Coursera Round-Table Discussion: How Women Can Support One Another

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Coursera Round-Table Discussion: How Women Can Support One Another

Written by members of our Women@ Employee Resource Group: Jade Wang, Shikha Sharma, Cassidy Dadaos, Gintare Balseviciute, and Shubhangi Sood.

Coursera’s Women@ Employee Resource Group (ERG) is focused on creating an environment where women thrive – one that attracts, develops, and retains top female talent, especially in areas in which women are currently underrepresented. 

Women@ is led by five Courserians, from a variety of teams in our offices around the world. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve come together to share our personal experiences being part of a community of women who encourage and mentor each other. We hope that these conversations inspire allyship, solidarity, and mutual support among women. 

How has support from other women helped you in the past year?

[Jade] Recently, small gestures have felt incredibly meaningful to me. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, having someone offer to help me out with a task has really helped me get through a tough day. I feel so pampered when I get a check-in text from a friend or participate in a baked good swap. These 1-minute interactions have really powered me through the year. Bigger gestures help too! One of my colleagues at Coursera recently offered to help me move apartments, which meant a lot when I was staring at the huge wall of boxes to pack. 

[Cassidy] I have so missed getting to connect with my teammates and female colleagues in person over the last year. The long days of Zoom meetings and COVID isolation have often created space for imposter syndrome to creep into my head and into my work. Finding space for personal connection (even if it is over Zoom!) has left me with energy, and oftentimes, with renewed confidence. The honest gut checks, feedback, brainstorm sessions, and solidarity I’ve felt from women who are facing similar challenges have all been fuel to keep me going. I’m very grateful for those minutes together, in the midst of all the madness. 

[Shubhangi] In the past year, I’ve been lucky to have forged genuine friendships at work with women who are in similar situations in their lives. Just as almost all of us have been thrown into a lurch due to the pandemic, I, too, had a difficult time managing my expectations of myself and the way my intended goals were panning out. These friends helped me evaluate my decisions logically, take stock of my feelings, and put things into perspective and a renewed plan. I would honestly have been lost without them this past year. 

How have you shown support or encouragement to other women? 

[Jade] I’m quite lucky in that in my role as a people manager, it’s my job to serve and support my team. Something I’m doing more of recently is trying to intentionally create opportunities for personal reflection and interpersonal connection. Our jobs are busier than ever, and we haven’t had as much time to step back and think or connect as a team or company. I’ve been trying to create and hold space for us to do so. For example, we’ll start our team meetings by sharing “highs and lows,” which can range from professional accomplishments to personal updates. At Women@Coursera, we’re creating spaces like casual cooking classes so we can connect and reflect over something delicious!

[Shikha] I get this amazing opportunity to work with inspiring women every day and I make conscious efforts to celebrate their successes and be their cheerleaders whenever I can. This can be as simple as sending them a message and letting them know that they did a great job at a presentation or handling a difficult situation, giving them shoutouts on team Slack channels, or even extending support to help them out on a particular task or project—whether personal or professional.

[Gintare] I always take time to recognize and appreciate women I work with—from my immediate team or cross-functionally—by sending them a “well done” Slack message or giving a company-wide shoutout. I also reach out to them from time to time just to ask how they are doing and schedule short (virtual in this world!) coffee breaks to talk about things that are non-work related. It is all about showing that you genuinely care no matter how small the gesture.

[Cassidy] I feel really fortunate to be surrounded by a network of strong, resilient, smart, thoughtful women—both personally, and professionally. My goal is to make them feel as supported and encouraged as each of them has made me feel at one point or another, whether that’s by remembering a milestone date or occasion, carving out space to check in on a personal level, celebrating each other’s wins, or even navigating and reflecting on a lowlight together. I think just showing up for each other consistently is crucial, and I try to do that in whatever way seems to resonate most with each of those important women in my network and my life.

