On Women’s Equality Day, Chicago’s Women Tech Leaders Share How Their Companies Elevate Them
On this day 102 years ago, women received the right to vote when the 19th Amendment was officially added to the United States Constitution. The amendment traces its history back to 1848 when the first women’s rights convention in the United States was held in Seneca Falls, New York.
The 300 men and women in attendance at the conference voted on resolutions that would appear in the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a document modeled after the Constitution whose resolutions declared women had the same social, political and legal rights as men. All 11 resolutions were passed, including resolution nine, which called for giving women the right to vote.
Fifty-one years after the 19th Amendment came into law the United States commemorated it with Women’s Equality Day, which was the brainchild of Bella Abzug, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977.
Women’s Equality Day is a reminder that equality between men and women is no longer a fringe idea. Yet full gender equality remains elusive, particularly in the workplace. However, just like the Seneca Falls convention, a relatively small but dedicated group of people at companies across the country have committed themselves to continuing the fight.
We spoke with women leaders at 10 of these companies in Chicago about the concrete steps their companies have taken toward this goal and how those steps have helped them reach their own professional goals.
Ahold Delhaize USA (ADUSA) is one of the nation’s largest grocery retail groups, whose brands include Stop & Shop, Food Lion and Giant Food. The e-commerce, digital and commercial services of these companies are powered by Peapod Digital Labs, one of Chicago’s pioneering tech companies.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Peapod Digital Labs?
Identifying one’s true career goals is often a process of self discovery. I started my career in retail as a management consultant, working with the best at Target and Walgreens. As I started my career in e-commerce and digital spaces, I realized product management was a great fit for my goals. I jumped into the world of startups, first my own and then a digital commerce firm. I continued my journey at Mastercard, where I learned how product and customer-centric organizations operate on a global scale. It was at this time I realized I needed to recharge and reset, so I hiked Everest base camp — one of my biggest personal accomplishments. Soon after, I re-entered the industry, this time in omni-channel grocery with Peapod Digital Labs.
The common thread across all of my experiences has been digital innovation and product excellence, and staying at the forefront of these continues to be my career goal. PDL is at the center of innovation in Ahold Delhaize USA, and that opens up many global growth opportunities. I’m humbled to lead teams that have played a pivotal role in ADUSA brands’ combined e-commerce revenue growth from $1.1 billion in 2019 to $3.8 billion in 2021. In recognition of my contributions, I received the Progressive Grocer’s “Top Women in Grocery” award in 2021, a prestigious honor for female leaders in the grocery industry.
What benefits and professional development resources does your company offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
PDL offers access to on-demand learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Pluralsight and Datacamp. We also completed a pilot study on the implementation of dedicated learning time as part of our weekly habits. PDL helps develop our women for higher-level roles through internal leadership programs and industry-led programs like NextUp. We encourage associates to identify conferences and trainings to attend, and they can also receive certifications and tuition reimbursement. From a recruiting standpoint, we focus on hiring diverse talent inclusive of gender diversity. We aim to have a diverse workforce with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Finally, our comprehensive benefits include gender-affirming care, mental health counseling, infertility treatment, flexible work schedules, childcare and parental leave, and wellness programs, just to name a few. PDL also prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and has a DEI champion in its HR department.
Our DEI functions ensure we’re looking at where gaps exist for women — be it compensation, professional development or overall belonging.”
How has Peapod Digital Labs built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Our DEI functions ensure we’re looking at where gaps exist for women — be it compensation, professional development or overall belonging. We’ve launched several inclusion networks where we discuss and explore topics critical to our personal and professional lives.
Age Equity Alliance helps women understand the best ways of communicating with direct reports and supervisors who are of different genders and generations. Women in Tech+ creates a space for women to speak freely about world events and workplace issues. SOUL and Asian American Pacific Islander helps employees in marginalized communities speak out and learn ways to advance in their careers despite racism, colorism and uncontrollable societal barriers.
