International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to celebrate women's accomplishments while acknowledging and breaking down continued inequality. This year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge, encourages everyone to support this initiative – today and every day – by calling out gender biases and discrimination. It’s a collective job to lift women up and create a more inclusive world for everyone to succeed.
Living and breathing this year’s theme is our very own Andy Gracey, a Senior People & Culture Business Partner at WilsonHCG. When it comes to uplifting women’s voices and instilling confidence, she says it’s pivotal to have female leaders set the example and mentor younger professional women and build their confidence. Andy elaborates on how she personally experienced this – and how it contributed to her success.
“A lot of times, in the mirror, you see the negatives instead of the positives,” she said. “Having strong female leaders at the onset of my career allowed me to have a voice so I didn’t feel silent. This was a huge inspiration to helping me find my voice so I could instill action and pride in the work I was able to produce; it allowed me to grow.”
We asked Andy how she chooses to challenge gender stereotypes and limitations. She said, "For me, it’s always been about challenging myself to be the best version of myself every day, and not being complacent or giving someone else power over my beliefs.”
Being a first-generation college graduate, Andy’s no stranger to the fighting obstacles and overcoming the odds. Attending university on a volleyball scholarship, she was able to model her hard work ethic from women leaders around her – an ever-present reminder that she could also achieve her goals. Now, Andy continues to give back to younger generations by coaching girls volleyball herself.
“I wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for volleyball – this helped me build confidence and resilience. That doesn’t mean being a doormat either; it means you can bounce back quickly.
"One of my favorite quotes from a leader I heard was ‘Be a rubber band,’ so I used to wear one around my wrist during the darker times of my life as a reminder to be strong and learn from every hardship by bouncing back.”
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Unlike prior decades (when women leaders were sparse or nonexistent), there are more women in high-level positions in the workforce. This is positively impacting and influencing the next generation of girls. As mentioned before, Andy felt this strongly contributed to her path of growth. Early on, women such as Krista Spence who mentored Andy during her HR journey gave her the prodigious “a-ha” moment that granted her the strength of “I can be the change for myself.” This confidence and mindset helped her be aware of new opportunities and volunteer for additional passion projects and giving back initiatives.
Takeaway: By having the leadership support and guidance early on, Andy was set up to succeed in her roles and explore growth, which is something all organizations should be offering to employees, especially women and people of color. This fosters a forward-thinking culture where organizations function as a safe space for changemakers to enter and be rewarded for new ideas by tapping into their talents and potential.
When asked what advice Andy would give other women, she responded immediately:
“Have a fail fast and fail forward mentality in everything you do.”
Many women hold themselves to a standard of perfection all the time – but it’s unfair to expect constant perfection. Failure creates growth. Andy elaborated that you need to experience failure to know how to grow in your career, and that it should be acceptable to stumble and take that in your journey as a valuable learning opportunity.
IWD is the perfect opportunity to discuss ways to further women’s rights, equity and opportunities in the workplace and beyond. Take the pledge yourself and #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes and bias.
WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.