It’s been over a century since the female suffrage movement and the struggle for equal pay and better working conditions sparked the wave that would lead us here. Today, we celebrate women everywhere.
The very first International Women’s Day was held on March 19th, 1911. Meetings, protests, and demonstrations erupted all over Europe, where more than one million women marched for women’s equal rights under the law. We stand on the shoulders of the greatest women not just in our generation, but in the generation of our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. And today, we carry on that work.
This year, IWD’s theme is #BreakTheBias. While we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, we must also keep working to accelerate women’s equality. We must continue moving forward, breaking the shackles and dismantling the systems of discrimination women still face today so we can build a more equitable and inclusive world where everyone’s differences are valued and celebrated.
In this special Inside Intercom episode, we invited people from all over the company to send us a voice note about an inspiring woman who broke the bias. And to celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to share some of those messages with you.
If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.
Juggling motherhood and a career
Lauren Cassidy: Hello, and welcome to Inside Intercom. I’m Lauren Cassidy. Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day when, as Intercom CEO Karen Peacock says, we think about all of the amazing women we have in our lives and who have made us who we are. This year’s theme is Break The Bias, encouraging everyone to become aware of their conscious and unconscious gender biases and challenge them to create a more equal world. All of us can break the bias in our communities, our workplaces, and our schools, colleges, and universities. It’s something we explored in an episode earlier this year that asked: how do we feel about being called women in tech?
To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we invited people from all over the company to send us a short voice note about an inspiring or pioneering woman in their life or in the public eye who broke the bias. We got some really great responses that we wanted to share with you today, beginning with our CEO, Karen Peacock.
“I remember her sitting at the dining room table pouring over Fortran, debugging code, and then moving on to make dinner every night”
Karen Peacock: Hi, everyone. This is Karen Peacock, CEO of Intercom. Happy International Women’s Day. My mother is one of the women who most inspires me. In her twenties, she was a chemist working at Polaroid, back in their heyday, doing R&D – true bench lab work. And she was the only woman in her group. Remember the song with the line, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture,” she was a part of that, the science of Polaroid. Not the band, although that would be a super cool story.
She then stopped working to raise my brother and me, which is obviously a different path than I took. And when I was 13, she went back to school to learn how to code. I remember her sitting at the dining room table pouring over Fortran, debugging code, and then moving on to make dinner every night. She was always busy but always made time for my brother and me. She then went on to tutor college-level math, chemistry, and computer science. She taught me that you can learn anything if you work at it and take it one step at a time. And don’t worry if you look different from others around you or make different choices, you be you.
“She is such a family-oriented woman, and yet she also knows how to take care of herself and put herself first, sometimes”
Lauren Cassidy: Our next voice note is from Leandra Fishman, our Chief Revenue Officer.
Leandra Fishman: When I think about a pioneering woman who has inspired me, the first person that comes to mind is Michelle Obama. I think she is just an incredible role model for us all, not only as women that have professional careers but as mothers and wives and daughters. I think she embraces the balance of that intellect and curiosity and kindness and caring, and everything she does really comes from the heart. I enjoyed learning about her childhood and upbringing in her book, Becoming. She is such a family-oriented woman, and yet she also knows how to take care of herself and put herself first, sometimes, and she knows that she needs to be strong in her own convictions and her own opinions. And I love that she also seems to have fun. She’s got a lighthearted energy about her in all of the types of programs that she supports, but also in getting out there and enjoying the world. So thanks for being such a great role model, Michelle.
Breaking the glass ceiling
Anna Griffin: Hi, I’m Anna Griffin, and I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Intercom. The first person that truly, truly inspired me was my dance teacher. She used to have a poster at the end of the studio, so you would do your grand plies every day staring at this poster. And it had this beautiful dancer on it with a quote by William Arthur Ward that said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” I wanted to be a professional dancer more than anything in the world, so I would just internalize that. I was like, “Wow, all I have to do is imagine it, and then ultimately dream it, and I can become it.”
It was such a powerful, transferable thought on anything you do, be it a dancer, a mom, a teacher, a humanitarian, you name it, to be so focused on what you want to be able to make happen and the role that you want to be able to play in the world. I’ve always loved that. That led me to grow up in the dance world just admiring the people who did that on a whole new level. So I think of Martha Graham, who ultimately brought dance into the American culture. She reinvented dance and created the first generation of choreographers and basically democratized dance out of just classical ballerinas into something that more people could participate in and that was a very emotional expression and an art form.
