International Women’s Day 2021


It’s International Women’s Day!

Marked annually on 8th March, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates women’s achievements, raises awareness about women’s equality, lobbies for accelerated gender parity & fundraises for female-focused charities.

In keeping with the theme of IWD2021, Choose to Challenge, we reached out to some of the amazing women we work with on a daily basis including; customers, partners & team members and asked them the question…

International Womens Day logo 2020 - Choose to challenge

How have you challenged the status quo in your capacity as a female leader in our industry?

International Womens Day - Natalija Fuksmane - Comestri's Head of Product

Natalija Fuksmane

Chief Product Officer – Comestri

My all-time favourite quote, that has really become my mantra to live by, is the phrase by Bill Campbell, little known outside of Silicon Valley coach, who once said that ‘leadership is about recognising that here’s a greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.’ I think very often when we think about the conventional notions of gender equality and inclusive culture, we fail to capture the importance of a nurturing environment that ultimately promotes high-performance and freedom to do great things. My way of contributing to this environment is to motivate through empathy, always stay true to my words and values, own up to my mistakes and never take credit for other’s achievements.

There are fewer large Australian companies run by women than are run by men named John. Or Peter. Or David. In contrast, I founded in a company where 18 of our 19 leaders are women and at one stage we employed more Sarah’s than men.

International Womens Day - Jane Cay - Founder,
International Womens Day - Comestri's Robin Maes, Project Manager

Robin Maes

Project Manager – Comestri

Challenging the status quo in the tech industry as a female leader is a curious question which I would like to broaden a little. I think I provoke change not so much because of gender but because of who I am as a human. My inclination is to allow my nurturing female qualities of compassion, empathy, and hard work to arm me with the tenacity to get work done myself and across diverse teams. I am grateful for all the amazing female mentors, peers and friends in my life who all exude an inner strength of conviction, quest to learn, explore and enjoy the challenges that our technological era throws our way every single day.

Alexandra Morris

Head of Marketing – BigCommerce

The ecommerce ecosystem in APAC is tight-knit and I truly feel strongly connected and respected by my industry peers. As a female leader in a (still) male-dominated industry and female-dominated business function I do my best to throw anything from the archaic, old-hat way of thinking out the window and just get on with business.

Throughout my career, I have made the deliberate decision to strengthen relationships with some of the most incredible professional people across varied levels of seniority and skills. This has been crucial to my success as I believe relationships and respect are everything regardless of where you rank.

At BigCommerce the conversation around diversity and inclusion isn’t just noise-masking a lack of true action and progress in my team, it is the real deal. This makes me feel supported in my belief that more diversity in all facets of business can only help to deliver better, more innovative and equitable-rich outcomes.”

International Womens Day - Alexandra Morris, Head of Marketing – BigCommerce
International Womens Day - Comestri's Amy Forbes-Richardson, Lead Implementation Consultant

Amy Forbes-Richardson

Lead Implementation Consultant – Comestri

My first reaction is “by being a bad@ss b!tch” but I think it *might* warrant a little more nuance than that.

I’m a woman, but I’m also openly Autistic and many people still see that as a bad thing. I am challenging things simply by existing and being unapologetic about it.
I make sure my team know that I respect and value them, that they are part of the decision-making process and I will always be openly honest with them. In return, I expect the same from them and they deliver.

Emma Comben

Principal Consultant – it works

Every day I go to work and I see incredible women in the workforce.  I see mums balancing the demands of their job with raising their children and helping run a household; I see visionaries speaking up about decisions in the workplace and having a voice that shapes the future of their company; and I see the workaholics who are the first ones at work and the last ones to leave because they set a very high bar for themselves.

As a result, it can be difficult at times not to put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to succeed. When faced with an overwhelming ‘to do’ list and goals that seem almost unreachable, we have two ways we can react. We can see others around us as competition or lack thereof, get annoyed and tear each other down OR we can embrace the sisterhood and help one another on our path towards success. I am a HUGE believer in helping.

I have had two wonderful mentors, who happen to be female, who have helped shape my career today. I try and lead by the same example and have had the privilege to coach a number of women and men to help them reach their career and life goals spreading across the past 10 years. I am always watching my mentee’s careers like a proud mum and often keep in touch to help provide career advice or just be a listening ear. THIS is who I want to be as a coach, a leader and a woman and how I choose to challenge the status quo.

International Womens Day - Emma Comben, Principal Consultant – it works
International Womens Day - Comestri's Kerrie Jones - Integration Team Lead

Kerrie Jones

Integration Team Lead – Comestri

I have been in the IT industry for way longer than I care to mention. During this time, it has become blatantly clear that women have been overlooked simply because of their gender, and it is high time that this issue was addressed face on. The past 5 years have seen a dramatic improvement in conditions, but not enough.

