Equality Impact Awards 2018

EQUALITY IMPACT AWARD WINNER: Siara nazir

Historically and notoriously unequal, the tech industry has already come a long way in terms of promoting diversity and inclusion. Much of this success has been due to the amazing women and female-identifying people that break glass ceilings everyday.

In honor of these women and in celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26, BounceX launched The Equality Impact Awards, awarded to an honorary group of women in the tech, publishing and retail industries, each of whom has broken barriers, changed their companies for the better and fought for equality and gender parity.

Today, we honor one of our 2018 winners, Siara Nazir, Global Head of Digital Marketing at Autodesk. Siara answered 5 questions about the state of equality in the industry. Take a look!

WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN YOUR FIELD?

I learned a lot from my father who came to the country as an immigrant. After learning of impending layoffs, he took his future into his own hands and put his entire life savings into buying his own business. He’s been a successful business man for over forty years and at the core of his management style were two things: principles and fairness. When my Dad went in for heart surgery and I went to care for him afterwards, I saw the streams of people who came through the door of his home to wish him well and find out how he was doing. Most of those were people who had worked for Daddy in the past—some going back two or more decades.

Each one of the visitors came to me and told me their own story- how my Dad had helped them, how he fought for them, his honesty and strong principles… but most of all how fair he was to them. No matter what stage of life they were at, my father accommodating them and in return had loyal workers who would do anything for him. I can’t begin to tell you how much all of what I watched growing up has impacted me in my career and the way I manage today.

I think the strategies really start from within yourself and how you apply your own principles to those around you—cross functionally, to your team, towards your peers and even at your management.

As my career has grown I have watched and learned from great leaders -both men and women on how to notice and strive for equality, ensuring each person’s voice is included and heard and they have a chance to shine. When I look back at the companies I’ve been part of and the teams I’ve managed in my career I think these five points are what have helped me drive for better equality:

  • Establish your principles and lead by example. Then re-examine everything. I talked earlier about principles being a central part of my life from what I learned from my Dad and some may not always be right. But know your principles around equality and fairness…identify them and how they would aid/hurt you in different situations. This can help you understand gaps and starts a very important process of being open to examining and refining them.

For all of us, we come from different backgrounds, countries and homes and we bring all of that with us in the workplace. Taking time to be introspective and re-examine these ideas has helped ensure I release any biases I may be carrying around with me.

  • “Lean In” and move on. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” writes Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. Ask yourself what would you do? Would you go for that opportunity? Would you raise your hand for that big project or promotion? Would you speak up if you see wrong?

Once in my career, the team I was part of had a vacancy and I decided to “lean in” and tell my manager that I’d like to lead both channels – mine and the vacant one. His response was, “I don’t think you would want to do this. Look at me…I work late, there’s a lot of work and it’s not easy to manage up. I don’t have a family and it’s tough for me. Are you sure you want to do this with a family in tow?”

“I can do this job.” I responded firmly, assertively and confidently. And I could. I did the job before and had the experience, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to put my experience to work.

Did I get it? No.

And this is the part where I talk about accepting risk. Part of leaning in and having the courage to have these conversations is also accepting the answer at the end and making peace with it. But most of all not letting it “be you”. This is the biggest challenge I think women have—it’s a tough world no matter our job. We are expected to do more, know more and be more and many times even when we do we don’t get the chances we want. We must be resilient and move on and encourage those around us as well.

When I was in college I used to run telemarketing campaigns for a major insurance company. And I got really used to the phone calls I had to get through to get to the one call that was a sale. And believe me it was all day long calling to get to that one sale. It wasn’t easy, but we need to think in those terms somehow. Take the emotion out of it, think of it just as cold-calling. Get through this and move on and keep searching until you find the one that turns into a sale.

Don’t dwell on what’s not in your control. Steven Covey has a great chapter in one of his old books that talks about residing in your “circle of concern” versus living in your “circle of influence”. Rise above the response and try to influence change another way or get towards your goal in a different way. Try to be present in your circle of influence more than your circle of concern.

  • Be a connector for all. If you have the power to get candidates noticed that wouldn’t have been otherwise- use it. There have been a few instances where mothers who left the workforce entered back in through a connection I made. Encouraging re-entry into the workplace not only for parents but others as well is an often-overlooked area.  There is a non-profit I donate my marketing time to that has a special program for incarcerated individuals who wish to re-enter life, re-enter the workforce. Giving them chances like this can mean the difference between coming back into work or leaving it all together.

Network and connect for others but do it for yourself, too. Whether you are self-employed or in the workforce, it’s not easy to fight for change and equality. Connections don’t always mean connecting people…extending someone’s idea and giving them credit. Showcasing the unsung hero in your team. The entire concept of LinkedIn and social media in general is based on this connection concept.

  • Flexibility isn’t a weakness- actively promote it where it makes sense. In many of my jobs I’ve instituted a very flexible working policy and saw the productivity shoot up.

However, even being here in Silicon Valley, flexibility around work from home and remote workers are often discouraged. In Tech, teams tout the worker that works long hours in the office and aren’t amenable to hiring remote workers and refuse any sort of work from home policies.

The realization that you are blocking off a certain sector of highly talented people who may need an alternate working situation should be (hopefully) obvious here. In an International Monetary Fund report it cites that if barriers were removed for women to enter into the workforce, countries would see upwards of 34% boost in their GDP. Accepting more women into the workforce means realizing there will be a need for supporting this change. For both caregivers in the household.

In the end, skills and talent matter more to me than anything else. And if you have that, I’ll work with you to ensure you have a chance to get in and a work environment that supports you. Being flexible shouldn’t be a perceived weakness but it still is and encouraging change in a team or company can sometimes be a long and daunting task.

  • Find your pillars of strength. It’s great if you do for others- but if you have a champion who believes in what you do, your work will go further. Find leadership that aligns with you and encourages your voice and restates it when you aren’t there. Having champions of equality around you help fast-track change in any team or organization.

WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB WHEN YOU WERE IN COLLEGE, AND HOW HAS THAT EVOLVED?

I knew what my dream job would be when I was twelve. There was a lady who came into our class in elementary school and gave us a survey that was to “predict your career”. When I took the survey, it told me my career was “Marketing & Communications”. I honestly have never looked back since then.

I’ve loved every minute of being in this ever-changing field and I think the passion I have comes through in every position I have held. I am very lucky and fortunate to have found something I love to do.

Oh, I did also want to be a naturopathic doctor. Maybe in a few years I’ll go back to school and do that one, too.

WHAT IS THE WORST DECISION YOU EVER MADE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

I think decisions are bad if they lead to bad results – on some continuum. I don’t believe I would categorize my decisions as such because they have (good or bad) lead to a different place that has had its own benefits for me and those around me.  The better decisions I’ve made have been exponentially better for me, but it’s all been a great learning. I suppose it’s my optimistic attitude that prevents me from categorizing something as “bad” for too long. At least until I do something to change it. Remember…circle of concern and circle of influence.

WHAT RITUALS OR HABITS DO YOU HAVE FOR WHEN YOU WANT TO HAVE A KICK A$$ DAY?

Start each day with belief in yourself. Remember your principles. There will be battles all day long that test you. Centering yourself in the quiet still of the morning does amazing things to your mindset. Visualize your good day ahead of you and bring your gratitude full circle by remembering the good parts of the day before you sleep.

WHAT DOES FEMALE EMPOWERMENT MEAN TO YOU?

Female empowerment means to be in control – control of your destiny; know your choices and if the space in life you are in isn’t giving you those choices you are seeking then move over to where you can get them.