Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and two weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment was adopted. It celebrates the heroic women who fought for women’s suffrage and reminds us of the hurdles that still stand in the way of equal rights.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day, we asked some of ITA Group’s female leaders to tell us about their experiences in the workforce and what this day means to them. Read on to hear from Jonanne Tucker, Lauren Rasmussen, Mary Bussone, Juliana Jones and Cecile Banas.
What does women’s equality mean to you?
Jonanne Tucker, Project Specialist: Women’s equality is about empowerment. It’s about strength. It’s about centuries of societal growth built on the backs of countless empowered and strong women who fought hard so women could have the liberties and opportunity we have today.
Lauren Rasmussen, Regional Sales Manager: To me, equality means we have not only achieved the more obvious/quantifiable areas where there might be bias, such as equal representation in the C-Suite, representative hiring practices or pay equity, but also in non-obvious ways that are more unconscious and where people don’t even realize bias is present. For instance, I’ve been in meetings where a man and woman say the same thing, yet the man’s comment is acknowledged. I’ve witnessed situations where a woman is passionate about a topic only to be told they’re difficult when a man would have been considered simply passionate. When I was pregnant I had more than one man tell me how difficult it can be juggling work and a child at the same time—not many men receive that same ‘advice.’
Mary Bussone, Past Executive Vice President, Event Management & Board of Directors: To me, women’s equality means that we are provided personal and professional opportunities based on our talents and achievements regardless of gender. The scales should not tip in either direction.
What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve overcome?
Mary: There is no question I advanced my career in an era when some questioned the ability of a woman to assume a demanding role—a role that required time away from family. To say I was untouched by gender inequality in the workplace would be untrue. There were certainly challenging times—work/life balance was not a prominent concept for either gender in the 80s and 90s and there was little flexibility when it came to personal commitments. In earlier days there were a few clients and suppliers that preferred to interact with a man. I experienced situations and conversations that certainly would not happen today. But all of these things just made me more determined.
Jonanne: Prior to working at ITA Group, I was in a years-long stretch where I didn’t know where my career was taking me. As luck would have it, I discovered ITA Group about five years ago and have been thanking my lucky stars ever since! Working here with so many fellow bright, motivated and hard-working employee-owners has given me the inspiration, insight and drive I needed to thrive professionally.
Juliana Jones, Senior Front-End Developer: I’ve had to state my case and prove to a previous employer why I should receive an increase in compensation to go along with the increased position and responsibility that was being asked of me. After a few discussions and evaluations, they understood my worth and made the adjustment in compensation. It was such a hard and uncomfortable thing for me to do, but in the end I knew my worth and grew tremendously from that experience.
What female has been an inspiration/role model to you? Why?
Mary: I was brought up in a household with both parents exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit. My dad supported my mom in her aspirations, and both of my parents worked hard in their careers. As such, they were both extremely influential in me creating my strong work ethic and belief that only I can set boundaries on myself. My mom always told me that I could do anything I wanted to do if I worked for it, but more important than saying so, she did so as well. She taught me that taking personal responsibility for my success and happiness in life was paramount.
Juliana: Joanna Gaines by far is at the top of my list. She knows what she wants and she goes for it and makes it happen. And, she does it in her own quiet strength along with her husband, family and crew. She doesn’t try to be anyone but her honest self. She has a vision in life, prioritizes her family, and has a strong faith in God—all of these things that I strive for daily.
Lauren: There are so many in my personal and professional life, however there aren’t many who have helped shape me the way Kristin Brandenburgh has. Kristin holds herself to such a high standard, it’s impossible when she’s in your circle not to hold yourself to that same standard. I admire her ability to ask the tough questions, change her perspective and adapt as our industry and company changes. And, above all, she is always her coworkers’ #1 cheerleader. While some find others’ success intimidating or worry it will diminish their own accomplishments, Kristin truly has an ‘all boats will rise’ mentality. She’s the first person I call when I have a professional victory, as I know she’ll be just as excited as I am … and the first to ask, ‘What’s next?’
Tell us about a powerful leadership moment you’ve experienced.
Mary: Being promoted to the Board of Directors as an officer of the company was a powerful moment in my career. As the first woman to serve on ITA Group’s Board, I felt I was able to bring another perspective to the table. I represented not just women’s values, but the insights and interests of all our team members. I hope my contributions to the board and the company encourages other women working at ITA Group.
Jonanne: My most powerful leadership moments have been those driven by an internal shift in my own perceptions of myself as a leader. One of my proudest accomplishments during my tenure at ITA Group has been (and continues to be) discovering, honing and supporting my own leadership style—one that isn’t anyone else’s but my own and develops at its own pace. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Mary: I encourage all women to be a mentor for other women. As mentors, we can help other women grow professionally and personally. You all have so much knowledge and experience, and I challenge you to use it in this capacity.
Cecile Banas, Supervisor—Event Operations: I know in my younger years, I suffered from self-doubt and never felt comfortable bragging about accomplishments. And while I think it’s good to be humble and open to learning, I think it’s also healthy to pat yourself on the back and acknowledge out loud and to others when you’ve done something great. Don’t be afraid to tout your accomplishments—you never know what doors it will open up for you.
Lauren: Be confident in your voice and unique perspective and don’t shy away from sharing it. Often people don’t voice their opinions to avoid seeming confrontational and having difficult conversations. Not sharing your voice has two dangerous outcomes, which impact:
- The company: No one else at your organization has experienced what you have. Your perspective can bring a different lens to a conversation and cause others to think about a situation in a new light.
- You: Whatever your career aspirations are, it’s hard to get there without providing value by sharing your perspective.