Today is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, we sat down with Maria Gotes, Chief Human Resources Officer at Tangoe, to discuss the significance of today – and how we can all work to #BreaktheBias.
Why is it important to celebrate and recognize International Women’s Day?
Before I dive into all the reasons to celebrate International Women’s Day, I would be remiss not to acknowledge all the women in Ukraine right now who are struggling to maintain their basic human rights. My sincerest sympathies and thoughts go out to all Ukrainians dealing with this unnecessary strife and war.
Celebrating International Women’s Day is about bringing awareness to where we’ve been and the progress we’ve made throughout history, while acknowledging that there is still work to do across the world to protect women’s rights. Women in leadership should take this as a call of duty with contagious intent to move the needle forward. This sense of passion and camaraderie truly makes an impact when inspiring the next generation of female leaders.
The slogan for 2022’s International Women’s Day is to #BreaktheBias. What does that mean to you?
Breaking the bias means reaching a deeper level of understanding and action. To break the bias, we must first accept that there are unconscious biases. Furthermore, we need to be openminded to changing our position to embrace inclusion. We must all be willing to mend our own blind spots.
Can you tell me about any career challenges you’ve experienced thus far as a woman and how you’ve overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges I had early on in my career was pinpointing female role models to look up to. When you’re a young woman starting out in your career, it helps to have mentors that you can identify with and learn from. There are always going to be challenges in the workplace but reaching out to other women that you admire and aspire to be like makes all the difference.
Who’s a woman in your life you look up to?
Oh goodness, there are so many women and men that helped pave the path for me, but ultimately it goes back to my mother. When I was about to finish school back in Mexico and was figuring out where to go to college, I heard about an opportunity to go to the U.S. to continue my education, so my mother and I went to go to the government office to find out more. Unfortunately, they told me there were no more spots in that program and that it wasn’t going to work. I left the meeting devastated, but my mom looked at me and said, “The moment when they say no to you is when the work to get to a yes starts.” Thanks to her love, resiliency, and dedication, we found the way to a yes, got a scholarship, and I was able to go to Arizona State University.
How did you end up in HR and how did you end up in this industry?
Long story short, I was introduced to an inspiring CEO who was starting a business to support U.S. companies with software services out of Mexico. It was a risky move; I was working at ASU at the time, had a new baby, and going to a startup meant taking a big chance. When discussing the opportunity with one of my mentors, he told me that this was my chance to give back to my country. I took a leap of faith and learnt from the ground up how to scale a company, build and develop an HR team. The rest is history.
Who is your favorite woman in business?
Leena Nair for sure. I met Leena at a conference a few years ago. At the time, she was the CHRO of Unilever (she is now the CEO of Chanel). Her philosophies around providing growth opportunities for all employees were so closely aligned to what’s important in my heart. I admire her and continue to learn a lot from what she’s done.
What’s your top piece of advice for other women in the corporate world?
Having a strong support network (in and out of the office) to help you visualize and grow your career is key. Throughout my career, I have been blessed with supportive leaders, mentors, coaches, coworkers and dear friends and family. For all women out there, my number one piece of advice is to be and bring your authentic self to work every day. Early on my career, one of my CEOs advised me to be courageous enough to speak up in the moment and bring my thoughts and ideas to the table. Don’t forget that you are a part of the conversation, and you do have a seat at the table.