For more than 200 years, women have been pushing barriers, speaking up, challenging expectations, and fighting on the frontlines of change. They’ve carried heavy burdens, lightened others’ loads, met and exceeded expectations. Yet they’ve often been relegated to the background, faced with prevailing inequities that still exist today.
As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who established the first National Women’s History Week in 1980, proclaimed, “Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed.”
At Palo Alto Networks, we know there are no human rights, no freedoms, and no peace without the equality and development of women. This Women’s History Month, we recognize those who have paved the way as well as those who are still fighting for and representing women today.
We see the thousands of employees who raise their hands and speak up to challenge the status quo, and we celebrate you. In honor of this year’s theme, Choose to Challenge, we asked our employees to nominate peers whom they see choosing to challenge, in big and small ways, and we address this open letter to sing their praises.
To the women who strive hard to ensure that anything they know, they share with everyone. “If she opens a door,” said one employee, “she is sure to keep it open for anyone else … and if someone is hesitant, she’ll happily hold their hand.”
To the women who are “passionate advocate(s) for equality and social justice and an ally to all groups.”
To all the men who challenge stereotypes and biases and are advocates for women in the workplace. “I can’t think of many male leaders in my career who have ever promoted someone while they were out on leave, and I thought it spoke volumes about who he is as a leader. It didn’t matter that I had taken maternity leave; what mattered was my value to the organization … He has inspired me to be a better leader, challenge the status quo, and shatter any glass ceiling that gets in my way.”
To the female colleagues who encourage conversations around compensation. “Women fear speaking out about their compensation,” one female manager told a team member. “Do not feel awkward or ashamed to discuss what you feel is fair or right to you. Men do not fear discussing this, so don’t, for one second, doubt yourself when it comes to these very important matters.”
To the women who write blogs about returning to work after maternity leave, reassuring their colleagues that they, too, can successfully return and deliver results. “Being a mother is an additional power and brings a lot of good qualities not only in personal lives but also our professional lives.”
To those dedicated to programs designed to inspire and educate girls, such as the Girl Guides program. They are “doing the hands-on work to help mold the next generation of dynamic female leaders!”
To the woman who is “the most driven person I know,” whose “commitment to quality when no one is watching is inspiring … her capability, her passion, and her ability to create an environment that challenges the way things are.”
To the recruiter who “hunts for the best-of-the-best diverse candidates,” and who is eager to increase the diversity pipeline. “Her passion is representing the minorities and helping qualify, network, and share their best qualities to help them land outstanding opportunities.”
To the woman who “has been an incredible energy and force in challenging bias and inequality and raising the level of consciousness in our everyday lives. By not being silent but instead openly and constructively communicating, as well as being deeply aware, analytical, and articulate, she has influenced and become a role model for all around her.”
To the “inclusive leader with the unique ability to lead an international team of people of various nationalities and cultures … She is always leading us by example and very appreciative of the contributions of everyone involved.”
To the woman from a third-world, patriarchal culture who never had a choice but to challenge stereotypes. “I chose STEM education as I believed that women can contribute to tech just as men can. Despite all discouragements, I have continued my cause by mentoring my junior fellows and hoping to be the voice for those women for whom there are no advocates.”
To all the women who demonstrate integrity and character in every personal and professional interaction. They “break barriers and challenge the status quo while empowering, aligning, and inspiring those around them.”
To the vice presidents with transformational, result-oriented leadership styles who “fire up peers and team members with clear communication, meaningful engagements, and measurable goals, unleashing others’ competitive spirit.”
To every woman who is “committed to doing what she can to make her world a better place… She always does this with a smile, a chuckle, and an incredibly positive outlook.”
We dedicate this letter to all the women and men who inspired this letter by choosing to challenge themselves and those around them every single day:
We hope this inspires you to do your part, spread the message, and Choose to Challenge!