If She Can See It, She Can Be It: 6 Boston Women On Widening the Paths to Leadership

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, we connected with six companies with a proven track record of supporting and elevating women in the workplace.

Written by Olivia Arnold
Published on Aug. 30, 2022
If She Can See It, She Can Be It: 6 Boston Women On Widening the Paths to Leadership
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Reflecting on her decade-long career in the tech industry, Paola Ríos Schaaf says she feels lucky to lead at an inclusive workplace like Ellevation Education.

The edtech company promotes a number of equity-minded initiatives, but what truly sets it apart from others is its leadership team, where women hold half of senior roles. For Ríos Schaaf and other women throughout the organization, this makes all the difference. 

“Women in these [leadership] positions are role models who serve as mentors and sponsors for junior employees,” said Ríos Schaaf, who is director of product at Ellevation. “It reinforces the idea that as a woman, you can carve a similar career path for yourself.” 

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, Built In Boston connected with Ellevation Education and five other companies with a proven track record of supporting and elevating women in the workplace. Celebrated annually on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting women’s right to vote. 

The powerhouse leaders featured below were eager to share about essential company steps that allowed them to grow, including: pay equity policies; diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; safe-space employee resource groups; professional development stipends and mentorship opportunities. 

Above all else, the women interviewed felt most fulfilled in careers where they could challenge themselves, develop their skill sets, receive support from leadership and pave the way for women after them. Nearly every person emphasized the revolutionary role that visible women leadership played in their career planning and growth. 

 

Paola Ríos Schaaf
Director of Product • Ellevation Education

 

Ellevation Education, a software platform designed for English learners and their educators, recently announced its priority to ensure pay equity. The edtech company’s team of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging champions also focus on initiatives like revamping hiring practices to reduce bias. Ríos Schaaf says Ellevation is a workplace where employees feel safe to express candid feedback and advocate for themselves and others.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Ellevation Education?

Over my decade-long career, my focus was to gain expertise in the field and climb the professional ladder. Today, my career goals are focused on impact. I want to lead a product organization. My goal is to coach our teams to develop a learner’s mindset, welcome feedback and see challenges as opportunities for growth. 

I acknowledge it is a privilege to work with a new generation of product managers. They are digital natives and bring a different perspective to our working culture. My second goal is to leverage their lived experiences in product development by being an attentive listener and an active advocate for them. To solve the most complex product problems, you must bring many diverse voices to the table.

Half of our senior leadership roles are held by women. It reinforces the idea that as a woman, you can carve a similar career path for yourself.” 

 

What professional development resources does Ellevation Education offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

At Ellevation, half of our senior leadership roles are held by women. Women in these positions are role models who serve as mentors and sponsors for junior employees. It reinforces the idea that as a woman, you can carve a similar career path for yourself. 

I recently became part of our DEIB champions. Our mandate is to build a healthy organization where employees can do their best work. We identify, facilitate and take actions that foster a workplace of belonging. 

Members across the organization that sit in different functional roles are DEIB champions. Work done by this team in the past shed light on the need to focus on diversity in our workforce. This effort resulted in improved hiring practices. There is more work to be done, but having a focused and committed team makes this work a priority.

 

How has Ellevation Education built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? 

This year, Ellevation announced its priority for gender pay equity. This is the most recent example of our equitable culture. Our focuses on making skills-based compensation decisions and reducing opportunities for bias in the hiring process are taken seriously. Team members complete training to participate in interviews and join debriefs with emphasis on evidence-based discussions. 

With 15-plus years of experience in the tech industry, I feel lucky to be at Ellevation. I have experienced a culture here where employees look out for each other, express candid feedback and advocate for themselves and their peers. That alone makes managers better, supports our growth as leaders and allows for an inclusive and equitable culture to propagate throughout the organization.

 

 

Elise Beck
Director of Product Marketing • Wistia

 

Director of Product Marketing Elise Beck is proud to be one of the many women in leadership at Wistia, a company that builds video marketing software. At the Cambridge-based marketing technology company, Beck enjoys plentiful opportunities to challenge herself and others. 

Wisitia hosts an employee resource group devoted to gender equity, which Beck says was a great support system in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In response to the decision, Wistia updated its insurance plan to help protect its employees’ access to reproductive healthcare services.

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Wistia?

So far in my career, I’ve been lucky to find myself in places where I can really challenge myself. I’ve been fortunate to work for leaders who give me room to fail and, subsequently, room to soar. 

My goal is to continue finding spaces to be challenged and, more importantly, to create that environment for the people around me. I want to empower my team to soar. Wistia has allowed me to do that. The leadership team has created a culture that values people so deeply, not just for the work that they do but for who they are as people. This creates a lot of trust across the team, and we’re able to push each other in all of the best ways as a result.

