided by only 15% of U.S. employers). Our plan covers a variety of services including gender-reassignment/affirmation surgery. We know embracing diversity and being inclusive helps us grow – both professionally and personally. That’s one reason why we’ve spent a lot of time optimizing our employee benefits around the world to fit the needs of modern families. For example, in the U.S., we offer up to 24 weeks of paid leave for maternity and seven weeks for adoption, including domestic partners, and provide financial assistance for adoption. We also offer backup child and elder care and support for families and children with special needs. In India, we provide 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and paid leave for paternity as well as paid leave for adoption.
We believe connected employees and communities can change the world, and this inspires us to continue to find new ways to support them.
More than 30 years ago, I made a decision to pursue a career in high tech, which at the time that I knew very little about.
It wasn’t a part of my history or my upbringing. No one in my family had pursued a technical degree.
Yet, I graduated with a STEM degree in Computer Science because someone else believed in me…and thought I was smart in math. I worked hard. Very hard…And I went places often as the “first” or the “only” because someone else was my catalyst, my mentor, someone else removed barriers that stood in my way — and all along the way, there has been someone else that has helped me to achieve a global career in high tech.
It’s one of the reasons the film of the three black women who launched the U.S. into space was so moving for me. Like those Hidden Figures, and so many of us in STEM careers, I had to tap into that internal source of courage to say: ‘I can do this.”
The high tech industry has pushed me to grow. It has forced me to confront my own fears and biases. It has made to think critically and caused me to become a fierce advocate for our girls in STEM. I want all girls, who are smart in math to believe that they too, can launch the dreams of their communities and their nations.
During Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day I am advocating our girls to be able to make their mark in this industry and for them to be VISIBLE by highlighting women in STEM – both past and present – who inspire me!