March marks Women’s History Month and of course, International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is Inspire Inclusion.

When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusions, we forge a better world – when women themselves are inspired to be included there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

I can say from experience when you have a workplace that inspires inclusion, the possibilities are endless. When you have women supporting other women in their careers, the possibilities are limitless. 

This year, I interviewed a few of my colleagues from different organizations and backgrounds at the company to help illustrate their career journeys. I hope you’ll be able to read some of these stories and relate to them—no matter where you are in your career. 

Interview with Margaret Chow

Margaret Chow, CouchbaseFirst we’ll chat with Margaret Chow – Chief Legal Officer at Couchbase. 

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you’ve navigated challenges as a woman in your field? 

I’ve found that the key is to remember that no matter what is thrown your way, you have the power to look for the positive and turn it into something that propels you forward. For most of my career I have been at tech companies, working with male-dominated sales, R&D and executive teams as stakeholders. These were great workplaces with fantastic colleagues. Even so, I experienced less than ideal scenarios – being asked to take notes at a meeting despite being one of the senior leaders in the room, getting well-intentioned feedback to “smile more”, etc.

In these scenarios, I’ve kept focus on the positives: the male direct report who immediately recognized the awkwardness of the situation and jumped in to take notes instead, or the male stakeholders who advocated for my promotion, and so on. Of course, you should do all the appropriate things to stand up for yourself, but a critical part of the journey is simply staying encouraged to keep going, so it’s important to take the time to also recognize the positive. 

Once, I received feedback from male colleagues that I did not have enough executive presence, and from female colleagues that I was their role model for executive presence – in the very same period! That was fascinating to me. You can imagine all sorts of reasons why the feedback was so disparate, but what I chose to focus on was, what can I learn from this? How can I use this information to get better, as defined by me?  To better understand and play to my strengths? Feedback is information, and information can be powerful should you choose to learn from it. 

Every challenge that comes your way, use it to propel you forward. 

How do you think workplaces can better support women’s advancement and inclusion, particularly in male-dominated industries?

Workplaces need to activate male allies, particularly those at senior levels of leadership. 

I’m proud that we have three women on our board and three on our executive team at Couchbase. It wasn’t always that way.  I distinctly remember my first board meeting here. Between board members, observers and executives there were at least fifteen men in that meeting. And then there was me, the only woman.  

The good news was, everyone around that table recognized we needed change. And I knew there was a true commitment for that change, even if it might not happen right away. 

As a woman, I have advocated in little and big ways, in silent and explicit ways. But ultimately, change wouldn’t have happened unless the male senior leadership — our board members, our CEO, other executives — actively worked to make the vision of diversity a reality. It takes conscious male allyship because it is so often men that have impact at the top. 

I’m incredibly proud of the journey we have been on and what this company stands for. 

What’s some advice that you’d give to women who are juggling growing a career with children? How were you able to prioritize it all?  

Set realistic expectations for yourself as a working mother. I used to play a little mental game with myself: I’d imagine I were a father, and review my own behavior through that lens — would society look at me and say, “wow, what a great dad!” If so, that has to be enough. I can’t judge myself against what society expects mothers to be, it’s unrealistic.

Also, I long ago stopped thinking about it as a balance, with career on one side pitted against family on the other. One of our core Couchbase Values is, Serve Your Family, As Defined By You. I’ve found that there are so many ways in which family and career can be synergistic, and enhance and enrich the other.

Thank you Margaret! We appreciate you taking the time out to talk to us about your journey and really value your responses!

Interview with Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Richards, CouchbaseNext, I interviewed Stephanie Rogers, who joined Couchbase about a month ago as head of Developer Relations.

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you’ve navigated challenges as a woman in your field? 

My career journey began when I started competing in a local video game league when LAN parties were taking off, but before folks were getting paid to live stream. It was very much a male-dominated space to compete and as Twitch started to take off, I didn’t feel like it was a safe enough place for women to be themselves without the online bullying. This inspired my goal to find a career where I could make positive changes from the inside of the technology. 

I started my side-job during high school, which was helping to format and publish video game programming books for kids, that eventually led me down a path of campaign strategy, digital marketing, software development, Developer Relations and ultimately being a part of the tech companies that power my hobbies and beyond. 

What are some initiatives or actions you’ve taken in your career to promote diversity and inclusion? 

I love that almost every company I’ve joined has had internal communities for diversity and inclusion where I can be an ally and advocate for, or find a group that shares a shared commonality like “Women in Tech” and neurodiversity groups. I remember I had joined a fintech company as one of my first jobs and there were no D&I groups and I was able to co-found the group with two other amazing friends — which I’m so proud to see continues on at that company, giving voices to women in a male-dominated organization and industry.

Have you encountered any barriers or biases in your career, and how did you overcome them? 

Yes, often I run into unconscious biases which have affected people perceiving my ability to guide or give input. To overcome this, I have found a few methods that help depending on the situation. First off is transparency. Once I’ve been spoken over or when credit is taken for my idea, I’ll pull the individual aside and share the importance of giving everyone a voice in the room and the value of advocates when asking more women to sit at the table. Second is supporting other women and minority groups in their career growth — we need to be each other’s cheerleaders of success. If we want to see more representation in leadership, we need to equip and amplify those voices. Lastly is training and educational support across companies to understand biases in the workplace and how to be an ally.