It’s incredible to be at a place that recognizes and tries to actively counterbalance systemic inequality.

 

What benefits does Wistia offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

Wistia has a great culture, and it really feels like you can bring your full self to work, no matter what. We have an awesome ERG for folks seeking gender equity, which has been a great support system for some of the tough news that’s been coming down from the Supreme Court. 

On that note, Wistia quickly took action to update our insurance plan to ensure that members of our team can continue to access reproductive healthcare services, regardless of where they live. It’s incredible to be at a place that recognizes and tries to actively counterbalance systemic inequality. 

Aside from the supportive culture, Wistia also offers professional development budgets for all employees to continue learning and training. 

 

How has Wistia built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? 

Wistia has worked hard to create a culture that aims to respect all people. As a woman in leadership, I’ve had a really positive experience. I’ve been given the opportunity to share my ideas and influence the company, and I’ve been inspired by other women above and below me who do the same. 

It’s refreshing to see the number of women who are part of the leadership team at Wistia, and I am proud to be a part of it.

 

 

Himanshu Godara
Senior Data Engineer • QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey.

 

QuantumBlack, the AI-powered arm of management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, emphasizes the importance of mentorship among its employees. At the information technology company, Senior Data Engineer Himanshu Godara says she formed invaluable mentorship relationships with senior women and men, all of whom encouraged her to pursue leadership. 

In addition to fostering an inclusive company culture, teams also ensure equitable treatment in client settings. Godara recalls situations where she faced “friction” from senior clients due to being a young woman, and leadership was quick to call out the behavior and discuss it with the customer. Knowing that leadership has her back, Godara says, allows her to be herself and produce her best work. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at your QuantumBlack?

My career goal is to be a technical leader who creates space and opportunities for diverse and underrepresented groups. At QuantumBlack, I get the opportunity to lead teams and work on modern data stacks to keep my technical skills polished. 

I have also taken steps to mentor and coach new joiners. I mentor women who are looking for connections and guidance, through events such as Women in Tech at QuantumBlack and the Next Generation Women Leaders program by McKinsey.

In the industry, we have very few women technical leaders. I believe this creates a big responsibility to take the next step, be the leader and fill the gap.” 

 

What professional development resources does QuantumBlack offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

We have a lot of resources at our disposal — from virtual and in-person trainings to peer mentorship and sponsorship from women leaders. This opens up a lot of opportunities to learn and work on your career goals. 

I love the women connectivity events organized by our team. It gives me the opportunity to connect with women leaders at the company and learn from them. 

As part of its culture, our company encourages people to find their mentors and sponsors. I’ve found mentors who are women leaders in business and male leaders who are big supporters, all of whom have encouraged me to lead the way. 

Overall in the industry, we have very few women technical leaders. I believe this creates a big responsibility to take the next step, be the leader and fill the gap. I’m grateful that McKinsey is paving the way for me to become a leader.

 

How has QuantumBlack built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? 

QuantumBlack has built an inclusive culture for women by creating opportunities to increase representation and bringing on more women leaders. I’ve never faced discriminatory treatment at this company. I’ve found the environment very supportive and encouraging. 

As a consultant, it’s not only the environment of our company that matters, but also the client environment. A major portion of the job is working directly with clients. As a young woman in tech, I’ve faced friction in team rooms from client teams, but I’m grateful that my leadership always took a stand, called out the behavior and had a conversation with the senior client stakeholders. 

This kind of support allows me to be myself and bring my best work. The courage of leaders to recognize the issue and stand in support creates a very motivating and inclusive environment at McKinsey.

 

 

Erika Lee
Vice President, Solutions Marketing • Tufin

 

Tufin, a network-security policy-management company, places an emphasis on work-life balance, family and community. Solutions Marketing Erika Lee believes these values naturally attract many women to the company and its leadership positions. Tufin fosters a culture of inclusiveness and collaboration through workshops and open communication with leadership. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Tufin?

I enjoy building teams and processes that help companies take product marketing and other marketing functions to the next level. People and department dynamics either help or hinder. At Tufin, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing career-wise, and the people across departments have been welcoming, supportive and collaborative since day one.

There are many women in our tech and leadership positions, but it’s not because of a program. It’s the organic outcome of the Tufin culture.” 

 

What professional development resources does Tufin offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

I think when a company’s leadership and hiring managers prioritize things like character and compassion, you build a culture from the ground up that everybody can thrive in. I’m truly impressed with the quality of people at Tufin and the importance the company places on work-life balance, family and community. 

