As we try to move towards more equitable, inclusive workplaces across the globe, one thing remains clear: there’s still a lot of work to be done.
According to the Women In The Workplace Report from McKinsey & LeanIn.org, there is a “broken rung” at the first step up to management. “For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted — and this gap was even larger for some women: only 58 Black women and 71 Latina women were promoted.”
It’s important to remember that there are human stories behind every statistic. We want to share some of those stories here: stories from women who are breaking down barriers in business, the obstacles they’ve faced, what motivates them, and their advice to other leaders on creating fair workplaces for every employee.
Silvija Martincevic — CEO & Board Director, Deputy
Before she was a seasoned business leader, before she spent 20 years growing international companies, Silvija Martincevic began her career as a shift worker. She worked as a dishwasher, translator, jewelry seller, barista, and baker.
At 17 years old, it was shift work that helped make her immigration to the United States possible. Her family pooled their savings from shifts at a shoe factory and driving trucks to buy Silvija a plane ticket, so that she could study English on a scholarship.
Silvija was drawn to her current role at Deputy because it merged all of her passions. Silvija has a lifelong obsession with solving problems that help underserved communities, doing work that helps make the world a better place, and doing so through breakthrough technology and a purpose-driven culture. Silvija is also Board Director at Kiva, an international nonprofit that expands financial access to underserved communities.
Silvija shares: “What gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that I can be helpful — that how I get to spend today and every single day is helping others. Whether that means somebody feeling seen or heard, somebody learning something new, or helping connect the dots or solve problems.”
When thinking about supporting and uplifting team members, Silvija encourages leaders and peers to be mindful that it’s “about unconscious bias.” Her advice is to be present: “when you are in a room, and you're noticing that someone is being silenced, or their point is being discounted, or they are being interrupted — speak out.”
Uplifting others and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard needs to be a priority, Silvija says, especially in attracting the next generation of talent. There is still much work to be done — according to our recent survey on women & BIPOC confidence in the workplace, about 1 in 4 (23%) female BIPOC employees do not feel valued at their current place of employment. Silvija emphasizes that this is “still a massive gap that exists, and we cannot close it alone. We need to have strong champions that are self-aware and look for unconscious bias by other colleagues.”
When asked what the future of work for women looks like, Silvija describes one with “leadership that's more compassionate, more collaborative, and more people-driven rather than ego-centric… Women who lead with empathy, authenticity, and resilience can be a driving force for social good and better economic outcomes. My vision is that more of us get to lead.”
Flick Gourley — Operations Manager, Gilded Balloon
Flick Gourley has worked in festival and event hospitality for up to 10 years. She loves the buzz and joy of gathering people together, making creative events happen, and spreading joy and laughter via the arts and cultural moments.
Gilded Balloon is Scotland's leading producer of live comedy and a big venue name at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival — the world’s largest performance arts festival. Flick’s work is a constant source of inspiration and empowerment to her.
"I definitely feel empowered by the people I work with. When I have a great team of women around me who are all creative, working hard, succeeding, and focusing on creating something great, that's a really empowering experience.”
"I'm relatively lucky because women have been key decision-makers in many of the organizations I've worked in. Compared to some other industries, the arts are relatively female-dominated. Obviously, there's still a long way to go and a lot of work to make it genuinely equitable.”
“The biggest challenge I've noticed is that many physically demanding roles are very typically male or expected to be for men. Or sometimes, when I am in a room with a group of men, I notice that my ideas aren't the first ones to be listened to, even though I have the most experience in the room. Learning how to stake your place and make people listen to you without coming across as a bossy woman or dominant hero is a very delicate balancing act I have to worry about as a woman.”
"My mom is one of the biggest inspirations to me. She worked her way up in the development and charity sector to quite an important role and had to face a lot of everyday sexism, particularly as a mother who worked full-time. My current bosses, Katie and Karen, are a mother-and-daughter duo. They work hard to support me and are very focused on promoting women in everything they do. And then, outside of that, I absolutely love Michelle Obama. I think she's an icon."
Equity of opportunity is deeply important to Flick. “My dream is that we can all go to work and not worry about how gender affects how we present ourselves or how other people behave around us. I hope that an intersectional and inclusive workspace is standard and we listen to all the voices around the table."
Shanthy Thurailingam — VP of Customer Success, Deputy
Shanthy Thurailingam is Vice President of Customer Success at Deputy. Shanthy is drawn to opportunities that allow her to build and develop teams, a vision, and strategy in complex environments.
She shares that coming to Deputy was a “full 180” in terms of workplace culture and empathetic leadership: “As a new mom, it's so great to work with leaders who are more experienced moms, who've got that balance going well. I think that really does help us as a company.”
“Every day starts with my daughter. She gets up exactly at 6:45 every day, so we have her there like an alarm clock. But what pops me out of bed is the fact that each day is a fresh start. It's a clean slate to make a difference, to go forward.”
Shanthy has nearly 18 years of experience in banking and corporate environments, which she says were often “very male-dominated.”
“You start trying to fit in. I did that for a while because it's just expected. You start trying to find a way to connect with them, but you can lose yourself on that path.”
Across industries, it can be difficult for women to speak up in work environments like that. In fact, nearly half (43%) of women we recently surveyed do not feel confident asking for a raise they rightfully deserve in their current workplace.
“Over the years, I learned a few techniques to get my voice heard… including finding a sponsor or ally. They hear you — you can have conversations with them so they understand your perspective, and they can work to bring you into the conversation more often.”