One word that really stands out to me from Steph’s answers is the word advocate. By creating a group at her FinTech company for women, she advocated for herself and her peers. In the way she overcomes bias/barriers she mentions being each other’s cheerleaders  which speaks directly to this year’s theme of inspiring inclusivity. I’m so proud to have Steph on the team here at Couchbase!

Interview with Parmeet Kaur

Parmeet Kaur, CouchbaseNow we move to Parmeet Kaur, VP of Support on the Couchbase Engineering team.

Can you share a bit about your career journey and how you’ve navigated challenges as a woman in your field?

My path to tech began in a small Indian town. While my mom, a homemaker, defied expectations by encouraging me to pursue STEM, being the first woman in my Sikh family presented unique challenges.

Navigating a tech field often seen as a “boys’ club” wasn’t easy, especially after taking a step back to focus on my kids when they were little. But my upbringing, with its emphasis on resilience, became a strength. Despite the obstacles, I remained steadfast in pursuing my passion for technology, determined to carve out my space in the industry.

How can men be better allies in promoting gender equality and inclusion in the workplace?

Men can play a vital role in creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace for everyone.

Representation carries weight. The saying “you cannot be what you cannot see.” rings true, highlighting the importance of visible role models. When women are absent from leadership positions within a company, it conveys a message that their contributions are undervalued. As an ally, men possess the power to drive change by promoting diverse representation in the workplace. 

Challenge ingrained biases. Gender bias pervades various facets of professional life, often manifesting in subtle yet impactful ways. For instance, there have been numerous instances in my career where I was automatically assigned tasks like note-taking, coffee runs, or lunch orders solely based on gender assumptions. When these duties consistently fall on women, it implicitly suggests a lesser worth of their time or contributions. As an ally, one meaningful action men can take is to actively identify and dismantle these everyday biases.

What advice would you give to young women aspiring to pursue careers in fields where they are underrepresented?

Embrace Your Authenticity: Instead of trying to blend in, focus on showcasing your unique strengths and talents. Reflecting on my experience in Customer Success, I initially tried to conform to certain expectations, which left me feeling uncomfortable and dissatisfied. However, when I shifted my focus to my strengths, such as delving into data and displaying genuine curiosity about customers’ businesses, I found greater success and fulfillment. Remember, staying true to yourself is key to achieving genuine success.

Embrace curiosity and ask questions: Don’t hesitate to seek clarification or ask questions, even if you feel uncertain or hesitant. In my early days, I struggled with feelings of timidity and apprehension about asking questions, fearing ridicule or judgment. However, I soon realized that many others shared similar doubts and uncertainties. By embracing curiosity and seizing opportunities to inquire, I not only expanded my knowledge but also discovered a sense of camaraderie with others facing similar challenges. Embrace these moments of curiosity as opportunities for growth and connection.

Interview with Hannah Laurel

Hannah Laurel, CouchbaseCan you share a bit about your career journey and how you’ve navigated challenges as a woman in your field?

I started out as an advertising major, fully intending to go into copywriting, but an internship offer as a web and search marketing intern at a small agency changed my path. My internship turned into a full-time role after graduation, and I slowly worked my way up as I gained skills, met new mentors, and moved companies. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of no-nonsense female managers throughout my career who taught me how to advocate for myself and communicate my successes to people in higher positions; however, my number one piece of advice I can offer other women is to find male coworkers who want to see you succeed and create alliances with them. If they truly care, they’ll advocate for you when you’re in front of an audience that doesn’t value what you have to say just because of your gender. 

In what ways do you see diversity and inclusion impacting innovation and creativity in the workplace?

In order to bring in creativity and diverse skills and outlooks, you need to hire people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Doing this decreases the likelihood of groupthink, improves feedback quality, and ultimately generates better, fresher ideas. Valuing diversity and inclusion in hiring also benefits globalization. When thinking about globalization, you need employees who speak different languages and come from various cultural backgrounds to help you better understand different audiences and how to appeal to them. It’s also important to consider how to remove obstacles for these employees since some may have less access and need additional support. If you’re not thinking about retention best practices like the one mentioned above, you’re losing valuable team members and, ultimately, revenue. 

Have you had any mentors or role models who have influenced your career path and perspective on inclusion?

My female managers have typically had the most impact on me. They’ve demonstrated how to react in uncomfortable situations and advocate for myself come promotion time. They’ve also taught me the importance of asking questions when you’re confused. Chances are, someone else is probably confused, so it’s crucial to have that one person willing to speak up and voice that to benefit everyone else. I’m also fortunate to have a partner who works in DEI. They’ve helped me better understand the challenges people of color face at work and provided tips on being more empathetic toward those challenges.

I think a common thread every year that I’ve written about International Women’s Day includes embracing curiosity — don’t be afraid to ask questions. Too often women do feel afraid to ask a question or maybe even contradict something someone is saying for the fear of being ridiculed — but in those instances most of the time we’re just undervaluing our own opinion, authority and confidence! 

I’m so proud to be able to work alongside so many incredible women at Couchbase. Their experiences and stories inspire me, and hopefully will inspire other women as well!


Posted by Isheeta Lad

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