International Women’s Day is celebrated globally every year on March 8th. It’s a day when we come together to recognize all of the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women. Although in recent years social media has brought IWD to the world stage, you may not realize this internationally celebrated day pre-dates social media–by nearly a century.
At Wave, we pride ourselves on having an inclusive workplace that celebrates diversity and strives for gender parity. But what does that really mean? How did we get to where we are today when looking at our diverse leadership team and our 55:45 male to female ratio, in a male-dominated industry?
Hear from our leadership team on the stories that shaped them and what brought them together.
Ashira Gobrin, Wave’s Chief People Officer, shares her story from the lens of a woman with a deep history, immigrating to Canada and having to rebuild a new life for her and her family:
In previous years, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we have hosted or participated in panels that curated examples of inspiring women to recognize their achievements and inspire us all. This year, I am choosing to share my own story which is deeply personal, at times painful, but mostly a really happy one. So here goes:
My great grandparents were born and raised in Eastern Europe – in the countries of Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania until the late 1800s during a time where it was nearly impossible to find a job if you were Jewish. The conditions of poverty, cold, hunger, violence and suffering became unsustainable. Many got on boats with nothing but their children and the clothes on their back, and in my family’s case, my great grandmother’s silver candlesticks – often without knowing the destinations they were heading to – an escape from the unimaginable: anything had to be better. In our story, they landed on the coast of South Africa with no money, no skills, and no English, and set out to rebuild their lives again. Over 100 years later, those candlesticks still sit on my mother’s table every Friday night to remind us of our family values: who we are and where we came from.
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I grew up in the late 1970’s – I’m almost exactly the same age as my friend and colleague Ideshini Naidoo. But her family is of Indian descent and so we would never have been allowed to play on the same beaches, or go to the same schools. My upbringing in many ways was sheltered from the horrors of segregation, poverty, and lack of opportunity that she lived through. But we were reminded frequently, that Jews were only one step above the non-white population, and that rampant antisemitism was always waiting around the corner.
Two generations later, my family packed our bags again and moved to the U.S, but I made my own journey moving to Canada–which was not always easy. I was a young woman trying to find a job in a new country with no friends or professional network, while also trying to raise a family and plant roots all over again. These times were overwhelming, to say the least. I try not to think too much about that time period because it was hard and there were many tearful moments. When I do look back at those years, I am grateful for the support of my devoted husband who was also navigating his own struggles. I am proud of my achievements having raised 3 children, volunteered many hours to my community, built a great career and made some true friends. But getting here was a story that is familiar to many immigrants. It is one of sacrifice, tremendous grit, and tenacity. Especially for women.
Today, I work at an extremely inclusive company for an extremely inclusive CEO. The reality is though, that with so few women leaders in tech, over the 22 years I have lived and worked in Toronto, I was and still am often the only one, or one of the very few women at a boardroom table, in a meeting, at a conference. At times in my career, I have been left out or left behind. I don’t play golf and I hate beer. I keep kosher and I don’t work or travel on Saturdays. That almost always means not being able to eat when we are out. Sometimes it’s isolating but I don’t feel undermined and I don’t feel less able to do my job because of where I work and who I work with. I have chosen to work with people who recognize what I bring, who make me feel comfortable, who give me opportunities. If I didn’t, I would move and find it somewhere else. No one has yet succeeded in stopping me. I am exactly where I want to be, and that’s truly what I care about.
In addition to my fulfilling career, I have the privilege and the responsibility to be involved as a volunteer in a leadership capacity at a few prominent and very senior Jewish community organizations. I have acted as “Chairman” of two separate boards of not-for-profit organizations. Through these roles, I have been privy to intelligence and information about antisemitic “incidents” and threats that are almost never public, but comes from serious and reliable sources and is monitored constantly at the higher security levels out of Israel and North America.
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As a mother, as a wife, a daughter, an employee, a manager, a leader. How do I make each day count? How do I invest my heart and soul and every ounce of energy I have in everything I do? How do I give people opportunities to shine? How do I notice and open doors for others that may have a hard time getting through otherwise? How do I leave a legacy so the people that come after me have an easier time? That is my struggle, that is our eternal struggle, I think.
If you really look around, there are so many incredible women with unbelievable stories. We are white, Indian, Asian, brown, black. We are Jewish, Christian and Muslim, some not religious at all. We are single women, women with families, careers, dreams, and aspirations. We are women that have overcome great challenges to be where we are today. We are women of the world. Women in Tech. We are Women. We are just like you, only different. Ask us to tell you our stories. I am sure you will find them inspirational.