Celebrating Women's History Month at Horizontal

Horizontal blog- Women's History Month panel recap
Article by Horizontal Team
Mar 21, 2024
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In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (3/8), our Women of Horizontal Empowerment Network (WHEN) hosted a panel featuring 5 amazing women at our company. The event’s panelists -- Ali Provos, Arianna Winkle, Chris Shaw, Isabella D’Burke and Vigya Pataliya -- come from different backgrounds and provided unique perspectives based on where they are in their personal and professional lives.

Moderated by our WHEN ERG leaders, Lauren Kasten and Mandy Hay, the panelists discussed vulnerability in the workplace, work life balance, how societal expectations have influenced them in their professional lives and advice for anybody working in 2024.

What is your approach to being vulnerable at work?

“Learning how to be vulnerable at work has been super important for me. Earlier in my career, I was a firm believer in the phrase, ‘Fake it ‘till you make it’. I never wanted others to know how much I cared about work, or how disappointed I was if things didn't go my way. So, I kept everything inside, and at the time, I felt like that made me really strong. Over time, I've learned that there is a ton of strength in being vulnerable, open and honest about my feelings at work. In doing that, I can connect with my team and allow those connections to support and motivate me at work. Our work in staffing can be very up and down: One day you're on top of the world, the next you might feel like you're in a bottomless pit. The more I can be honest with myself and others about those feelings, the more I've been able to connect with my colleagues, build deeper bonds and gain more trust at work, which ultimately makes work a better place for me. One example of this vulnerability is a relationship I’ve built with my coworker, Janya. One time we were both having a hard week, so we established this saying together called, ‘Just keep swimming,’ which is how Dory supports Marlin in the Disney movie Finding Nemo. For Marlin, the phrase helped him finish his journey and find his missing son, and for us, we use it to support each other during the difficult days. By opening up and being vulnerable, I’ve created a relationship where we’ve supported each other for years. Sometimes, just to myself, I say, ‘Just keep swimming!’ and it makes me smile.”
- Arianna Winkle

“As Ari mentioned, I was also a, ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ kind of gal. I didn't want anyone to see me sweat. So, vulnerability has been a journey for me. When I was first interviewing for my role, my dad had colon cancer and lived alone, which required a lot of hands-on care from my sister and me. To add on, I had been at my previous company for 7 years at the time, and I was really good friends with my female manager. She knew everything about me. It was super easy to be vulnerable with her. I had tons of flexibility, and I just really couldn't imagine being anywhere but there at the time. With that in mind, during the interview process, I didn't necessarily want to disclose what I had going on in my personal life. I didn't want anyone to think that I couldn't handle taking a new job, that I had too much baggage or that they wouldn't be getting the best version of me if I were hired. At the end of my last interview with our VP Kevin Erickson, he asked if there was anything that would prevent me from taking this job, which I said no to. But then he asked it again. And again. When he asked the third time I knew, okay, he's either a really good salesman or he knows something. So, I actually started crying in my interview, and I told him everything that was going on with my dad. He responded by sharing his story about his dad who passed from cancer and my other interviewee, Kris, whose mom passed away from cancer. He reassured me that I would have the flexibility I needed and that they understood what I was going through. While it wasn’t the way a typical interview should go, it was really the deciding factor for me to join the Horizontal team. It was real, wonderful and what I most appreciated. Fast forward to when I got pregnant, I was really sick early on, but I knew from my previous experience that if I had something going on personally and I needed extra support, I shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. I ended up telling my manager, Jesse Rangel, I was pregnant at 8 weeks -- which is super early. A lot of women keep that information to themselves in fear of what might happen, but I learned that I don’t have to allow myself to suffer in silence, and I was met with a ton of empathy, support and understanding. When I had Parker, I had a really hard time coming back to work and adjusting to odd hours as a mother, juggling daycare and other needs. I feel supported because I did speak up about what I needed. Rachel Enstrom, our global director of marketing, product and tech, actually posted something on Instagram a while back, and it really resonated with my experience. It said, ‘If I refuse to ask for help when I'm struggling, I'm normalizing women hiding their pain.’ Learning to be vulnerable doesn't have to stem from something as traumatic as I went through, and I really hope it doesn't. Women should feel like their voice matters and they have the confidence and opportunity to speak up when they have something to say or something that they need. Don't be afraid to show your emotions, and be vocal about what you need, personally or professionally!”
- Ali Provos

 How do you manage your work-life balance?