There are many women in our tech and leadership positions, but it’s not because of a program. It’s the organic outcome of the Tufin culture.

 

How has Tufin built an inclusive and equitable culture for women? 

Tufin’s leadership is accessible and communicative, and they reach out to ensure their employees have what they need to succeed. Management engages in fantastic workshops to ensure we bring empathy and openness to our interactions with each other and our teams. It’s a great way to ensure new managers continue to maintain Tufin’s culture of inclusiveness, compassion and healthy collaboration.

 

 

Robin team photo
Robin

 

Libby Kiely
Director of People • Robin

 

At Robin, a workplace experience software platform, Director of People Libby Kiely’s career goal is to clear the way for other women to excel in tech. Senior leadership at the HR tech company is supportive of her mission, Kiely says, and elevates women through generous professional development stipends, mentorship programs and data-backed DEI initiatives. Women also carve out mutual support spaces in the company’s SheMakesSense employee resource group and R-Parent Slack channel. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Robin?

My overall career goal is to be a strong woman leader in tech who creates space for other women in the workplace to excel in their own careers. This goal can’t be achieved without support and space from senior leadership. 

At Robin, our leadership team supported the formation of the SheMakesSense ERG and R-Parent’s Slack community. These are both spaces where I have been able to share my own experiences of motherhood and career progression.

 

What benefits does Robin offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

As part of our perk offerings, Robin has a generous professional development stipend that employees can use toward furthering their professional interests. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity every year that I’ve been at Robin, obtaining new certifications in human resources and taking classes working toward my Master of Business Administration. 

A second program we offer is our URG mentorship program. Anyone who is part of a URG can apply and, if chosen, they are paired with two members of our leadership team over the course of two quarters. In addition to more formal programming, our organizational culture strongly supports stretch assignments and cross-functional work to further skills in areas where we may not typically have exposure in our everyday roles.

By using data, we hold ourselves accountable to ensuring continued progress in making Robin inclusive and equitable for women.” 

 

How has Robin built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

Since I joined Robin in 2019, we have really focused on our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. From understanding where we were in 2020 to where we want to be in the coming years, the data we have is invaluable. This data helped form initiatives such as our URG mentorship program, and has helped us set diversity goals within our hiring team. By using data, we hold ourselves accountable to ensuring continued progress in making Robin inclusive and equitable for women. 

 

 

OneView group photo
OneView Commerce

 

Chelsea Drew
Scrum Master • OneView Commerce

 

At OneView Commerce, a cloud-based commerce platform for retailers, women make up more than 40 percent of the executive team, including CEO Linda Palanza. This means that women participate in nearly every company call and meeting, which Scrum Master Chelsea Drew says makes leadership as a woman feel more achievable at the company. 

 

What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at OneView Commerce?

My current career goals are to continue finding my place in this industry and taking advantage of the opportunities I’m given to help improve our organization. I’m only two years into working in technology, and I’m still learning every day. OneView has been instrumental in helping me forge a path in a world that was brand new to me. 

I came to the company as an intern with no technical background, save for experience as an end point-of-sale user in various retail and hospitality applications. I began by training to become a junior scrum master and then was promoted to scrum master. I always feel like I’m on my way to job growth. My involvement in things such as onboarding and training, as well as helping to increase the efficiency of a deployment team, keep me constantly iterating and improving on the skills I brought with me to OneView.

In the long term, I look forward to continuing to apply myself in this new field. OneView has shown patience and willingness in allowing me the time necessary to learn the technicalities of the job. This time to align new and existing skills better positions me to become more effective in my current position and develop a clear career path. 

 

What professional development resources does OneView offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?

OneView is a company that sees people for their skill sets and what they can bring to the team, not their genders. This perspective makes me very fortunate to not need women-specific resources to ensure my development and growth. 

At OneView, there are constant opportunities for personal improvement. Whether it’s through open communication with direct managers about our career paths or a team-based focus on self development and education, we definitely always have doors open to us. I feel supported all the time by my peers and leadership in continuing to advance.

I’m continuously inspired by the great things that other women at OneView are doing, and I’m encouraged through witnessing their career tracks.” 

 

How has OneView built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?

It’s easy to feel the inclusivity at OneView, with more than 40 percent of our executive team, including our CEO, being women. In action, this means being in the presence of intelligent, thoughtful women on nearly every call or meeting. I’m continuously inspired by the great things that other women at OneView are doing, and I’m encouraged through witnessing their career tracks. 

I think our company is made up of women who are examples of what’s possible, and it’s overall a supportive environment for women who want to drive their careers forward.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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