The month of March was designated as Women’s History Month in the U.S. as part of a 1980 presidential proclamation, but International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world for more than a century.
While the proclamation for Women’s History Month came decades after women won the right to vote, both the day and the month have endured as meaningful opportunities to honor women’s achievements throughout history, while recognizing the challenges they continue to face today.
This year, WP Engine marked both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month with a series of events and creative projects spearheaded by Roar, one of our Employee Resource Groups, which focuses on providing a safe, open environment for all, and advocating for women to achieve their professional aspirations where opportunities have historically been limited.
Beginning on International Women’s Day (March 8), the group hosted an employee-led panel focused on women in technology, moderated by WP Engine Technical Product Manager and Roar Co-Chair Carmen Johnson.
The discussion featured three WP Engine employees from different parts of the business and provided an open forum for both panelists and attendees to talk about the unique experiences and shared challenges they’ve encountered throughout their careers.
WP Engine Engineering Manager April Neal kicked off the discussion, detailing her experience growing up with a family of engineers.
Neal’s parents were a chemical engineer and an electrical engineer who moved into computer science. She explained that growing up near NASA in southeast Texas meant she was surrounded by many people in different engineering fields throughout her childhood.
“A lot of my friends’ parents were engineers and scientists,” she said. “When I got into high school and began deciding on a career, the only question was, what kind of engineer do I want to be?”
While Neal’s early focus on engineering was unique among the panelists, each of whom began their careers in tech through different routes, many of the challenges she experienced were shared by all.
From being the only woman or among the few women in an entire office to being dismissed or not heard by male colleagues, each of the panelists described their own experiences, from meetings to sales calls, in which they were treated differently because they were women.
“I never want to think of people treating me differently, but looking back in my sales experience, specifically being in tech sales, I’ve had to start from ground zero in a lot of conversations,” said WP Engine Sales Manager Karissa Zuroski.
“I had to really overcome that and build the confidence with some of the men I was selling to because they didn’t trust my expertise, and they constantly tested me.”
Work-life balance was another topic that was broached as the panelists discussed some of the conflicts that can arise between being a good employee and being a responsible parent or a good friend or family member.
Asked about the issues they struggle with in trying to “have it all” or not “lose it all” when it comes to career, family, friends, and financial stability, WP Engine Customer Success Director Natalie Zumino spoke about being the only working mother, working 80 hours a week, at a role she held prior to coming to WP Engine.
“At a certain point, I had to take a really good look at what my priorities were and what I was willing to sacrifice,” she said, “and for me, my family was non-negotiable.”
That, Zumino explained, sparked her search for a new opportunity and ultimately led her to WP Engine.
“When I found WP Engine, I really took a good look at the leadership and the culture, and it was inspiring to see women in senior leadership who were also mothers,” Zumino said. “That’s still an incredible amount of work but it’s possible to do it.”
Citing the added stress to the work-life balance over the past year, panelists also spoke about the sense of relief they’ve felt seeing childcare and other needed personal time prioritized by the company’s leadership since the start of the pandemic.
“it’s a really cool thing to work for a company where people at every level are making those commitments, sharing the load, and just leaning on each other,” Neal said.
“It makes it really collaborative when both men and women are making these sacrifices and choices and sharing them with their co-workers—not every company is being as supportive.”
In addition to the above, employees from WP Engine’s Kraków office led a session in mid-March around women’s rights demonstrations in Poland, which have been going on since October 2020. Roar also sponsored a series of #IamRemarkable workshops for all employees to provide tools and training around how to self advocate in the workplace. #IamRemarkable is a Google initiative designed to empower underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond.
Highlighting our inspiring employees and customers.
WP Engine also created an Instagram Story for International Women’s Day, which highlighted women from across the org discussing what it means to be a woman in tech, what advice they’d give a young woman starting off in the industry, and which organizations they recommend supporting on International Women’s Day.
In addition, @WPEngine’s social channels spent the entire month shedding light on a few of our fantastic female employees and spotlighting non-profit customers that are dedicated to furthering the advancement of women.
From offering employees’ personal experiences in their own careers to shining a light on our amazing customers, WP Engine’s social channels offered tons of inspiration and information throughout March.
Amplifying women in WordPress and the wider world of creative design.
Additionally, WP Engine publications Layout, Torque, and Velocitize also dedicated the month of March to amplifying female leaders across the WordPress community and the agency world, as well as organizations that support women in tech, and women-owned and run businesses.
Check out the links below for more:
To all of the strong, intelligent, and talented women who are shattering the glass ceiling in tech and beyond, here’s to all of our efforts towards greater equality and inclusiveness, and making sure they touch every day of the year!
Be you, be here. Check out our careers page to learn more!