#ChoosetoChallenge. #ChoosetoCelebrate. #ChoosetoThank.

I don’t believe a single day nor one month a year are enough to acknowledge the tremendous progress made by the women who have come before. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and our greats have fought for suffrage, protested wars, and rallied for better working conditions, healthcare, and other topics important to women around the world.

And yes, we’ve come far. So why do we still need a day, much less a month focused on women? It’s been more than a century since the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was held in 1911 and in 2021 IWD will celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. But it will also acknowledge that there is far more work to do. According to the World Economic Forum, no one reading this will see gender parity in our lifetime. We are still woefully behind in giving women equal opportunity, equal pay, and equal rights. And that was the state before COVID and the “pink pandemic,” which have set back women even further.

So this year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Choose to challenge.” We can choose to challenge those time scales. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. And we can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. I’d like to do the latter. Today, as we celebrate women, I’d like to acknowledge and thank those who have made an impact on my life throughout my career — from my first job to my current role as CMO of Skillsoft.

Starting Out

I began my career as an administrative assistant at a small marketing promotions agency in Connecticut. While owned by men, the agency was run by a collective of women, all of whom guided the direction of the operations while serving the needs of our clients. Although she may not be aware, I owe a great deal of thanks to one woman at the agency who played a critical role as mentor and guide at a time when I was young, unsure of myself, and lacked direction and focus. Kathy Calling was the company’s creative director — funny, athletic, genuine. Not only did Kathy teach me the business, but she always made sure I felt welcome, even inviting me into her home for meals when I was alone. She also taught me the importance of financial independence and helped me create a plan for eliminating my mounting credit card debt and becoming far more fiscally responsible. It was the best first lesson a twenty-something could have received.

Feedback is a Gift

A bit later, I served as a marketing manager at Axis, where I received some great advice (and a bit of tough love!) from Anne Nason, a prolific writer and communicator, who encouraged me to improve my own writing; at the time, my prose was weak and lacked depth. While I found the constructive criticism tough at the time, I honestly can say that Anne’s care and willingness to help me improve did more for my career than perhaps anything else. I took her words to heart and began putting more effort into my writing. I fell in love with words and grammar. I went back to graduate school and received a Master’s in Communications Management. Anne also instilled in me the importance of finding and utilizing a good editor, who can provide the polish that all writing warrants — from a simple blog post to long-form content and everything in between. I was fortunate enough to find Alex MacAaron, quite a few years after receiving Anne’s sage advice. She’s been the words to my music ever since.

Work and Friendship

As I rounded the corner to 30, I took a role as a Marketing Program Manager at Kronos (now UKG) where I met Michele Glorie, who showed me that it’s possible to establish strong bonds with colleagues who will eventually turn into lifelong friends. I easily owe Michele a year’s worth of lunches for all that she did — helping me plan my wedding, guiding me through future career decisions, visiting me when my daughter was born. And although it’s been some time since we spoke, I still consider her one of my dearest.

Leading by Example

Harte-Hanks. I cannot look back on the 6+ years I spent at HH without thinking of and thanking Kathy Calta. She taught me that female leaders can be strong, determined, and generous. I will never forget my $5 birthday gift nor the hand-written cards she would send thanking me for my effort. And I’ll remember how eager she was to learn and better understand our customers’ needs. I recall how she spent an entire day with another colleague, Jeannette Kocsis, learning as much as possible about SEO, at a time when it was a nascent practice. But what I’ll never forget is how she set boundaries for herself, working from early morning until mid-afternoon, so she could spend the early evenings with her daughter before she resumed work late in the evening. I learned more from her actions than she knows.

My Crew

As I moved into more senior leadership roles at Harte-Hanks, Quaero, The Weather Company, and IBM, I was fortunate enough to develop a network of women who would become my go-tos for everything — career guidance, friendship, commiseration sessions, and 50th birthday parties:

· Gina LeMay — my tell-it-like-it-is colleague-turned-friend who was always *that* person — the one who would drive to get you at three in the morning when your car broke down on the side of the highway two hours from home. I followed Gina from Harte-Hanks to Quaero, and in turn developed one of the most important relationships I would ever have that crossed both my professional and personal lives.

· Susan Connors — I’m not sure there is anyone as strong or self-assured as Susan. I remember meeting her years ago and thinking that she was who I wanted to be as a leader — confident, smart, and aware of her self-worth.

· Jennifer Colleran — the only other female vice president at Weather when I started. Once again, I found one of my closest friends and confidantes at work. Jen taught me more about resilience and determination than anyone. And she shattered norms by showing me that women could be breadwinners, business travelers, and amazing mothers, all at once.

FLoS

And that brings me to today. As CMO of Skillsoft, I have the absolute pleasure to participate in a newly established Female Leaders of Skillsoft (FLoS) group, which comprises amazing women from across the organization and around the globe — Agata Nowakowaska, Brie Miller, Elisa Vincent, Jennifer Colleran, Jennifer Tomosivitch, Maisha Cobb, Potoula Chresomales, Rashim Mogha, Rosie Cairnes, and Sheri Zee.

This post is a little longer than many that I write. Rather than cut it down, I’m rejoicing in how fortunate I’ve been throughout my career to have had managers and peers who taught, coached, and inspired me. If you can, take a moment today to celebrate those women in your life — especially those who might not realize the impact they’ve made.

And with that, I want to wrap up my personal celebration here by thanking my best friend, who hates accolades and refuses acknowledgement in any way. I met her 20 years ago when we were both in graduate school at Simmons. The bond we established goes well beyond friendship. Her lifelong support means more to me than she will ever know. And to her — and all of the other women in my life — thank you for all that you’ve done. I am eternally grateful.

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