Mind Over Matter addresses mental health and neurodivergent issues that can stop women from feeling comfortable, confident and valued in the workplace. Babies On Board helps women and parents bridge the gap between parenthood and professional needs and provides ways to better navigate work-life balance.
Motorola Solutions builds public safety video and communications software. Its solutions include radios and portable LTE infrastructure, artificial intelligence-powered video security technology and body-worn and in-car cameras for police, and software that powers 911 call centers.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Motorola Solutions?
Over the course of my career, my goals have included being an expert and a leader in supply chain, as well a support system to other women within my company. During my 38 years at Motorola Solutions, I’ve been able to grow my career horizontally and vertically in order to achieve these aspirations. For example, when my family was young, Motorola Solutions helped me switch to a part-time schedule where I focused on learning many aspects of supply chain while spending time with my family.
Later, I was able to take the skills I learned and apply them in leadership positions throughout the company in manufacturing, outsourcing, procurement and mergers and acquisitions. Motorola Solutions’s early support of career flexibility allowed me to work toward my goals and flourish in the workforce. Today, I also help lead the Motorola Solutions Women’s Business Council, supporting its growth to 15 global chapters.
During my 38 years at Motorola Solutions, I’ve been able to grow my career horizontally and vertically in order to achieve my aspirations.”
What professional development resources does Motorola Solutions offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
In addition to our Women’s Business Council, which engages women from different locations, backgrounds and cultures to help empower and support them, Motorola Solutions has several programs that help women further grow their impact in the organization.
For example, we recently expanded our partnership with Bonfire, an organization committed to helping women succeed in the workplace. We also offer a “Leading Women Executives” program that augments leadership skills to enhance talent and increase the advancement of women. Last year, more women from across the globe participated in these programs to help them gain more clarity around their leadership purpose.
How has Motorola Solutions built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Motorola Solutions has several strategies in place to help ensure an inclusive and equitable culture for women, from flexible work policies to diversity, equity and inclusion training. For example, the DEI team and Women’s Business Council host companywide leadership training on various topics, from identifying gendered terminology in open job requisitions to understanding unconscious bias. We also introduced flex time-off to help parents and caregivers manage work-life balance, which has been especially important throughout the pandemic. Additionally, “inclusive” is one of our core company values and a standard to which all employees are held accountable.
TransUnion is best known for issuing credit scores and associated solutions, like identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. In addition, the company also has business-to-business offerings that include compliance-focused marketing technology, analytics services and solutions for preventing and managing data breaches.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at TransUnion?
My goal is to be an empathetic leader who drives teams toward creative success while keeping a strong passion for technical security. I regularly face a lot of interesting challenges that require me to speak to current affairs in the security industry and associated technology. I am also responsible for strategy development and designing customized enterprisewide programs, which requires patience, creativity and perseverance. I have a wonderful team who shares my vision and walks the walk with me.
What professional development resources does TransUnion offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
TransUnion funds memberships to the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) for its women leaders in security. I was introduced to EWF after joining TransUnion and the conference has been super helpful to my growth as a leader. I decided to pursue a mentor role through EWF and have been successfully mentoring for two seasons, helping women grow into cybersecurity leaders. I was recently awarded a scholarship to participate in the six-month EWF Energy Leadership course, which has helped me become more self-aware and enhance and build on my leadership capabilities.
TransUnion funds memberships to the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF), and the conference has been super helpful to my growth as a leader.”
How has TransUnion built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
I hold a lot of respect for everyone in my workplace and expect the same from those I work with. This is a core principle I abide by and am hence a strong proponent of openly raising red flags when there is bias or disrespectful behavior in any sort of interaction, whether it be via email or in a meeting. The leaders at TransUnion are in full support of avoiding such behavior and make sure I feel safe voicing my concerns. They also give me an equal voice on all platforms to demonstrate my expertise. I appreciate that such an environment has been created more than anything else at TransUnion.
