For Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (IWD), we are shining a spotlight on the dynamic women of Samsung through a series of companywide initiatives that honor the prominent leaders, next generation talent, and working mothers within our organization. One such event was led by nine of our women+ employee resource groups (ERGs) from across our North American subsidiaries. They joined forces to convene a powerful discussion highlighting successful women in business that have made an impact and are paving the way for future female leaders.

Nine of Samsung’s women+ employee resource groups (ERGs) joined together to discuss International Women’s Day from across our North American subsidiaries including Samsung Ads, Samsung Austin R&D Center, San Jose Advanced Computing Lab, Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Samsung Strategy & Research Center, Samsung Electronics America, Samsung Research America, and Samsung Electronics Canada.

The panel, held on IWD, was led by Michelle Crossan-Matos, Samsung Electronics America’s Senior Vice President of Strategy & Transformation and Product Innovation, and was centered on the IWD #ChoosetoChallenge theme: Choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women’s achievements. From choosing to challenge, comes change! Michelle was joined by Lisa Gersh, Public Company Board Member; Maryam Banikarim, Head of Marketing, Nextdoor; and Jenn Moore, Vice President, Talent Acquisition & Executive Search, Standard industries.

The esteemed panel of women leaders shared stories of the experiences that have shaped their careers; touched on how they #ChoosetoChallenge themselves and others; and provided thoughts on the future of women at work.

Make Your Voice Heard

Michelle opened the discussion by asking the panelists what the IWD #ChoosetoChallenge theme means to them. Maryam noted that the theme is a “call to action to challenge gender bias and inequity by using our voices to draw attention to issues.” Lisa commented that early on in her career, the concept of having the choice of challenging the age-old patriarchal system embedded within businesses and society at large was not really an option. “When I was first establishing my career, you would have to work around an issue versus addressing it head on, honestly and fairly.” This theme can also be viewed through a wider lens to speak up and speak out against all wrongdoing. “Voting is one way that women can make sure their voices and choices can be heard and felt,” added Jen.

Glass Ceiling-Shattering Moments

The panelists shared moments in their careers when they pushed themselves to shatter the glass ceiling and forged ahead to achieve a goal. Maryam acknowledged that though she could see herself in a CMO position at a top media company that she was with, it was the allyship of the Chairman at the time that helped her secure the job. “He was able to see talent – not boundaries and, because of that, I was able to crack the ceiling.” Lisa highlighted the importance of not having fear hold her back as she pivoted from co-founding a multi-platform women’s entertainment company to serving as the president and CEO of a diversified media and merchandising company to being at the helm of a lifestyle brand and then an edgy fashion brand. “I grew up without a safety net. As a result, I was an entrepreneurial teenager and that trait manifested itself in my career. While I may not have known anything about starting an entertainment company or heading up a merchandising business or leading a fashion enterprise, I felt compelled to keep moving forward.”

Overcoming Today’s Obstacles

On overcoming today’s biggest workplace challenges, Jen stated that 87% of companies are highly committed to gender diversity, according to McKinsey & Company. Yet four-in-ten working women (42%) in the U.S. say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender, according to Pew Research Center. “Equality is still a challenge, but there are advancements being made. Promoting true equality in the workplace must happen from the top down via a fundamental DNA shift in how a company promotes and establishes its culture. But that shift also comes from other parts of the organization, which is why ERGs are so important. ERGs are safe spaces that connect people across identities to help them grow and thrive at work.” Maryam added that women continue to encounter similar challenges as those in the past to varying degrees – all currently compounded by a pandemic, but “try to channel someone else. Compartmentalize the obstacle and remind yourself that what you’re afraid of is the thing you have to run through.”

The Future of Women at Work

On the topic of challenges facing the future generation of women in business, Maryam pointed out that work-life balance will continue to plague women. “Life is about choices and chapters. In parts of your life, you make different choices, and those choices are part of life chapters. … I’ve observed that the younger generation is coming to the table with different expectations because we all stand on the shoulders of each other. I remember being at a women’s conference and someone commented that it wasn’t diverse – meaning there was a lack of people of color. The next generation is tackling challenges in different ways that weren’t previously possible for us and that gives me hope.” Michelle echoed that sentiment, stating she believes the future will be increasingly intersectional.

Men As Allies

For the last question, the panelists contemplated how men can get more involved in the modern women’s movement. “It’s not a binary decision,” said Maryam. “And men don’t need to have daughters to understand the plight for gender parity. Similarly, you don’t need to be Asian American to understand that the rise in hate crimes against that community is wrong. Let’s just be allies and speak up for each other because it’s the right thing to do.”

In closing the panel, Michelle emphasized the importance of strengthening the sisterhood at Samsung and within our communities by nurturing a mentoring and coaching culture. Because together, women can!