As we prepare for International Women’s Day on March 8, I had the incredible opportunity to engage with three senior BlackRock leaders – all women – on the day’s theme #choosetochallenge. Here are their interesting answers to my questions along with empathy and lessons for us all.
Choose To Challenge is a call to confront bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. How have you chosen to challenge and called out situations in the past? What are you doing to create a better environment and a better future?
“Choose to challenge is first and foremost about the everyday moments. It’s about being present, alert and questioning when something could be better. This can be smaller things like reviewing the proposed speaker line-up for an event. It’s being conscious of whether the panel is diverse – and challenging it if it’s not. The same holds true for meetings: looking at participants and questioning whether others should be added to provide diversity of perspective and thought.”
– Sarah Melvin, Managing Director and Head of BlackRock’s UK Business
“I have been actively challenging bias my entire life. As an Arab woman, there are countless stereotypical expectations that I have continuously confronted over the years – from attending MIT (“Why would you go to MIT? That institution is not for women.”), to a career in investment banking and eventually heading investment banking in the Middle East at Morgan Stanley (“You can’t go into investment management. That industry is for men…and particularly not the Middle East!”), to balancing my rigorous job and raising a family of four boys (“Surely you will resign or take on a part time role now that you have children.”). The way that I have chosen to challenge each of these situations is by fighting them through my actions and demonstrating that I am capable of not only achieving these goals but also excelling at them.”
– May Nasrallah, Non-Executive Chairman and Senior Advisor for the Middle East
“In the data and technology space, I am often in meetings with all men. Once, as we were talking about a conference, a male colleague referenced an ‘extremely thought-provoking’ presentation given by ‘quite a witty girl.’ (Mind you, she is an award-winning data scientist.) I said simply, “You mean quite a witty woman, not girl.” He corrected himself immediately, and we went on with the discussion. He called me afterwards to apologize and explain that he did not mean any insult. I explained to him how referring to a woman as a girl may seem innocent enough but is a micro-aggression that negatively impacts perceptions of women. I also asked him if he would ever refer to a male award-winning data scientist as a ‘boy,’ and he could not fathom it. So, I think we both learned good lessons that day. Mine was to speak up in the moment. And his was that he should never refer to an adult woman as a girl! Ever!”
– Tiffany Perkins-Munn, Managing Director and Head of the Research, Analytics, and Data team for Global Marketing
It’s important to really dig deep into the opportunities side of this topic as well. How have mentors and sponsors at BlackRock helped you identify and pursue opportunities?
– May Nasrallah
— Tiffany Perkins-Munn
How will you #choosetochallenge?