Filed under: Globalization For Business, Multiculturalism, Software Localization, Translation Services, Web Localization, Women In Business
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) national conference in Orlando along with my colleague Lucia. While I’ve been glad to work for a certified woman-owned business since coming on board at ABLE late last year, I left the conference feeling even more exhilarated about having the opportunity to collaborate with such an impressive and diverse business community. Until you stand on the floor of the WBENC business fair and see the mix of products and services, ages, geographic origins, races and ethnicities on display by our fellow “WBE’s,” it can be difficult to comprehend.
WBENC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was founded in Dallas in 1997 by a coalition of sponsoring corporations and women’s business leaders. Its goal is to serve as a respected certification body for woman-owned businesses throughout the United States, to offer resources to certified women’s business enterprises, and to provide a forum for mutually beneficial collaboration between these members and a large cross-section of corporations. ABLE has been WBENC-certified since 2006, and attended each annual conference since 2007.
I think Lucia and I were successful in achieving our primary goal for the week, which was to connect with our established clients in attendance, and to meet with other corporate sponsors and fellow WBE’s that may have localization needs that ABLE can help them meet. Aside from that, we had the chance to hear from a wide range of speakers and attend a number of enriching activities and seminars.
Among the personal highlights for me were Mike Jones’ of Discover Leadership’s keynote speech, in which he implored those in attendance to be willing to accept risk in pursuit of opportunity; Nancy Creuziger of ManpowerGroup’s emotional and highly personal reflections on the necessity of an organization like WBENC and the opportunities it has created for women in America’s business environment; and having the chance to meet so many young women – some of them just out of school – with exciting, cutting edge WBENC-certified businesses of their own.
Since entering the localization industry in 2004, I’ve literally never encountered a colleague, contractor or competitor that didn’t love and value the intrinsically diverse nature of our field. There are few other lines of business that so centrally derive their strength from being comprised of individuals young and old, from all countries and continents, and of all ethnicities, religions and creeds. In many ways, the WBENC organization embodies this same core value. That in our diversity there lies strength, and that all businesses – small and large – should embrace and benefit from it.
As I sit here in my home office in a sweat suit and sneakers having a conference call with people across three time zones, I am reminded about just how far women have come in the working world. While both opportunities for women and technology have changed radically during my lifetime, what I am reminded of today is the evolution of how business women dress for work.
As the senior member of our company, my work history goes back much further than most of my colleagues to the early 1970s. My first job out of college was teaching math at a junior high school outside of Philadelphia. The school district was pretty progressive and used some of the latest tools and techniques. I was actually hired because of my training in “New Math” which was the latest rage at the time. It was a great first job!
The dress code for teachers, however, was pretty strict. The guys all wore ties and the women wore dresses or skirts. Having gone through college during the Vietnam protest days, I was a bit of a rebel and was tempted to push back a bit on this practice. (In college, we were not allowed to go “downtown” in pants. We had to wear a skirt.) In the 1970s, pant suits were just becoming the rage. After much discussion in the teachers’ lounge and some careful shopping, I decided to take a chance. I appeared one Monday in a navy blue polyester pants suite with a white collar – very smart! There was quite a buzz. Lots of other teachers (and some of the students) were waiting to see what would happen. I made it to lunch time with no reprimand. I was walking to the lunch room when I was approached by the principal. This was it! But to my surprise this was his comment: “If all I had to worry about was women teachers wearing pants my job would be very easy. I think you look fine and I have absolutely no problem with what you are wearing!”
Needless to say, many of the other women teachers quickly followed my lead. So from a blue polyester pant to a blue sweat suit – we have come a long way baby!