Fortunately, in my current employment at Comestri my experience has been recognized and I now hold a Team Lead position.
Unfortunately, there are still some people who I deal with that will not acknowledge that this role has been earned and not given just to keep the status quo.

The voice of women is getting stronger and being heard clearer.  But there is a long way to go.

Shirley Green

Head of Strategic Initiatives – Amblique

Being a part of a management team that is made up of 75% women is still a fairly unique position to be in in our industry today. At Amblique we are fortunate to have a strong female CEO leading us and that leadership is very inspiring to others in the company. I believe that regardless of gender, having a strong leader steering the business is vital to team morale and of course the overall success of the business. The fact that ours happens to be female, which is still not currently the status quo, will hopefully change soon as we see more women rise up to leadership roles in our industry.

International Womens Day - Shirley Green, Head of Strategic Initiatives – Amblique
International Womens Day - Comestri's Daniella Bush - General Manager, People & Culture

Daniella Bush

General Manager – People & Culture – Comestri

I have spent the last ten-plus years within and around the software industry in various technologies and have found all of my experiences have been in male-dominated companies. I am drawn to male-dominated interests like Muay Thai Boxing, Surfing, and CrossFit and found using humour as an effective way to challenge bias, stereotypes, and attitudes towards women in sport and the workplace. It is important when courageously challenging colleagues in the workplace to do this with respect and empathy. I find myself building relationships with my colleagues and then courageously challenging their thinking as it comes from a place of trust and not a personal attack.

I have also personally come from a lower socio-economic upbringing in Sydney’s western suburbs, and I am very passionate about lifting women up from similar backgrounds to help them achieve their dreams and realise their potential.

Hannah Morris

Partnerships & Marketing Manager – 5874 Commerce

My best piece of advice is to give yourself permission to challenge the norms. Don’t just agree with the way something is – ask questions and make your opinion known.  Having confidence in my ability regardless of my gender has helped me realise my worth and progress upwards on the career ladder. There are always challenges, but I see them not as obstacles, but more as an opportunity to reach greater heights and smash targets. Stepping out of my comfort zone, taking risks, and voicing opinions are all ways I (and any female for that matter) can challenge predefined expectations to break down gender stereotypes.

In highlighting some gender inequalities in the tech industry, our agency has made a commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have an employee-led initiative consisting of a group of volunteers that spread awareness, insights and advice to the wider business. Looking at different perspectives and understanding how to communicate effectively and build connections that are outside of your comfort zone can help open up a world of possibilities and encourage others to learn in the process.

International Womens Day - Hannah Morris, Partnerships & Marketing Manager – 5874 Commerce
International Womens Day - Comestri's Karlie Taylor, Marketing Manager

Karlie Taylor

Marketing Manager – Comestri

Working in a male-dominated industry, I made a choice early in my career to support, encourage and mentor other women. I lead by example; calling out inequalities and changing what needs to be changed for a fairer, more equal environment.

As the mother of 2 young daughters, I encourage them to be brave every day. I have faced challenging situations where I have had to be brave myself; have uncomfortable conversations, put myself outside my comfort zone and stand up for what is right. I do this not only for myself, but for women everywhere and for those that will follow in my footsteps. I hope that by standing up now, the next generation will experience equality more so than my generation. We’re all in this together!

Roxanne Goldfinch

Senior Partner Manager & Strategic Intiatives – Astound Commerce

Often in a male-dominated environment, in which both the Technology sector and Partnerships function still are, it can be easy to feel outnumbered or intimidated. Often when women are vocal or assertive they run the risk of being branded with the derogatory label of ‘aggressive’, which is a fine line to tread.
It’s important not to conform to what’s expected of you ‘as a woman’ or try to be anyone else. You must play to your strengths and be your own advocate. Be brave, throw your hat into the ring and not be nervous about vocalising and sharing your success. This is key in elevating ourselves and becoming positive role models for other women.

International Womens Day - Roxanne Goldfinch, Senior Partner Manager & Strategic Intiatives – Astound Commerce
International Womens Day - Comestri's Masumi Kawamura - Client Success Manager

Masumi Kawamura

Senior Account Manager – Comestri

Having studied Sociology at university I was aware of gender and inequality across all areas of society but it wasn’t until starting my career in tech that it became so evident.

I started my career as 1 of 8 females out of 100 employees and the only one in the department. I have plenty of stories of back then which younger generations now would probably find shocking! Let’s just say I was constantly reminded of being young and female and while I fought back at every opportunity, I developed a huge chip on my shoulder. Over the decade things have significantly improved. I now work in a team where there is 50% female representation and I no longer see my gender as something that could potentially hold me back. To be honest with you, I actually forgot that I was a female in tech before being asked to contribute to this, and that is surely a testament to how good things have gotten since – I actually feel that through positive discrimination I now benefit at times from being a woman!

I love that I have more female peers than ever before and as I move forward with my own career trajectory, hope that I can be a good role model to anyone who still experiences some difficulties with this.