Lauren Cassidy: This voicemail came from Intercom General Counsel Cheree McAlpine.
“Being a civil rights activist in the ’60s came with a lot of consequences in Mississippi. She was threatened, shot at, and she was harassed by police for merely trying to register to vote”
Cheree McAlpine: So many bold women deserve to be more famous for their contributions to society. People should really know Jarena Lee, Elizabeth Jennings, and Septima Clark, but one pioneering woman that really deserves more attention who stands out in my mind is Fannie Lou Hamer. She was a voting and women’s activist and community activist in Mississippi in the ’60s. As you know, being a civil rights activist in the ’60s came with a lot of consequences in Mississippi. She was threatened, shot at, and she was harassed by police for merely trying to register to vote. Over the course of her life, she helped thousands of African American women register to vote in the state of Mississippi. She sued counties in the state alleging illegal segregation and she co-founded her own democratic party to uplift black voices in the states. She was a true pioneer. I remember and I salute Fannie Lou Hamer on International Women’s Day.
Niamh O’Connor: I’m Niamh, and I’m a brand editor with the content team. Someone that’s inspired me is the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I first heard her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists, when I was around 17, and it was one of my first introductions to feminist thought. It really opened my eyes to society’s narrow gender roles and how they impact girls and women all over the world, every day. Since then, I’ve been inspired to learn more and more, and it’s become a big part of my life. And I owe that mostly to Chimamanda. She’s also an incredible novelist and one of my favorite authors, and her books offer a really different perspective that I’d never experienced. She writes in a way that’s educational, moving, and funny all at the same time, which is difficult to achieve. I’d recommend her books to anyone.
Davin O’Dwyer: Hi, I’m Davin O’Dwyer. I’m the managing editor of the content team here at Intercom. Happy International Women’s Day. A woman who has inspired me greatly is Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland. She became president in 1990. For decades, Ireland had been a conservative, Catholic country run solely by men, politicians, and bishops. It was not a kind place for women, to say the least. Robinson had been a crusading human rights lawyer when divorce, contraception, and homosexuality were still illegal here, and she was not considered a likely winner of the presidential election that year.
“In the years that have followed, Ireland shook off its Catholic past and began its journey to become a much more tolerant, progressive, and self-confident country”
I clearly remember the joy of my mother’s face when she won, not because a woman had finally become President of Ireland, but because of what it signified. It showed that Ireland was changing, that we were demanding a better future. And in the years that have followed, Ireland shook off its Catholic past and began its journey to become a much more tolerant, progressive, and self-confident country. Robinson’s term as president played a big role in ushering in that change.
Many years later, when I was graduating, Robinson was the chancellor of my university and she conferred me with my master’s degree. It was such a proud moment to be handed a parchment with a smile and a word of congratulations by this woman who’d done so much to change our country for the better.
What Robinson’s life and career has taught above all is that equal rights are not just about creating a better world for women and minorities, but for everyone. Equal rights are fundamentally about how much we respect one another, and respect is not zero-sum, it actually encourages more and more respect for everyone. So the world can only really improve through that fight for equality and respect.
Doing the work
Claire Gunter: Hi. My name is Claire Gunter, and I’m the director of Global Partner Marketing at Intercom. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by excellent women in both my daily life and the media I consume, and I think that’s because I know what I like. I value people who are comfortable in their own skin, who show up, who feel deeply, who do the work, and who embrace their talent, whatever that may be.
“I once heard her get into the nitty-gritty of her grind, and it was incredible to hear someone so talented talk about how hard they work”
This brings me to my choice, Roxane Gay. The woman has incredible range. From short stories to long-form, from fiction to memoirs, she writes beautifully and is an artist when it comes to evoking feelings. She’s a perfect voice on Twitter, recommends phenomenal music and shows, and hosts a fantastic podcast called The Roxane Gay Agenda – it’s a great name. Another thing that I relate to is that Roxane is fat and I’m too, and I love seeing fat women getting recognition because it’s pretty uncommon. What sets her apart, though, is her work ethic. I once heard her get into the nitty-gritty of her grind, and it was incredible to hear someone so talented talk about how hard they work and continue to work to do what they do. Nothing in this life is free, and she’s really transparent about that. I find it comforting and inspiring, and I’m just so glad she’s in this world doing the work.