Shanthy shares that it was not a quick or easy road to finding and owning her voice. “For me, the biggest thing was trying to figure out my own path: who I am, what I want to be, and what I want to represent. You become more and more strong and confident. It takes time. It took me a long time to get to where I am as a person.”
When asked about her hopes for the future, Shanthy notes: “I've noticed that women are often more apologetic in situations in and outside of work. I'd love to see a world where we don't have to be apologetic. Instead, we can be who we are, stand up for what we believe, and say it how it is without starting a sentence with ‘sorry.’”
Christina Hee — Chef & Manager, Juicy Brew
After making an unexpected career pivot from business to hospitality management, Christina Hee found herself working back-of-house in a restaurant. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the ‘art of cooking,’ as she puts it.
“I started off believing that I would be more of a manager in this industry than anything. Then, I actually found that management isn’t my greatest strength. For me, it was the creative process.”
Even though it was in 2014 when Christina initially joined Juicy Brew, a plant-based cafe in the Kaimuki neighborhood of Honolulu, it wasn’t until she returned from a break in 2020 that she took over the role of manager.
“It was Honolulu's first quarantine, June 2020. I was offered a rare opportunity: to return to Juicy Brew as Manager and Chef and lead my new team through a revamp and a pandemic. I had absolutely nothing to lose, and I understood pure possibilities are adjacent to flux and collapse. Empowered-deeply is how I would describe both the feeling and this time.”
Christina recognized the opportunity to refresh the cafe’s menu, strategically incorporate technology that would boost their efficiency, and re-think their business structure to be more equitable for all their employees and amplify a diverse range of voices.
It was the right time to lean into her creativity, so she “allowed herself to be an artist” when it came to designing the cafe’s operations.
"During the pandemic, I restructured the way we operate. Where a lot of companies have a hierarchy, I designed our company to be rhizomatic so we're more equal. Even though I have the title of chef and manager, everyone has a say. A lot of the decisions I make as a manager are all-inclusive. It's a team effort. They feel like everything they say matters — and everything they say does matter."
Emma Seymour — Chief Financial Officer, Deputy
Having worked in finance for nearly 17 years, Emma is passionate about empowering organizations with the insights and strategies they need to grow responsibly. Whenever possible, she volunteers with not-for-profit organizations and charities. Most recently, she was Chair of the Finance Risk and Governance Committee for Women in Banking and Finance.
When asked how she kickstarts her days, Emma shares, “I feel an immense amount of gratitude most days, which injects so much energy and positivity into what I’m focusing on.”
However, throughout her professional career, Emma has been in many situations where she was the only woman in the room. Many other women are in the same position, with 43% of employed females saying less than half of their current coworkers are also female. Emma shares, “there have been many times I was the only woman on leadership teams.”
Despite facing the challenges that come with this, Emma shares: “I am fortunate enough to say that when I have experienced such challenges, it hasn’t felt particularly deliberate or intentional. That helped me manage my own perspective on these situations and how I chose to respond to them. This clarity and awareness ultimately served me better in the long run as I was equipped to be far more constructive in the moment”.
It’s critical that leaders and colleagues work to dismantle unconscious bias in the workplace, and Emma shares that being an advocate for herself was similarly important. “Being able to exercise your voice when it’s needed is essential in leadership and as you progress throughout your career.”
Emma envisions the future of work for women to be “anything we want it to be… it's not without challenges, but nothing ever is.” Her advice when facing challenges in the workplace is to: “Hone your craft, invest in yourself, speak up when it’s needed, and do the work so that when opportunities present themselves, you’ll be ready to seize them.”
Tanja Sonya Shönberger — Operations Manager, Barworks
Barworks is an award-winning independent pub, bar, and restaurant group based in London.
Tanja’s worked for Barworks for 15 years. She started as a server during her studies and worked her way into management from there. After completing her MA, she decided that hospitality was definitely the industry for her and pushed her career even further.
Tanja joined the Operations Team in 2017 and has done a bit of everything, but her primary focus has always been people management. She believes that shift workers are the foundation of Barworks and is actively building substantial development opportunities for all her staff.
She’s also an advocate for integrity in the hospitality industry. She firmly believes in staying true to oneself, without worrying excessively about what others think, and standing up for the right things.
“For me, it’s imperative that Barworks uses the opportunity and our voice as a hospitality group to support ethical suppliers and producers — people who do things right by the environment, the planet, and their communities — and to put our people first. I take our responsibility toward people very seriously and always want to create safe spaces for all our staff and guests. So I feel most empowered when I can see everything coming together.”
She points out that, unfortunately, the world of work can still take a stereotypical view of “typical” female values.
“I have worked with many supportive men during my career within Barworks. However, and I’m sure I’m not the only female-identifying person to experience this, my natural tendency toward kindness and cooperation can often be misinterpreted as weak leadership.”
She credits her mother for her strong sense of justice and the courage to walk her own path.
“My mum has always been a huge inspiration for me. From her, I learned to keep following my inner moral and personal compass and not give too much of a toss about whether other people think that’s the right way of doing things. At the end of the day, what other people think of you is none of your business, right?”
Her dream for the future of work for women is “equal opportunities and equal pay without having to shout and make a big deal about it.”
Moving Towards Equitable Workplaces
Addressing the gender gap is an ongoing journey, but one we can work towards if we commit to accountability at every level of an organization.
It’s also important to be equipped with an accurate, clear understanding of where the gender disparity currently stands. Thanks to the rise in advocacy for pay transparency and equitable workplaces, employees and employers are now able to better understand what the future of work looks like. For more insight into the current state of equality in shifts scheduled and worked by women, check out our Shift to Equity US Retail Snapshot Report.