“Achieving work life balance is a complex, dynamic process, and it looks different for everyone. In my case, being a hands-on mom of a 7 and a 10-year-old, a full-time working woman and somebody who's deeply committed to the well-being of my family, my days require careful planning. From the moment I wake up, I navigate through a myriad of responsibilities beyond my professional commitments. There are the day-to-day tasks of managing kids, extracurricular activities, maintaining my home and most importantly, spending quality time with my children. Balancing the demands of having both a son and daughter brings its own set of challenges. There are also different needs based on the time of your life. I was a successful business owner back in India, but when I moved to the U.S., I had a dependent visa, so I couldn’t work at the time. But, with my experience, I could help my husband set up his current company. Priorities change and I was okay shifting the focus of my life, as I believe success can't be measured solely by professional achievements, but overall satisfaction with life and how well I have handled my responsibilities or commitments. For me, true success is about feeling accomplished rather than just being successful. Work-life balance to me is finding harmony amid these varied roles. It involves planning, effective time management and constant juggling to meet both professional and personal demands. It's also essential to acknowledge that the balance is not static and may require flexibility as circumstances change.”
- Vigya Pataliya

“I haven't always felt successful when managing my work life balance! It may look successful from the outside. I have two kids, I work, everything looks good, but I think inside most moms probably know this: Every time you miss an event your kids have and you're not there, you feel like you're a terrible mom. Then if you're missing an important work meeting, you feel like you aren’t a very dedicated worker. It's a lot to balance and there's a lot of guilt that you carry for not being the best at all times for everybody. I think we as women sometimes feel like we have to do it all. We have to be everything for everybody, we have to be successful at it all and society now says we can do it all. We can do it all, but we also have to remember that we don’t have to do it all. You have to decide what is right for yourself and what works for you as a person. It's important to continually reassess where you’re going and where you would like to be. I had a moment, about 8 years ago, when I was working for a company that was exciting and fun, but growing very fast and was super busy. I was on a vacation with my family, but I had of course brought my laptop, and I was working at the table in our Airbnb. My teenage daughter walked over and said, ‘Mom, why did you even come on this vacation if all you're going to do is work anyway?’ What she said gave me pause and made me reflect on where I was at and what my true-life goals were. So, I quit that job, and I went into consulting. That way I could have control over my hours and the projects I did while my kids were still around the house. Now that my kids are out of the house, I changed my priorities again and have more time for other work. Sometimes it can feel like we’re in this hamster wheel constantly running, and we can't drop any of these balls. But at some point, we need to stop and ask, 'Am I even running in the right direction?'”
- Chris Shaw

“I haven’t had anyone say anything at Horizontal and I think this company does a really great job supporting all women, but I do think there is a social expectation around the fact that I don’t have children yet. People assume that I’m just a young buck who is going to be super competitive because I’m early in my career, I’m going to be a workaholic and I don’t understand work life balance. I think it’s important to recognize that I have had the same personality my whole life and the pillars of my personality will remain throughout the various paths I take in my life. I am competitive and work hard, but I also highly prioritize my work-life harmony. I also think this ideal of young people being super competitive trying to climb the ladder can take away from the competitiveness and work ethic parents have. Just because you have children doesn’t mean you won’t be an equal performer to your younger colleagues. To add on, I think it’s important that I create good work-life harmony habits now, so that I can better manage work if I do have children. This competitive ideal is applicable to both men and women, but I do think that this also ties into different generational values. As younger generations enter the work force, all of the labor market information discusses different priorities, especially work-life balance and value alignment at the company. With that being said, the term "guilt" that Chris mentioned really resonated. Even with varying generational values, there are times when I feel guilty for practicing work-life balance because I don’t have children or other ‘commitments’ outside of work, and I think it’s really important to recognize that work-life harmony is necessary to everyone.”
- Isabella D'Burke

How do you feel religion, history, culture, politics and/or social expectations have influenced you as a woman?

“I think it’s really interesting how past experiences and things like religion, history, culture and politics have influenced myself and other women. With the stereotypes that have been instilled in us, I have had to have a personal reset when speaking my truth during interactions. In the past I worried about certain stereotypes, such as women being considered bossy or aggressive while men with similar characteristics are considered passionate and possess leadership qualities. I never felt this at Horizontal, but I do think these underlying feelings and potential past negative experiences are important to think about when interacting with women in the workplace. I think that is also rooted in my experiences growing up. Growing up competing with men for leadership opportunities made me more competitive with women as it always felt like there could only be one female representative competing against the men. I think that’s also something that is transferable and difficult for women in the workplace. With that in mind, I highly prioritize empowering and lifting up all women. I’ve led 4 different organizations and been a part of many others, including being the president of the female empowerment organization at the university I got my bachelor’s degree at. This gave me the opportunity to organize multiple community events with minority-owned and female-owned businesses. Through my research for event speakers, I was connected with the Minneapolis/St. Paul leader of the Lean-In community. For those who don’t know, Lean-In is a book written by the former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg who ended up creating a community for women around the world. I was invited to be a peer coaching facilitator for a group of women all around the world and all older than me. Getting to learn about every woman’s varied life path and support them during that period of their life was an incredibly influential experience. If you’re looking for some sort of female community, I would highly recommend looking into Lean-In’s groups, or finding some group that aligns with your needs."
- Isabella D'Burke