Grand Studio is a design firm whose services include app and web design, product strategy and UX/UI design. The firm’s clients include insurance companies, financial institutions and utilities.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Grand Studio?
One of my career goals is to reach a role where I am able to teach, guide and lead a team of designers of all levels to help them grow their skills and confidence. Grand Studio has played a key part in my career growth and has shaped me into the designer and professional I am today. There have been many unique and challenging opportunities and experiences that have extended my design skill set and taught me interpersonal skills, which has gotten me closer to reaching my career goals.
What benefits and professional development resources does Grand Studio offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
Grand Studio offers so many great resources and benefits that support women and empower them to do their best work. Having a dedicated career manager, competitive pay and pay transparency allows us to stay focused on creating great work instead of on if we are being paid fairly compared to our colleagues. On top of working with amazing and talented women every day, other benefits like fertility and IVF coverage, generous parental leave and flexible time off helps us feel supported in so many ways in and out of the workplace!
A dedicated career manager, competitive pay and pay transparency allows us to stay focused on creating great work instead of on if we are being paid fairly.”
How has Grand Studio built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Grand Studio values a culture that listens to, learns from and celebrates women every day. The leadership team, DEI committee and our director of people make it a priority for women in our workplace to feel valued, supported and represented by hiring talented women designers, promoting women into leadership roles and encouraging us to have open and honest conversations.
Consulting and professional services firms use BigTime’s software to track time and expenses, submit invoices and to manage teams and workflows. Its platform is used by companies in a wide variety of industries, including accounting, architecture and engineering, and IT services.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at BigTime?
Leadership and mentoring have always been the most important part of my career, and I have been fortunate enough to lead multiple teams through many phases of growth at BigTime. In two years, I have grown our development organization, launched a full product and expanded our department to include a UX team. As the company has evolved, some teams have gotten large enough to require additional leadership; fostering this growth has been a great evolution of my career, too.
In addition, more doors have opened after Vista Equity backed BigTime. Their women-to-women mentor program is a specific example. I not only mentor early and mid-career women in the industry but also have my own peer mentor to bounce ideas off of and discuss the realities of the unique day-to-day obstacles women in tech leadership face, especially those of us who are also moms!
What professional development resources does BigTime offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
BigTime has a women’s group that meets quarterly to ensure women at all levels of the organization are supported by each other, have an opportunity to connect on a social level and feel valued in their role. For new hires, inclusive of many female participants, we have a mentorship program to build relationships with people outside of your immediate team and discuss career growth. We have an open-door communication policy so that every woman at every career level can talk to and learn from those around them across the organization.
As a senior leader, we also have a strong female presence in the boardroom. It’s hard to articulate exactly how that helps senior female leaders, but Vista has been very focused on making that room feel more inclusive and have actively worked to eliminate the “old boy” feel so many tech boards tend to project.
Since I joined, we have increased our women in leadership across the organization. Currently more than 40 percent of all leadership roles are held by women.”
How has BigTime built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Since I joined, we have increased our women in leadership across the organization. Currently more than 40 percent of all leadership roles are held by women. Our team has also taken the initiative to make work-life balance a priority for career women with the addition of a strong maternity leave policy and access to tools like Parently, which offers pre- and post-parental leave coaching. BigTime has also formed a cross-functional environmental, social and governance team that works to ensure we not only build these programs but weave the mindset behind them into every decision we make.
From hiring to promoting to training and speaking opportunities, we offer a variety of inclusive programs. Now with Vista behind us, the opportunities have expanded for women at BigTime to participate in mentoring programs, management programs, career acceleration paths and so much more.
Carrot Fertility gives companies the ability to offer fertility care as a benefit, which includes in vitro fertilization, egg freezing, surrogacy and adoption. Companies who’ve implemented Carrot include Box, Barry’s and Momentive, formerly known as SurveyMonkey.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Carrot Fertility?