[Shubhangi] My life both inside and outside of Coursera has been full of amazingly resilient and talented women who are striving everyday to create a niche for themselves and for each other. I believe there are common themes and challenges we all face with personal branding, voicing our opinions, or making our presence felt. This is why I consistently reach out to my colleagues to applaud their achievements, share how we can work to highlight ourselves better, and take up projects for the common good of all. 

How can we get better at asking for help?

[Jade] I am going to start with being more comfortable accepting help. I often feel like I need to take care of everything myself—everything from work and managing tasks around the house to spoiling my dog. Some days, it’s very tiring, and the guilt I feel around being tired compounds the situation. I want to get better at recognizing that it might be too much for one day and accepting assistance with grace. 

[Cassidy] I need to find and create space for myself! I’m a new mom, who is still figuring out how to navigate and balance the demands of work, family, and more. The COVID era has been such a unique time to be entering this new phase of life, as essentially nothing feels normal. It is a daily challenge for me to figure out how to ask for the space to sometimes simply even think in peace. 

What are some words of advice for women seeking mentorship? 

[Shikha] For me, a mentor is someone who can provide me honest, candid feedback, and push me outside of my comfort zone. It can be someone from my personal or professional life. I’ve had great friends and teachers who have often acted as mentors to me and offered me the most brilliant advice, and then there have been my peers who have served as sounding boards for decision-making. My advice to women would be that mentors can be cultivated in different forms and ways, so surround yourself with people who are going to take you higher.

[Gintare] Throughout my time at university and in the workplace, I have always had mentors, some of whom would guide me throughout various situations by sharing their advice, experiences, and techniques for dealing with important decisions, and others who inspired me to become a better version of myself. A mentor once told me: “You do not approach someone and ask them to be your mentor; rather, it is a natural evolution of your relationship.” Therefore, cultivate your relationships, do not be afraid to seek guidance or help, and soon you will notice that there are people you gravitate towards whose opinion you value, who could turn out to be your mentor.

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Developing and empowering women in leadership and strategic skills, working towards a more equitable workplace through advocating for policies and raising awareness, and elevating Coursera’s visibility and ability to attract top female talent are all part of the mission of Coursera’s Women@ Employee Resource Group.

We hope that our stories and learnings can help inspire and empower you to ask for support when you need it, seek out the company and expertise of other women in your network, join hands to uplift each other, and grow in ways that you may not have thought were possible before. 

About the authors:

Jade Wang is Senior Manager of Platform Services and the chair of Women@Coursera. Her team helps learners, partners, and administrators achieve their goals on Coursera by creating platform solutions. Since joining Coursera over five years ago, Jade has worked to serve learners by advocating for learners-first platform experiences and building creative technical solutions. 

Cassidy Dadaos is Associate Director of University Partnerships, and the co-chair of Women@, Coursera’s ERG for Women Employees. Since joining Coursera more than four years ago, Cassidy has worked to support the company’s mission of providing access to high-quality educational opportunities by guiding Coursera’s partnerships with a variety of North America-based universities such as Yale University, University of Colorado Boulder, and University of Michigan.

Shikha Sharma is an Enterprise Implementation Manager and the co-chair of Women@, Coursera’s ERG for Women Employees. She works closely with Corporations, Governments, and Campuses across India and APAC to help Coursera bring flexible, affordable, and job-relevant online learning to individuals through Coursera’s Enterprise Product.

Shubhangi Sood is an Enterprise Consultant for Coursera in the APAC region and the Retention & Engagement lead with Women@Coursera. She works with universities on their skills development programs by helping them align Coursera for Campus with their curriculum and processes. In the recent past, she has also been instrumental in setting up and driving the APAC chapter of WomenERG and driving internal skills development programs for Coursera employees. 

Gintare Balseviciute is a Senior Enterprise Implementation Manager and the co-chair of Women@, Coursera’s ERG for Women Employees. She owns the delivery of the Coursera for Enterprise product across all customer segments—Corporations, Governments, and Universities in EMEA. Gintare has been working to design the solutions that fit clients’ business needs and driving adoption of online learning. 

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