“I also wanted to talk about something that Isabella mentioned which is women competing with each other. When I first started working, this type of competitiveness was very prevalent, and in fact working for a woman was much, much harder than working for men. If I saw a job opportunity where a woman would be my boss, I didn’t even want to apply because what I found was most women that made it to leadership positions decided their career was going to be their life. Some were married, but most of them did not have children and so their expectation of other women was the same. They thought if they could make certain sacrifices, why couldn’t their employees? This resulted in very little sympathy for a sick child or any other illness. I also agree with what Isabella said about how it used to feel like all women were competing against each other for the same leadership position, not competing against the majority of leadership positions that men held. It felt as if the men’s positions weren’t available. At some point, women woke up and said, 'What are we doing? We need to support each other!'”
- Chris Shaw

What advice would you share with a woman early in her career? 

“Starting off in staffing, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I just knew I wanted a career that would reward me for working hard. At Horizontal, I can work hard, find success, set firm goals and be in an environment where the sky is limit. So, the advice I would give to those working in staffing is to work hard, be motivated, have drive, but also remember that working smart is just as important as working hard. Learn the little things that will make your days more effective and productive in the long term. It’s important that I'm working hard, but I'm also in the space to be my best self at work, finding that harmony. If you're focused only on work 24/7, you can burn out. Thanks to the leadership here, I've learned that the journey to hitting your goals and sales numbers is just as important to actually achieving those milestones. With that in mind, I now make sure that I am not burning myself out and instead ask myself, ‘What can I do today to take care of me and ensure I’m in a good headspace?’ Sometimes that means getting up at 5:00 AM, not to jump to my computer, but instead to take my dog for a walk, cook myself breakfast or go for a run. Working smart is knowing how to take care of yourself. It's knowing when you need to take a day off, whether it's to spend time with your family, go on an adventure or just reset and rest. Whatever it might be, giving yourself that permission allows you to have new perspectives to bring to work and often gratitude. We can only work effectively when we're working both hard and smart. So just remember, working smart is about taking care of yourself and setting yourself up for success!”
- Arianna Winkle

“Believe in your abilities and be assertive in expressing your ideas. Wear your confidence! Confidence is a key factor for your professional success and is essential when conveying your work to others. Strive to maintain a healthy work life balance: Understand your priorities, set boundaries and ensure that you have time for both professional and personal commitments.”
- Vigya Pataliya

What is the best advice you have received?

“Going back to Ari’s, 'Just keep just keep swimming' story is another reference to Finding Nemo. A manager of mine said, 'To be successful in staffing, you have to have a short memory.' We have a lot of ups and downs, probably more bad situations than good. If something bad happens, reflect on it, learn and move on. You can't ruminate in the bad! Be like Dory from Finding Nemo and have a short memory." 
- Ali Provos

“You're 100% replaceable at work, but you're not replaceable at home at all. Also, you work to live. You don't live to work.”  
- Chris Shaw

“Find a community and align yourself with like-minded people. Whether it’s a company ERG, a group like Lean-In or it’s a different group like a book club or sports team, finding a community to be yourself with is super important!”
- Isabella D'Burke

“Always stay curious and be adaptive to change. This mantra has become my guiding principle and has shaped the way I approach challenges and opportunities. Embracing a curious mindset has fueled me to have a continuous pursuit for knowledge and pushed me to stay informed about industry advancements and emerging trends. By remaining open to new ideas and experiences, I have embraced change and have actively sought it as an opportunity for growth.”
- Vigya Pataliya

“My first piece of advice ties into what Vigya mentioned about staying curious. When I first started recruiting, I didn’t know what I was getting into. My manager Kris Hancock said don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Staying curious, asking for help and not making assumptions, but getting clarity asking for help is what's going to set you up for success, which ties back to being vulnerable with Janya. So, to wrap up on our Finding Nemo theme, just keep swimming! No matter what happens, we have to be resilient. There are a lot of and downs in the job market. You just have to keep being positive and keep moving forward because if you're not doing that, you're saying stuck in negative thinking or patterns that don't serve anyone. If you’re having a bad day, just keep swimming because the next one could be a lot better.”
- Arianna Winkle

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