I have always had a strong desire to be in a leadership role. Throughout my career, I have strived to be in a position where I can have an impact on the world while leading a high-performing team. At Carrot, I have been able to do just that. In my four years at the company, I have experienced tremendous professional growth, starting as an individual contributor and working my way to a VP position. I am incredibly fulfilled by the team that I support and know the work we do has a monumental and life-changing impact on our members.
I have experienced tremendous professional growth, starting as an individual contributor and working my way to a VP position.”
What professional development resources does Carrot Fertility offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
For me, one of the most motivating things is being surrounded by strong and inspiring women leaders. Our company is women-founded and led, and our C-suite is over 50 percent women. This has fostered a very strong culture that allows for women to feel seen, heard, respected and empowered. The company also invests heavily in its leaders through our leadership development program. Last month I took part in an in-person retreat to develop my leadership skills. It feels amazing to work for a company that invests in my professional growth.
How has Carrot built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
I am so proud of the benefits and programs in place at Carrot that aim to support and empower women in the workforce. Our benefits include a generous parental leave policy, a very flexible time-off policy and a supportive culture that emphasizes a healthy work-life balance.
Additionally, our team members have access to the same Carrot benefit we offer our members: $15,000 for fertility healthcare and family forming needs. This includes fertility preservation like egg and sperm freezing, IVF, donor and gestational carrier services, adoption, pregnancy support and more. Beyond this, I really appreciate how diversity is celebrated at Carrot. DEI is foundational to our company, and Carrot provides a safe space for all employees to bring their full selves to work.
IT consultancy SDI Presence works with companies to accelerate digital transformations, get key tech projects across the finish line and reduce complexity by managing services such as cybersecurity monitoring, server management and IT infrastructure.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at SDI Presence?
Education has always been important to me. I earned an MBA in 2010 and have since applied that knowledge to a variety of projects. Currently, I am focused on continuing to grow in my role as a VP of operations. I joined SDI as an IT project manager and have been promoted twice and am now in a leadership role. As my responsibilities have grown, I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from both my colleagues and leadership. I get to wear two different hats now, and that makes my work exciting.
My short-term goals include expanding my team and helping my teammates meet their own career objectives, because nurturing potential is important to me. In 2018, SDI acquired Next Level Information Technology where I had been working for 18 years, and they created a new delivery executive position for me focused on public safety. I’m VP of operations now, a role I didn’t dream I would’ve reached by this point in my career. As SDI continues to grow, my hope is to grow along with the company. The sky’s the limit!
I’m VP of operations now, a role I didn’t dream I would’ve reached by this point in my career.”
What professional development resources does SDI Presence offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
The SDI culture is incredibly supportive of women, and our women’s ERG is a perfect example of that. I’m proud that I helped launch the group when I served as its inaugural program manager in 2021. The women’s ERG creates time and space to discuss issues that women face, such as gender discrimination on client sites, and to collaboratively develop strategies women can use to help and support each other. It’s important to create time and space for women to focus on topics that aren’t usually talked about in the industry at large, and that’s something we do well.
The women’s ERG was instrumental in the creation of SDI’s mentorship program, which is open to anyone. That program is in the pilot stage now, and we hope to roll it out companywide later this year. I’m one of the pilot mentors and I currently have a mentee in Chicago whom I meet every other week. That’s just one example of an initiative that started in the women’s ERG and benefits everyone at SDI.
How has SDI Presence built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
SDI takes diversity and inclusion seriously at the top: It’s the lens leadership sees the business through. Five of the company’s eight executives are women, so we walk the walk and elevate women throughout the organization. Cecelia Bolden, our chief experience officer, is the champion of SDI’s progressive diversity and inclusion mindset. I really admire her and have learned a great deal from her.
Whatever the topic, SDI always considers how to make sure that we are inclusive and fair to everyone. I was injured in an accident in January, and SDI was there for me, helping me get through my recovery while continuing to work. Each of SDI’s employees is important to every one of our executives, and that is on display all the time.