Nessa Morrissey: Hi there. My name is Nessa Morrissey, and I am the content marketing manager in the Dublin office. Somebody who definitely inspires me every day of the week, not just for International Women’s Day, was my late nana, Margaret Morrissey. She was so ahead of her time, and the older I get, the more I really realize that. She became a widow at the age of just 47 and was left to raise nine children on her own along with running a farm in Tipperary.
“She really valued education for her daughters, when for women, at that time in rural Ireland, your opportunities were getting married, and that’s kind of it”
She managed to do all of this with great success. She put almost all of her children through boarding school, which I think even today would be a really big achievement, never mind 40 or 50 years ago. She had such a value on education, and it was so important for her that her children got an education and went on to be whatever they wanted to be. And she really valued education for her daughters, when for women, in that time in rural Ireland, your opportunities were getting married, and that’s kind of it. But my nana wanted more for her children. She wanted to make sure her daughters and her sons, of course, got an education and were able to go on and be what they wanted to be.
Because of my nana’s hard work and sacrifice, I’m able to live the life that I have now because she put my dad through boarding school, he went on to college, and then he got a good job. And because of that, my sister and I were able to live a great life. We got to go to school, got to go to college, and now we’re forging our own careers. So I think she was a total inspiration, completely ahead of her time, and did so much good for her family in a really tough circumstance.
Challenging all expectations
Liam Geraghty: My name is Liam Geraghty. I’m an audio content producer here at Intercom. A woman who has inspired me ever since I read her books as a teenager is Tove Jansson. Tove was born in Helsinki, Finland, in 1914. She was an artist and author, most famously of the Moomin books, which I love. She really inspired me to try different things because Tove was many things herself. She wasn’t afraid to be any of them, whether a painter, a writer of short stories and novels; she composed song lyrics and designed stage scenes. She challenged a lot of assumptions that were held by society about how women should live at the time. Her Moomin books are full of strong, female characters. And she also used her books to pay respect to the women she loved romantically, at a time when it was illegal to be LGBT+. She never compromised in her beliefs, and that’s something that truly inspires me.
“I’ve been told multiple times about what is expected of me just by the virtue of me being a woman”
Shilpi Agrawal: Hello everyone. I’m Shilpi. I’m a Product Manager with Intercom’s Dublin team. Currently, I’m working remotely from India. Happy International Women’s Day 2022 to everybody. To me, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate all amazing women. It’s a day for us to reflect and acknowledge everything they have struggled with and overcame to be where they are in their lives today. It’s a day to appreciate their strength, courage, and so many more inspiring qualities. It’s also a day for us to remind ourselves that we all have an active responsibility to make the world a more supportive, more encouraging place for women from every background, a place where women get equal opportunities and equal treatment.
Coming from a tier-2 city of India, I’ve been told multiple times about what is expected of me just by the virtue of me being a woman. But instead of fulfilling the world’s expectations, I’ve often stood up for what I wanted and what gave me joy. I’m the first person in my family to move to a whole different continent, and I feel proud of myself to have broken many, many barriers along the way and to have pursued what I believe in and what gives me joy.
“I’ve come from previous workspaces that were pretty male dominant, and today I’m so excited and inspired by the intelligent women at Intercom I get to work with every day”
This wouldn’t have been possible at all without so many amazing role models and people irrespective of their gender supporting me through and through. Today, I look up to my mother, who has been a homemaker for all her life and recently took up a job at the age of 58 because it gives her joy. So, cheers to everyone who supports and encourages women to break all these barriers and pursue what they believe in. Cheers to many, many more women coming forward, breaking all gender biases and doing what gives them joy, irrespective of what the world expects them to do or not do. Cheers and happy Women’s Day 2022 to everybody again.
Lauren Cassidy: Just before we wrap up, I wanted to tell you about the inspiring women in my life. When it came to picking one person, famous or otherwise, honestly, I couldn’t narrow it down. I’ve come from previous workspaces that were pretty male dominant, and today I’m so excited and inspired by the intelligent women at Intercom I get to work with every day. So instead of narrowing it down, I just want to take this chance to recognize the influence all these women have on me as a collective and let them know that I think they’re killing it in all they’re doing.
I hope you get to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and think about the inspiring women in your life, and that you’re reminded of what can be achieved when we continue to break the bias today and every day. We’ll be back next week with another episode of Inside Intercom.