ActiveCampaign’s platform is used by marketing teams to automate customer interactions and by sales teams to qualify leads and automate back-end tasks. More than 180,000 customers use its platform, which boasts more than 850 automations.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at ActiveCampaign?
I’ve achieved many goals in my seven years with ActiveCampaign. I joined the company with the goal of starting a new department from scratch. I followed that up with an opportunity to build a new team in a different organization and then moved on to maturing our product department. My career journey has been anything but linear, so I’ve never looked to have specific titles and instead have always sought to make an impact on a broader scale. While moving up the ladder has been one indicator of growth, the breadth of people I work closely with day-to-day is more important to me.
My experience weaving between departments has kept any role I’ve had cross-functional, and I’ve felt empowered to break down silos and solve problems for our customers regardless of where they might “live.” If I think longer term, entrepreneurship and working to scale small teams are both interesting to me. I was fortunate to become a growth fellow with Susquehanna Growth Equity, which has given me insight into how my experience could help entrepreneurs and businesses on the early part of their scaling journey.
What benefits and professional development resources does ActiveCampaign offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
I’ve been really impressed with ActiveCampaign’s continual addition of resources and benefits to elevate women. We have a dedicated DEI team and multiple employee resource groups, two of which are Women of AC and Moms of AC. Through these groups, women-identifying employees are able to come together to discuss life experiences and shared interests. We also have an aspiring leaders program where individual contributors who want to grow into leaders are matched with mentors.
And lastly, a key moment when many women either leave the workforce or fall behind is when they go on parental leave. ActiveCampaign offers 16 weeks of maternity leave and supports women in the transition back to work so that they feel empowered to stay in the workforce.
ActiveCampaign also regularly identifies those with leadership potential who might not have a background that would traditionally lend itself to a C-suite career path.”
How has ActiveCampaign built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
ActiveCampaign’s DEI department was built in 2018, and its impact on the company and its culture has been huge. Today, ActiveCampaign has eight active ERGs. As an executive sponsor of Women of AC, my focus is to push conversations and advocate for important ideas across the organization. ActiveCampaign also regularly identifies those with leadership potential who might not have a background that would traditionally lend itself to a C-suite career path. They are provided with training and mentorship to reach their aspirations within the company, which encourages diversity in the management team.
Through these initiatives, ActiveCampaign is one of the most diverse technology companies, even though the tech sector itself is usually one of the least diverse. Overall, 40 percent of our senior leaders and 45 percent of our people managers identify as women, and our overall global population of women-identified employees is at 44 percent.
Amount is a fintech company whose technology helps banks digitize their operations and offer new products to business customers. Its white-label platform is designed to help financial institutions more quickly deploy mobile banking solutions and merchant point-of-sale offerings like buy now, pay later.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Amount?
Throughout my career, I’ve focused on continuing to develop as a people leader with a goal to positively impact the culture across the tech industry and be an advocate for underrepresented groups in tech. As a leader, I want to build great products, increase diversity, equity and inclusion and improve people’s lives at work. Amount has presented many opportunities for me to do all of this by way of running projects, managing teams and leading cultural initiatives. I am grateful to learn from so many impressive leaders who inspire me to strive to be better every day.
What benefits and/or professional development resources does your company offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
Amount has a vibrant employee resource group called “Women of Amount” for women and their allies. It seeks to address the needs of our growing women workforce by providing opportunities for networking, coaching, professional, personal and leadership development.
Every year an outside consulting company conducts a pay equity study to ensure women at Amount are keeping pace with their male colleagues.”
How has Amount built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Amount has been very deliberate in addressing the gender pay gap. Every year an outside consulting company conducts a pay equity study to ensure women are keeping pace with their male colleagues. This study not only reviews compensation but also ensures that no discriminatory practices are taking place across more than just gender lines.
TackleAI helps companies in document-heavy industries — think law firms and financial institutions — work more efficiently. It does this through software that uses a combination of machine learning, computer vision and proprietary neural networks to read documents and extract data and insights from them.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at TackleAI?
My career goals are to lead a large in-house marketing team for the company. I want to bring fresh ideas and innovative ways to communicate the company’s branding and message to our clients. Working at a startup has given me the freedom to try out new ideas and I’m on the right trajectory to achieving my main goal.
What benefits and/or professional development resources does your company offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
Our company offers maternal and paternal leave for our employees. This is crucial for new parents to be able to mentally and physically prepare for the wonderful — and challenging — times ahead. Our company also offers health benefits, minimum required PTO and an amazing diversity, equity and inclusion program. Shout out to our human experience manager!
It’s important to feel good at work, but it’s even better to feel like you’re thriving and are taken into consideration when decisions are made.”
How has TackleAI built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Our HR /human experience manager came up with an incredible DEI program that has created not just an inclusive environment but one with a sense of belonging. It’s important to feel good at work, but it’s even better to feel like you’re thriving and are taken into consideration when decisions are made. We have quarterly reviews with managers where each person gives their feedback on how they perceive the culture and environment. Every day at stand-up meetings or in the workplace in general, women’s opinions are respected the same as other’s. Our founder and CEO has made it a point that technology is for everyone, so it should be built upon the input of everyone.
Supernova is a fintech company whose technology enables investment and wealth management firms to offer securities-based loans to their clients. The company makes heavy use of automation, which is designed to streamline the lending process and take the time it takes to originate a loan from days to hours.
What are your overall career goals, and to what degree have you been able to fulfill them at Supernova?
My passion is to build and evangelize the adoption of innovative technology solutions to help investment and wealth management professionals better serve investors and achieve financial wellness. Fortunately, I have spent most of my career living out that passion. After almost 20 years at Morningstar, I decided to join Supernova Technology on their journey to democratize access to securities-based lending.
We provide a digital end-to-end securities-based lending solution to advisors and private bankers to help investors meet their cash needs while keeping their investment strategy intact. As a result, investors may avoid having to pay capital gains or taking a loss in a down market. I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that every day more investors are benefiting from using our solution.
What benefits and/or professional development resources does your company offer that help support and elevate women in the workplace?
Supernova provides many great benefits and is incredibly supportive of anyone who wants to start a family. We provide three months paid maternity leave, flexible working arrangements and training and development resources to support women in furthering their careers. Something I and many others find unique about Supernova is the number of women in leadership roles. It is something I often hear from new employees as a major selling point of the company.
One of my favorite things about Supernova is the monthly “Supernova Star.” We ask employees to nominate colleagues who are making a significant impact and I am proud to say we have seen many women highlighted for their leadership and work ethic. This is a terrific way to elevate employees who could be future leaders of the company, and it is also great to see that many of them are women.
Women represent a majority of our employee base and 50 percent of our executive leadership team.”
How has Supernova built an inclusive and equitable culture for women?
Supernova prides itself on being a diverse company, and our numbers are a true reflection of that commitment. Women represent a majority of our employee base, 50 percent of our executive leadership team are women and we have many women in mid-level leadership roles, including technology.
An inclusive and equitable culture starts at the top. We have a CEO who believes people should be treated equally and that promotions and salary increases should be based on merit. Our HR leader is a woman and does a fantastic job advocating for policies that help build an inclusive and equitable culture. She listens to women to understand their unique challenges and pushes for policies and benefits that enable women to achieve their career and family goals.
One example is our formalized maternity leave policy. After hearing the great news of several employees expecting babies, we quickly formalized a maternity leave policy that allows women to take three months paid leave. We have a diversity and inclusion program that clearly defines what we believe in. We are looking for ways to get officially certified so we can hold ourselves to a higher standard and not let our efforts slip.